Customer loyalty is more important than ever in the age of digital security. On the one hand, failure to disclose a data breach can adversely affect customers’ loyalty to an organization and send consumers running to its competitors. On the other hand, a transparent privacy policy, open communication channels and an accountable business culture can help companies boost their customers’ loyalty and retain more consumers in the event of a personal data security incident.

Organizations should use this dichotomy to evaluate the relationship between their digital security focus and their customers’ loyalty. But they also need to take into account larger industry insights. Knowing how consumers view digital security across different organizations and industries, for example, can help them build up their customers’ loyalty while avoiding costly reputational losses.

Businesses can gain this level of understanding from our “2018 Data Breaches & Customer Loyalty” report. We surveyed 10,500 consumers globally about their thoughts on customer loyalty with respect to businesses’ data security practices. Their responses revealed that organizations have ample room to improve their IT security practices and processes in accordance with their customers’ wishes.

Ranking the Security Risks

Our survey uncovered that respondents feel certain online activities are riskier than others. For instance, four in 10 consumers said that banking exposes them to the greatest amount of risk. Even more than that (52 percent) admitted a lack of complete confidence in the safety of online/mobile banking. By contrast, just 31 percent of survey participants asserted that online retail websites are the riskiest.

Overall, consumers felt that social media platforms constitute the greatest risk to personal data security at 61 percent. They maintained this viewpoint despite their decision to not take advantage of security measures offered by many social networking sites. As an example, Facebook, Twitter and similar portals offer their users the option of enabling two-factor authentication (2FA), but just a quarter of respondents told us that they had enabled the feature for their accounts.

First-Hand Experience with Data Breaches

Consumers didn’t arrive at the above viewpoints on their own. Many did so as a result of their first-hand experience with data breaches. More than a third (38 percent) of respondents said they had reason to believe that they had been victims of fraud involving their personal information. Slightly less than that said the same about their financial information and identity theft at 35 percent and 30 percent, respectively.

Given these experiences, many consumers aren’t optimistic about their data security going forward. Respondents interviewed in 2018 were more likely (38 percent) to believe they would fall victim to a data breach at any time. That’s more than the figures for 2017 (37 percent), 2016 (35 percent) and 2015 (27 percent).

A Call for Improved Online Security

Nearly all (93 percent) of the survey respondents also made clear that they would take or consider taking legal action against a company in the event they became victims of a data breach. This viewpoint highlights most consumers’ belief that organizations need to do a better job protecting their customers’ personal information. For example, seven in 10 respondents said that the responsibility for protecting and securing customer data falls onto the company, while 77 percent of participants told Gemalto that they’d like organizations to increase their online security.

Businesses have no choice but to improve their security if they want to address frustrated consumers that don’t believe the onus is on them to change their security habits. Social media sites in particular have a battle on their hands to restore faith in their security and show consumers they’re listening – failing to do so will spell disaster for the most flagrant offenders, as consumers take their business elsewhere.

Companies can respond by investing in security basics. These measures include encrypting customers’ personal information and implementing robust key management that can help protect those encryption keys against misuse. Also, companies should implement access controls to limit who can access customers’ data, thereby minimizing the risk of a data breach.

For additional insights into the relationship between customer loyalty and digital security, you can download the report or view the infographic.

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