Keeping Customers Means Keeping Customer Data Safe

If your business's data security strategy involves crossing your fingers and hoping for the best, it's time for an upgrade. New research suggests that, in 2014, keeping your customers means keeping customer data safe and sound.

After recent data breaches at major retailers— like Target and Neiman Marcus— and in light of last month's widespread Internet security flaw, Heartbleed, several new reports serve as a wakeup call to businesses that store consumer data. One report, a March study by market research company GfK, found that 60 percent of U.S. Internet users are more concerned about the security of their data now than they were this time last year.

And this mounting concern over data security isn't limited to just one age group. The majority of Internet users in all age groups, from college-age kids to baby boomers, said their concern over data security had increased at least moderately over the past 12 months. [10 Ways to Prevent a Data Breach]

As eMarketer reports, consumer anxiety regarding data security can have huge implications for businesses. A December 2013 polling by Radius Global Market Research found that more than 75 percent of Internet users said they would stop using a service or product— or stop doing business with a particular retailer— if they felt their privacy was violated. And 51 percent of those surveyed said they'd already stopped purchasing products from certain retailers because of privacy concerns.

The Radius poll is one of several reports that prove that consumers aren't taking threats to their data lying down. As FoxBusiness reports, a new study from Javelin Strategy and Research also found that, across industries, consumers are abandoning businesses that do not safeguard their data.

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One-third of consumers surveyed by Javelin said that they will shop elsewhere if their retailer of choice is breached. Nearly as many respondents (30 percent) said that, if their hospital or doctor's office

doesn't protect their data, they'll find a new health-care provider. And 24 percent  said they'd switch to a new bank or credit card provider if their current financial institution is breached.

While these new reports highlight growing consumer distaste for data-related mishaps on the part of retailers, they also shed some light on what businesses can do to restore consumer confidence.

Seventy-eight percent of respondents to Radius' Internet poll said they do business with brands and retailers that they trust. And more than two-thirds of those surveyed said that, if a business or retailer has demonstrated a capacity for protecting consumer data, they're willing to shop there. Fifty-three percent said they were even willing to pay more for a product or service if the company behind it valued consumer privacy.

Originally published on Business News Daily.