Communicating E-Commerce Security Efforts with Consumers

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Forrester Research has found that even though the popularity of e-commerce continues to grow, consumers are leery about doing business online. Forrester discovered that one in 10 consumers have reported a data breach, and coupled with reports like this one about an online fiasco British Airways suffered, it's not hard to see why consumers don't trust online transactions. In fact, security is one of the top reasons cited by consumers for not using online transactions.


E-commerce sites are a major target for hackers looking to steal credit card information, who operate by identifying small holes in the security infrastructure that are easily overlooked by manual security audits, Steve Dauber, VP of Marketing for RedSeal Systems explained to me-exactly what consumers fear.


According to Roger Thompson at AVG Technologies, e-commerce vendors, and Web 2.0 properties in general for that matter, are in a difficult position. They all strive to build interesting Web sites that are both powerful and easy to use, but when it comes to computer security, functionality and security tend to exist in an inverse relationship. In other words, he explained, the more powerful or functional you make something, the less secure it tends to become. To make matters worse, it is rarely in their interests to potentially scare their users.


Direct communication seems to be the key. It could be as simple as making sure that security certification seals are easily seen on the Web site, or adding a link to the site that explains what steps the company takes if a security breach is discovered. As Forrester mentions in its report on data compromise and online trust issues, the majority of problems are being solved within five hours, thanks in part to the availability of real-time monitoring services. Alerts designed to pinpoint fraud in real time also help consumers identify and manage exposure more rapidly than in the past.


Forrester advises that e-businesses use ongoing, themed customer education programs to help solidify awareness of brand-specific security programs and seek to use security as a competitive differentiator. For example, beyond detailing its own security commitments on its Web site, Bank of America also offers a free trial of the Norton 360 security suite. Also, companies should have a plan in place to readily assist customers should a breach occur.