For retailers the value of data has never been higher, but consumer trust and confidence when it comes to who is accessing their data – and why – has never been lower. Today, cyber breaches are occurring in both severity and regularity. Indeed, according to the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC), there were over 67,500 cybercrime reports in the 2020/21 financial year; equating to an attack every eight minutes and an annual increase of nearly 13%. Worse still, a higher proportion of incidents were categorised as ‘substantial’.

Australian organisations are encouraged to urgently adopt an enhanced cyber security posture, in light of the heightened threat environment and increased cyber attacks. For retailers, the financial and reputational impacts of an attack can be fatal. The first line of defence starts with action and building trust with your consumers. But why is data so important for retailers, and by extension their customers? And how can retailers build trust with customers so both can enjoy the full potential of data, without risking consumers’ data and privacy being exploited?

The importance of data

Data is the ingredient that turns businesses into smart, sophisticated and streamlined operations. For retailers, offering a one-size-fits-all approach to every customer is no longer a viable option. Today, consumers demand personalised experiences across all channels – whether it’s in-store or online, or a combination of both. To deliver personalised, omnichannel retailers must collect the right customer data so they can offer strategic, tailored experiences that customers demand – and would pay more for.

Big data analytics allows retailers to create personalised customer recommendations based on purchase history, what they spend most of their time looking at, and the types of websites they visit. By leveraging these insights, retailers can create personalised shopping experiences and improved customer service. In addition, big data can also be used for cross-selling, up-selling, lead generation and revenue making and assists retailers to predict future trends and make for better strategic decision making. The retail experiences that shoppers remember and recommend are driven by data, but maximising this requires trust, which is hard to earn and easy to lose.

How retailers can build trust

With ASCS data revealing a significant increase in the regularity and severity, there is an increased pressure on retailers to have the right policies and procedures in place to protect customers’ data and privacy. Worryingly, though, research from Zoho found that less than half of Australian small businesses (44%) currently have a defined, documented and enforced policy regarding personal data collected, used and disclosed through their business.

Ahead of large-scale parliamentary changes that will see increased fines and penalties for breaches, this is a concern. Policymakers and industry have a duty to help small businesses understand their responsibilities and punishments for inaction. However, with increased cyber threats across all businesses, including retail and ecommerce, the onus is on retailers to have the right policies and procedures in place. Their customer’s trust, and potentially their business, is at stake.

Retailers must ensure they’re compliant with privacy laws. But what should you include in a data privacy policy? Your privacy policy should describe the information you collect and store, and how you collect and store it. It should also detail the reasons, or purposes for which you collect, hold, use and disclose their personal information, and whether you share it with third parties.

Having a policy is one thing, but communicating is important too. Your website should house your privacy policy, so your customers can easily see that you’re taking steps to safeguard their data. Zoho’s integrated technology stack – which contains everything from ecommerce and data analytics to finance and marketing – doesn’t use third-party cookies, and has privacy built in so that retailers – and their customers – can build trust and feel the full benefits of ecommerce and digital transformation.

To alleviate the risks of exploiting consumers’ data privacy, retailers who put the right policies, procedures and technology in place will be the ones who build trust and create better customer experiences that incentivise loyalty and drive revenue.

Vijay Sundaram is chief strategy officer at Zoho.