April 10, 2014, 11:06 AM

Security breaches undermine consumer confidence in retailers

Consumers are least forgiving when their payment data are compromised.

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When a business lets customers’ personal information falls into the hands of criminals, customers are hardly forgiving. The majority of consumers, 86.55% in a recent poll, say they are not at all likely or not very likely to do business with a company that has experienced a data breach that resulted in the loss of payment card data.

The survey, from contact center software provider Semafone, asked 2,000 consumers in the United Kingdom in March whether they’d do business with companies that they knew had experienced various types of data breaches. Breaches involving payment card data had the highest level of “not likely” responses. Then came, in descending order, breaches involving other personal information: 82.95% said they weren’t likely to do business with a company that had suffered a breach resulting in the loss of consumers’ home addresses, 80.10% the loss of telephone numbers and 76.0% the loss of e-mail addresses.

“The reputational damage suffered by companies who fail to protect personal data can translate directly into a loss of business,” says Tim Critchley, CEO of Semafone.

Target Corp., which announced Dec. 19 that criminals had gained access to 40 million of its customers’ credit and debit card numbers and related data by hacking into the payment systems in Target’s U.S. stores, said in February that sales were “meaningfully softer” following the announcement and that the breach was partly to blame for a 0.4% decline in comparable-store sales during the fourth quarter. Target later said that breach could include information, such as names and e-mail addresses, for up to 110 million consumers. The Neiman Marcus Group Inc. and Michaels Stores have also reported data breaches in recent months. Target is No. 18 and Neiman Marcus is No. 39 in the Top 500 Guide.

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