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Should You Save Your Customers’ Credit Card Information?

Published November 6th, 2017 by Servistree

Keeping your customer’s data secure is more important than ever before. With more and more businesses opening e-storefronts, there’s a greater amount of data being stored online than at any point in history – and there’s also a greater amount of malicious hackers trying to get to that very data. Just look at the hacking scandals that have rocked mega-corporations like Target, Sony, and Michaels Stores in recent years.

Each case resulted in a huge PR hit, multimillion-dollar lawsuit, and plummeting consumer confidence. Data breaches are an absolute disaster, but storing customer data remains commonplace in ecommerce because it’s incredibly valuable information for companies to possess. There’s inherent risk in storing this information, and one question we’re frequently asked is whether or not it’s worth it – especially when it comes to credit and debit card numbers.

The answer we always give?

It depends – on a lot of different factors.

We know what the risks of storing credit card information are: potential data breaches that can result in significant financial losses. This seems fairly straightforward, but if companies are routinely choosing to take on such a risk it stands to reason that there’s a significant benefit to doing so – and there is. People are shopping online with greater frequency than ever before because it’s far more convenient than shopping in “brick and mortar” stores. You can compare prices across multiple sites, select the perfect product, and have it arrive at your house the very next day.

Storing credit card information makes this process even easier, and greatly increases the likelihood that a customer will make a purchase that they otherwise might not normally make. It reduces one more sales barrier by eliminating a step in the buying process: instead of having to enter in a 16-digit card number, a security code, and your billing address, all you have to do is click “Check Out” and the purchase is complete. Having this information stored enables customers to make impulse purchases, and reduces the likelihood that they’ll abandon a check out because they don’t feel like running out to their car to grab their purse and then plug in said information. Making the buying process as simple as possible is extremely beneficial to small businesses, so the argument in favor of storing credit card information is fairly easy to understand.

On the other hand, assuming 100% risk over this data being breached is very intimidating. If your ecommerce site gets hacked, you might never be able to recover from the resulting losses in money and consumer confidence. If your customers’ information is stolen and they have to deal with canceling credit cards and contesting fraudulent charges, they’re not going to be very happy with you – or very likely to give you any more of their business.

So how do you decide whether or not to store your customers’ information?

Self-assessment. What platform is your website being hosted on? If you’re operating on an ecommerce platform like Shopify or Squarespace, you’re probably in the clear: these hosts are responsible for handling every aspect of payment processing. They assume all of the risk, and are thus very interested in keeping this valuable information protected. They have yet to experience any data breaches, and are both PCI-certified. There’s always the potential for their systems to be compromised, but it’s far less likely to happen through one of them than it is on your own custom-built website.

If you don’t use a service like Shopify or Squarespace, this issue becomes a little more muddied. On the one hand, you don’t want to make it more difficult for customers to purchase your products, but on the other, you are now assuming 100% liability in the event that their information is stolen. It’s a bit of a slippery slope, and while erring on the side of caution is never a bad decision, there are obvious benefits to storing information as we outlined above.

If you’re struggling to decide whether or not you should store your customers’ information, contact us at 1-866-944-3244 to have one of our experts assess your site’s security. We’ll be able to identify and eliminate any potential security vulnerabilities, allowing you to offer your customers a safe, seamless shopping experience every time they make a purchase.

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