CHARLOTTE — PCI Pal, a secure payment solution provider based in Charlotte, conducted a study that shows that millions of Americans have officially become online shoppers, which means data security and customer experience online will be more important than ever this holiday season.

PCI Pal’s study showed that over 70 percent of respondents plan to continue shopping online for some or most of their shopping once the COVID-19 pandemic is over. This study shows a behavioral shift that is wide in scale and will change the online shopping scene.

Study recommendations
  • New year, same habits. Despite 2020 bringing many changes and unexpected turns, one thing remains constant: consumers’ loyalty. 86% of respondents reported they still plan to shop with their same favorite retailers this holiday season, with 54% planning to do so online and 32% in-store.
  • Sincerely Securely, Santa: It’s no surprise that data security is a top concern for consumers going into this holiday season, with 60% of those surveyed reporting they feel more concerned about their data security as a result of COVID-19. However, one slip-up from a business could have more dire consequences than ever before: 70% of respondents reported they would stop shopping with a brand for a few months or even permanently if it suffered a data breach ahead of the holidays.
  • Safety supersedes security: While 70% of consumers plan to continue shopping online after COVID-19, some still feel uneasy about how it could impact their personal data security. Nearly 20% of consumers perceive online shopping as the least secure method for making purchases, while in-store shopping is still seen as the most secure by 57% of respondents. If online shopping is the future, then businesses must take steps to ensure their customers feel as secure shopping on their website as they do in-store.
  • The social shopping dilemma: Given new features on Facebook and Instagram, consumers are increasingly turning to social media for their shopping. According to research from Salesforce, purchases from a social channel referral saw big increases in Q2 2020, growing 104% across the entire industry. Yet, just like online shopping, consumers feel insecure shopping on these platforms: 46% of respondents reported they find social media to be the least trusted shopping channel. It seems that when it comes to their sensitive financial information, consumers are not yet ready to divulge their credit card information on social media.
  • Customer experience should be on Santa’s “Nice” list: Just as shopping has shifted online, so, too, has the demand for excellent customer service. With a majority of respondents reporting a preference for email (about 36%) or phone (33%) for their customer service needs, retailers will need to ensure that both of these channels are set up to offer a smooth customer journey.

Source: PCI Pal

“Retailers face an unpredictable and unexpectedly challenging year due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Geoff Forsyth, CISO, PCI Pal. “What they can control, however, is delivering a seamless, secure shopping experience in-store and across digital shopping channels to offer customers much-needed peace of mind this holiday season.”

While the COVID-19 pandemic has battered the economy, 86 percent of the study’s respondents said they plan to shop their favorite retailers during the holiday season. More than half, or 54 percent, plan to shop online, while 32 percent said they would shop in-store.

Other trends in the study include uneasiness about personal data security, with 20 percent of consumers viewing online shopping as the least secure payment method. Additionally, 70 percent of respondents said they would stop shopping with a brand for a few months or even permanently if it experienced a data breach before the holidays, again showing businesses’ need to prioritize online data security.

The release is available here.

This story is from the North Carolina Business News Wire, a service of UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Media and Journalism