How data streamlining can improve the customer experience without sacrificing security

By Jonathan Crowl

The internet has simplified so many aspects of daily life, but payments and purchases remain a headache. Despite a wide range of innovations, retailers and online payment processors still deal with the same headaches when it comes to making online checkout painless. Efforts at data streamlining have yielded some improvement, but plenty of work remains to elevate the user experience (UX) when making purchases through mobile or desktop devices.

Alongside those UX concerns are even more pressing demands regarding security. Yes, customers need to be satisfied, but they also need their information protected at all times. Failure to do this can quickly ruin a company’s reputation and send shoppers running in the opposite direction. UX and security aren’t always in agreement with what should be done to improve a shopping experience, so brands must make their own calculations and maximize security without turning checkout into a tedious process.

Here are some tips for accomplishing this balancing act:

Simplified contact forms

Contact forms need to be simplified to feature fewer information fields and demand less typing and input from consumers when making a purchase. This is not just to improve the customer experience, but also to solicit only essential consumer information. If a security breach does occur, fewer consumer data points can help mitigate the damage.

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Similarly, addresses and other customer information can be securely stored and automatically inputted during checkout. This makes the purchase process faster and more efficient, while shoppers are spared the task of submitting sensitive financial information every time they want to make a purchase. According to PYMNTS, seven percent of security vulnerabilities are caused by user errors. Minimizing the work required of shoppers will help reduce this risk.

Third-party payments solutions

Third-party payment handlers are often the best way to alleviate security concerns. Developers can integrate these solutions into their own apps, providing third-party payment processing that offers top-notch security features while outsourcing this difficult task to more experienced professionals.

These payment options can also eliminate the need to provide billing and shipping information — instead, the payments can be attached to a mobile payments account through services such as PayPal and Apple Pay. These providers often use multiple layers of security to minimize fraud, including tokenization, two-factor authentication and cryptographic keys. Online sellers can help ease consumer doubts by listing security badges, accreditations and other marks of authenticity online and by offering a wide range of payment options to let consumers choose the solution they trust the most.

Guest checkout options

There are many benefits to making purchases through a branded shopping account, such as easier access to order histories, stored billing information and loyalty programs. However, some consumers don’t want to take the time to create a new account. Retailers have to account for this preference by providing secure checkout for consumers who aren’t interested in registering for an account. This creates additional security challenges, since billing information isn’t stored in a safe place and must be manually entered into the form. Even so, brands can’t allow guest checkout to become a less-safe channel for making desktop and mobile purchases.

Features such as auto-fill can make the form-filling process less tedious, while data encryption offers a necessary layer of protection from cyberthreats. The UX and security must be balanced here, as with any other digital transaction, or else you risk that either their shoppers’ information will be less safe or shoppers will walk away unhappy with their experience with your brand.

Vigorous testing

Testing is one of the easiest ways to uncover security flaws before they’re exploited. This testing needs to be done constantly, with heavy testing deployed before the app or online checkout solution is published. After the solution has been deployed, periodic checks will be needed, especially as new security threats develop. Unfortunately, security threats are always evolving and uncovering new ways to breach private data, which means the work for security teams never ends.

Though certain security considerations will inevitably slow down the online checkout process, there are plenty of strategies for data streamlining that either don’t affect security or even contribute to improved security against stolen data. Online sellers can strike their own balance between state-of-the-art security fronts and a mobile experience that will win over consumers.

Image source: iStock