How the Hacking of Target Can Help Your Small Business Grow

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Online Security

There was a time not so long ago when the word “security” had a much different meaning for small business than it does today. I remember back in the day when I was hired to watch over the inventory of my dad’s sidewalk sale. Dad owned some carpet stores and had had great success in the summers by taking rolls of carpet and having them line his store’s parking lot for a weekend. So he hired me and my pal Seth to be his security guards one weekend.

That he thought that two gangly teenagers could protect his investment shows just how different things were back then.

Today of course, when we talk about security, what we usually mean is IT security. Sure, small businesses still lock the doors and use alarm systems, but everyone knows that an equal, if not greater risk, is the threat posed by bad guys wanting to steal login codes, bank account information, customer credit cards and the like.

One group that is especially concerned about Internet security are your customers.

There are all sorts of reasons for this, but a main one is the well-publicized hacking of Target last year, when the names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, and credit card info of some 70 million customers was stolen.

According to the latest Small Business Survey, 69% of consumer respondents stated that they are particularly nervous about security breaches this holiday season . . .

It is not surprising then that according to the second annual Small Business Survey, 69% of consumer respondents stated that this holiday season, they are particularly nervous about security breaches at big box online stores. In fact, the survey found that consumers are twice as concerned about the online security risks posed by larger retailers than those from small businesses.

This concern about big business actually offers small business a huge opportunity. Consider these additional interesting statistics from the survey:

  • Almost two-thirds of respondents stated that because of their concerns about online big box security, they would be inclined to shop more at small business sites (65%).
  • Fully 25% said that they are likely to change their online shopping behavior because of their security and privacy concerns.

Let’s think about that last statistic for a moment. In the past decade as we all know, online shopping has gone from a fad to an established way of doing business, almost the established way of doing business. According to Forrester Research, online sales are expected to grow by double digits this year to almost $100 billion dollars. And if 25% of folks are willing to change their online shopping habits, that essentially means that $25 billion is up for grabs this holiday season.

What this means is that if you own or work in a small business, the time is now for getting your online holiday e-store and website in shape.

Here are the steps you should take:

1. Spruce up your site (or get a site!): According to the survey, half of all small businesses now have a website (and if you are in the half that does not, the question is, what the heck are you waiting for?)

But simply having a site is not good enough anymore. With all of the competition out there, and all of the security concerns mentioned above, it would behoove you to create the best site you can. That your e-commerce store can sell for you 24/7/365 should be icing on the cake.

Of course, our friends at can certainly help with that.

2. Secure your site: You certainly have seen “https://” before. That last letter – s – and the little padlock that appears next to the URL is the important thing for this discussion. It stands for “secure.” Given all of the legitimate concern about Internet security, you will want to be sure that you offer shoppers a secure website by getting that extra ‘s’ via an SSL Certificate. SSL certificates not only encrypt your data, but they authenticate your information to the end-user.

The other important thing here is that you let people know that shopping with you is safe and secure. Tout that on your website, using social media, in your e-newsletter, and post it in your physical store.

3. Get mobile optimized: More than half of all searches now are done on mobile devices and 75% of those searches result in some action being taken – a call is made, a site is visited, and so on. So be sure your website gets found and gets chosen.

Yes, security is different than before, but as the survey shows, if you take it a little more seriously than my dad did, you can reap some sweet treats this holiday season.