Why security in online forms is key to delivering great customer experiences

Burak Ciflikli is the VP of Growth at JotForm, the easiest online form builder.

The web has made it easier than ever to gather and analyse valuable data from consumers. Whether that data is collected through cookies or online forms, it can transform how you operate by helping you improve the customer experience and develop smarter marketing and sales strategies.

But collecting and using this data can be a double-edged sword: When customers trust you with their personal information, it also means they will hold you responsible if it’s mishandled.

Most likely, you already know this — at least in theory. There have been enough news stories about major breaches to call your attention to the dangers of poor security, but that doesn’t necessarily mean your company is doing enough to protect its most sensitive information.

You may have set up a firewall. You might have even encrypted the data on its servers. But unless you’ve baked data security into the DNA of your business, you’re likely still missing a lot of vulnerabilities.

So how do you patch holes you didn’t know existed? The first step is to stop viewing security as a problem to be handled by IT. Instead, it’s time to see security as a marketing concern.

The increasing popularity of marketing security

Since marketing is where the bulk of data collection happens, it shouldn’t be a surprise that marketing security is an increasingly popular way to protect sensitive information. After all, if hackers gain access to your marketing data, bad actors can use it for a variety of harmful activities — from identity theft to spoofing to credential stuffing attacks.

Laws like the General Data Protection Regulation and the California Consumer Privacy Act require data protection, and more regulations like them are sure to follow.

To comply with regulations and customer expectations, going about business as usual may not be an option. Think about overhauling your marketing systems that deal with data. It’s more than just changing how you collect data — it’s about how you store, send, analyse, and get rid of that data.

If you want to get serious about marketing security, reexamine what you do with the information, ranging from the data you collect in registration forms to systemic issues like security practices and accountability.

How to make security part of your marketing DNA

Changing your approach to data security can, understandably, be intimidating. Luckily, there are some clear steps you can take to achieve better security and improved customer experiences:

Adopt a privacy-by-design approach

For truly effective security, you need to do more than just tweak a few things — you need to change the core of how you operate. If it’s necessary, redesign everything from your IT systems to marketing tactics to network infrastructure while taking a privacy-first approach. Don’t merely try to rig data security onto an existing framework; adopt an entirely new framework.

Use multifactor authentication everywhere

Passwords on their own aren’t secure enough in this day and age. However, using passwords in addition to another layer of security can improve your security exponentially. That’s because different factors complement each other and can make up for one another’s weaknesses. There are many ways you can add another level of protection. The most common involve requiring verification through a smartphone, dedicated security key, or biometric data, like fingerprints and facial recognition.

Back everything up, then back it up again. And again

While much of data security is rightly focused on breaches, data loss can be just as much of a threat to your business. You’ll not only lose time and money trying to recover a fraction of the data you’ve lost, but you’ll also potentially lose the valuable insights that data could have given you. Keep this from happening by picking a secure backup program and standardising your backup procedure. Make sure to perform backups regularly — every day, if possible, or at least once a week. You can also use a service that will do this for you, like Google Cloud or Amazon Web Services.

Account for user error

Mistakes will happen no matter how vigilant you are, so it’s key to plan for them ahead of time. Implement a loss prevention system that can detect and prevent simple errors before they turn into disasters. A good loss prevention system can scan and block common errors and wrongdoing, whether it’s accidentally sending personally identifiable information through email instead of through a secure channel or purposefully putting sensitive data onto an unauthorised USB drive.

Vet third parties

Even if you’ve implemented every smart security measure possible, the sad truth is that it still won’t guarantee the safety of your data. That’s because a majority of hacks can be traced back to third-party services. Tools and tech that you might take for granted — such as ad management software, trackers, or chat clients — could be vulnerable. Make sure you do your due diligence and treat every third-party company’s privacy policy like you would your own.

Use secure forms

Whether you’re creating a feedback form, collecting online payments, developing an application form, or trying to gauge employee satisfaction, forms are an invaluable way to gather important data from customers and employees alike. But they can also be a major weakness in your security strategy if you aren’t careful. Safe and well-built forms can help you gain insights into your customers you didn’t have before.

Dedicated hackers won’t stop trying to get into your system just because the first few attempts didn’t work. That’s why it’s crucial to be ready for anything they might throw at you. If you develop a secure marketing strategy now, you’ll be better equipped to handle whatever comes your way. It’s time to stop thinking of security as IT’s problem and to start thinking about it as a marketing necessity.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

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