A new study by FleishmanHillard warns that companies must do more to understand the effects that cyber attacks can have on corporate reputation and consumers’ buying habits.
FleishmanHillard surveyed 518 US adults to better understand consumers’ attitudes toward cyber attacks, as well as how a data breach actually affects consumers’ purchasing behaviours.
“Data breaches often are in the headlines, and for good reason: Nearly two-thirds of respondents have been victims. Of those, they have been victimized an average of 1.76 times. Only about one-third (37 percent) of respondents never – to their knowledge – have been affected by an attack,” says the report.
FleishmanHillard says that when it comes to consumers learning that they are a victim of a data breach, “the leading source of the news is the company itself, with a majority (59 percent) of consumers finding out from the company”.
“This suggests companies have room to improve as far as breaking the news. Further validating the importance of company communications is the fact 32 per cent of people responded that, if they are already loyal to a company that has been involved in a cyber attack – and it communicates effectively – they will remain loyal,” says the study.
While there are a wide range sources that might disclose the news of an attacked company, companies need to understand that “time is of the essence”: with the FleishmanHillard survey pointing out that nearly two-thirds want a company to offer a quick announcement – even before the full facts are known.
- 53 percent of consumers agree with the statement that “Companies should now have systems in place to prevent any attacks” – a number that climbs to 59 percent for those who have been victims.
- 48 percent agree that “Companies should compensate victims with money or services to make up for any inconvenience when they have been a victim of a data breach.”
This suggests there’s an opportunity to communicate to customers about the efforts and protections in place to prevent cyber attacks, as well as any services available to recover following an attack.
The report also warns that lost data will also mean a loss in revenue. “Of those who have been victims, two-thirds of victims have reduced their spending, with 39 percent never resuming pre-attack spending levels – with nearly 20 percent stopping interactions with the company completely. Only one-third said there would be no change in purchase habits (with 1 percent saying there’d be an increase),” says the study.
But for consumers in general, “the bottom-line impact seemingly is not as extreme”. When asked about their response upon learning that a company has been attacked, nearly half report a halt of doing business with a company which has been attacked, says FleishmanHillard.
“On the positive side for companies, though, is the fact that four out of five of those who halt business say they’ll come back once the situation is resolved. This seems to emphasize the importance of a fast response and clear communication once the situation has been corrected,” the survey analysis concludes.