As Target's problems continued to worsen following a massive security breach, The Daily Circuit invited two close industry observers to discuss the retail chain's challenge in regaining customer trust. Highlights of that conversation:
Hemu Nigam: This is personal
"One of the greatest things about customers and human beings is they accept apologies from people. And I think that happened last night from our CEO at Target, who made it a point to say, I'm sorry. And it's really interesting about human nature that way: When something like this happens that is so personal — and I will tell you, this one to people is personal in the sense that they feel like a piece of them has been taken, and they can't get it back, and they don't know who took it, but they know it happened somewhere connected to this store that they shopped at. And now they're hearing from the leadership of that company, who's saying to them, Look: We do also know what happened. It hurt us as well. And we care about our family. And I think that's the message Target needs to send. Because if you look at Target or any other retail, it's not a name, it's people. People who work there, who live in a society, all their friends go to Target. So in a way, for the employee, it's a very personal event. ... They go home and they have to answer to their friends, who are saying, 'What happened? What's going on?' So it becomes a very personal conversation, and I think that's the direction Target needs to go."
Ted Marzilli: "It's very hard to prove a negative"
"This is not just a Target issue; this is a life-as-we-know-it issue. And I think that's a hard one for consumers to accept. I don't know if this one event will change the way consumers behave or think about things, but it will be a start. And in terms of how the company responds to this, they've started to make some response, and that's good. They offered some discounts. They offered free credit monitoring. Those are positive steps. But in terms of actually getting people comfortable with going into a Target and using their credit card or debit card, that's a tough one. They can take steps, they can tell people that they're improving security. But it's very hard to prove a negative. I don't think you want to, if you're Target, every week say, 'Hey, it's been two weeks since our last security breach.'"
Nigam: Consumers must own their own security
"There is no such thing as perfect security ... What that means, in action, is that this becomes more of a shared responsibility. If you're a retailer, you have a set of things you need to do in order to try to protect the data that you have of your customer, and if you're the customer, you should think about security [of] your information. You own it; you should think about how you're going to secure it. ... For example, set an alarm on your phone, every day at a certain time. When it rings, you look at the back of your credit card, call that number and just listen to the last five transactions that have happened that day. Another would be, when you get an email from a major retail organization or bank that says, Hey, we're reorganizing ourselves and we need to re-up your information, and you have 12 hours to respond ... If your gut is telling you it ain't right, it ain't right. We have to own our own security and privacy, as well as expect our retailers to do something about it."
Marzilli: The danger of a story that keeps unfolding
"Target's always been one of the higher-rated brands in the retail sector. Typically for a brand that has high ratings, consumers can be very forgiving, and those brands tend to bounce back. The exceptions are when there are repeated incidents, or if the story has a particularly long life span. Target's in a bit of an unknown area right now, because this story has continued to play out in the four, five, six weeks since it was initially reported. And that's problematic, and that's just more that Target has to manage through. But ... this isn't a life-threatening incident for Target. It's still a trusted brand."
Nigam: Every swipe you take ...
"It's easy to blame Target, but ... Every time you swipe the card, you are connected through the cloud, through the Internet, through somewhere to some database. And hackers have figured it out and are going to do something to exploit that. So I think what this is going to mean for us as a society is a change or shift in expectation, but also perception of what kind of world we live in. Which really is no longer an online world or an offline world; it's one world. They're one and the same. And even when you walk into your house you cannot avoid the fact that you too are connected. As much as you're thinking about your front door locks, you have to be thinking about your online locks."