20% of consumers would stop shopping data-breached store

A data breach during the holiday season could seriously affect sales outcomes.

In a recent survey of U.S. consumers' holiday shopping behavior, one in five customers would stop shopping at a store where they knew a system had been hacked. Also, 55% would change their purchasing behavior, switching to cash instead of credit, debit or mobile, according to research conducted by cybersecurity and data protection leader Thales.

Another 25% of those surveyed said they would not change their purchasing behaviors at all after a retailer had been hacked.

A data breach during the holiday season could seriously affect sales outcomes as debit cards topped the list of customers' preferred payment methods at 59%. The next most popular methods are cash (56%) and credit cards (54%). Although on the rise, mobile payments still represent a small fraction of sales, with only 16% of U.S. consumers planning to pay via mobile.

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"These survey results offer a stark reminder that a serious data breach could stop many consumers from shopping at a merchant's store or at the very least move them back to cash payments," said Jose Diaz, director of payment strategy at Thales e-Security. "While the current makeup of U.S. consumer buying habits shows a slight lead for traditional approaches, I anticipate that we will continue to see greater adoption of mobile for both browsing and buying during the holidays as well as an increase in mobile wallet use over the next five years."

However, convenience still outweighs cybersecurity fears for a majority of U.S. consumers. According to another survey by the University of Phoenix, 60% of respondents who use unsecured, open Wi-Fi networks don't trust them with the security of their data, yet the convenience of using them outweighed the potential risk.

“Millions of Americans are finishing up their holiday shopping looking for last minute deals online to make sure the perfect gift arrives in time,” said Dr. Kirsten Hoyt, academic dean, University of Phoenix College of Information Systems and Technology. “Despite the fact that public networks are vulnerable to security breaches and hacking, the data from our survey suggests people have fairly comfortable attitudes toward using them—perhaps a little too comfortable.”

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Online has gained a lot of ground as the method of purchase for U.S. consumers this holiday season with just slightly fewer percentage points than brick-and-mortar. Of those surveyed, 66% of U.S. consumers intend to buy holiday gifts in-store, while 64% plan to use a desktop or laptop, and one-third say they will use a mobile device. In fact, 28% of 18- to 34-year-olds shop regularly on unsecured networks, putting their financial and personal information at even greater risk, according to the survey, which was conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of the University of Phoenix.