Guest Column | November 4, 2019

Protecting Your eCommerce Data During The Holiday Shopping Season (And Beyond)

By Mike Potter, Rewind

Retail Holiday ECommerce Sales

The holiday shopping season is a potential goldmine for online retailers. These few months can often make or break a retailer’s profitability for the entire year. While our data shows that at least one in five eCommerce sites will face a data disaster at some point, so many eCommerce stores have not made the critical preparations to ensure their site is protected. A store can become inoperable due to human error, accidental data deletion, malicious attacks, or rogue apps making unwanted changes - in some cases even deleting the entire store. 

An online store can’t turn a profit if it isn’t working properly. Every minute spent trying to recover a broken site lets competitors ring in sales, so retailers need to limit any site downtime. There is simply no margin for error for small retailers during the holiday shopping rush.

eCommerce Cloud Challenges

Retailers are increasingly relying on cloud applications to help navigate the new eCommerce era. However, while platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce work hard to prevent system-wide data disasters, there are limitations – some of which could be devastating to an online retailer. 

These platforms go to great lengths to protect their software and infrastructure, like a server crashing or disasters affecting the entire platform. Retailers are responsible for backing up and securing their own account-level data, (even when it is in the cloud), which typically involves restoring their individual accounts to its original look, feel and functionality. You could also be on the hooking for protecting key data sets like product listings, customer lists, blog posts, gift cards, etc. 

Cloud Data Dilemmas

There are a lot of reasons why retailers should make backing up cloud data a priority. And while the “why” is not as important as the “what” when it comes to cloud data dilemmas, it is important to understand the two most common cloud data issues. 

Third-Party Apps: While third-party applications make running an online store easier in certain ways, they also can become huge liabilities. As eCommerce stores now rely on 10+ apps, there are a lot of integrations to navigate. Once an app is installed, it generally has permission to view, edit or modify data – meaning it could easily wipe out your product line, inventory history or entire site. At the peak of the 2015 holiday shopping season, Gymshark lost major store sections for eight hours, costing $144,000 USD in lost revenue -- all thanks to seemingly innocuous changes made by a third-party app. 

Human Error: Mistakes happen in a variety of ways. Trying to tackle code updates yourself, hiring a freelancer to make updates, trying to quickly delete outdated blog posts/inventory and more. What seems like a minor misstep or harmless data deletion could crash an entire site. Whether a freelancer wipes out your customer list or you tried to make a “simple” site update, a broken site can be a time-intensive fix without time-stamped backups at your fingertips. 

Mitigation Strategies 

In any event, retailers need a strategy to help prevent mistakes and/or recover their store should disaster strike. Data protection is just as, if not more, important than the other items on your holiday shopping prep checklist. To make sure you are ready to reap the rewards of a successful holiday shopping rush:

  • Create strong, unique passwords for every user and limit access based on their to-do list. Giving anyone access beyond their day-to-day responsibilities increases the risk of someone making a mistake. 
  • Routinely conduct thorough audits of all the third-party integrations tied to your eCommerce site. Every third-party integration opens your data up to manipulation, edits or mistakes so evaluate if the benefits of a particular app outweigh the risks of having it installed.
  • Start a code-freeze date early in the shopping season. No one should install new apps, make changes to the store, etc. during the freeze unless something is severely broken. This will dramatically reduce the chance of something (or someone) breaking the site.
  • Backup store data. There are really only two options, manual or automated. Manual backups involve downloading multiple files and are often time consuming to use for restoring a site. Automated solutions do this work for you but for a small fee. Either way you need to have a way to properly restore your site.

Before the holiday shopping frenzy is in full force, make sure your team reviews your site, highlights vulnerabilities and does a full backup. A comprehensive account-level backup that can bring back a store in just a few clicks can be the difference between pulling in profits and pulling out your hair if sales grind to a halt. 

About The Author

Mike Potter is the cofounder and CEO of Rewind. A veteran entrepreneur, Potter has more than 25 years of experience building solutions for the software, cloud and data analytics space, including tenures at Adobe and Mozilla. He earned his MBA from the University of Ottawa and his B.Eng in Mechanical Engineering from McMaster University.