Digital Presence And Exposure To Cyber Criminals –  The Enigma Of Establishing A Digital Marketing Footprint

Mobile Phone security

Reading through one of my friend’s profile on the LinkedIn platform worked as a setup for me to discover a world that I at no time thought I would find myself reading or writing about; Digital Marketing. Indeed, digging into his activity you encounter a young man enthusiastic about his marketing work and full of a passion for creating a modern day alignment between business and ICT. The man has left no stone unturned as he delves into the world of business and technology alignment.

Several companies in our Zimbabwean business environment have embraced technology and set themselves on a path to harness the benefits of this mutable world of technology. Among the functions that have seamlessly and successfully integrated their operations into this phenomenon are the marketing and sales teams. Spurred by the available free platforms and applications, countless have hedged on the technical abilities of their content creation personnel to produce the best, heart-warming advertisement material.

Digital marketing in its simplest only comes as simple as email exchange and website content uploads. The use of social media platforms has in some way disrupted and redefined the concept of content marketing. These platforms have integrated the interaction of business leaders, their marketing teams and their target customers allowing corporates to insert themselves into the feed of their clientele further reinforcing the impact of ads in the perceptions of the customer.

In spite of all the benefits associated with the concept of digital marketing, marketers themselves cannot afford to ignore the growing threat of cybercrime. With an estimated financial cost of more than 400 billion USD annually, cybercrime is proving to be a tempting industry for many would be criminals. Despite the increase in cyber policing activities globally, cybercrime continues to attract countless professionals due to the high return and low risks associated with it.

In the entire business spectrum, electronic data processing has taken over the mode of transacting and it is in this approach of doing business that trust becomes essential. Customers are able to trust and transact knowing that they are protected from any kind of criminal activity and once that trust is broken, the financial catastrophe could be disastrous as consumers vote with their dollars.

Cybercriminals have been known to pry on the transactional activity of customers there by successfully breaching the security of platforms. This potential disaster hence calls upon Chief Marketing Officers and Chief Information Officers to closely interact in order to build an exciting, safe and secure customer experience in this transformative information age. So what strategies are available for the transformative, tech savvy manager to arm themselves with?

Identifying security to be the foundation and centre of your digital marketing strategy

With customers growing more fearful of internet scams, fraud and cyber terrorism as these have become more material, it is imperative that CIOs and CMOs drive customer protection to be the core of the digital marketing strategy. Customer experience is primarily built on trust which hinges on the ability of the firm to safeguard and protect customers’ transactions. Where trust is lost so is the brand and when the brand is lost then the corporate loses its ability to influence and drive demand for its products.

Creation of Synergy between security and marketing strategies

Gone are the days when ICT used to be a “back office” service department which only came into action to support what were called then core business services and functions. Through innovation ICT has transformed itself into being part of the core business services. It has become a medium of delivery of value to clients and a point on which countless entities have leveraged on it for competitive advantage.

CMOs concern themselves primarily with customer acquisition and customer retention which are the fundamental activities in the construction of brand loyalty and driving sales revenues. However, in the CIOs perspective at each of these points lies intrinsic danger posed by marauding cyber thugs. CIOs and CMOs ought to work together to eliminate these risks in spite of the medium which the consumer may use to access the desired services.  CIOs and CMOs need to create an environment characterised by open communication which is key in the initiation of risk based conversations that are aimed at collaboration in digital marketing.

Read, Communicate and Innovate!!

CIOs and CMOs should realise the importance of investing time in keeping abreast with technological trends and changes. The accelerated rate of technological transformation is at its peak and management can no longer afford to entertain the cost associated with being left behind. By investing time in apprising their knowledge, they are able to communicate system breaches to consumers and act on them and in the process being able to assure consumers of continued safety.

It would be desirable for CIOs to be the initiators of such communication rather than for consumers to get the information from public media. Through solid communication channels CMOs are able to create robust protection protocols for consumers enhancing brand value in the process. Brands drive sales revenues and profitability in firms, however management ought to invest more in protecting consumers so as to safeguard their continued existence in the business ecosystem.

Business-consumer relationships operate on the basis of trust and as such managers need to work harder to develop such relationships and sustain them. The enterprise wide appreciation of cyberattacks remains key in all organisations in Zimbabwe, cyberattacks are here and perhaps here to stay as more and more incentives are derived from this activity.

The business-technology alignment strategy needs to take centre stage in the highest echelons of business leadership in order for this initiative to be efficient. Training needs to be offered to all so as to build the much needed protection of consumer experiences in accessing services.

Guest Author George Chirenda is a computing professional who has studied business studies. He wants to see businesses leverage ICT for competitiveness

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