Most companies and brands today are aware of the need to take cybersecurity seriously. Recent research by IBM, in fact, has found that improving cybersecurity is among the top priorities for CMOs across the 28 countries surveyed.
In practice, however, this desire for “better security” is often undermined by another principle: that the customer experience should be as easy and as seamless as possible. Whilst CMOs are aware that good cybersecurity is critical in earning the trust of customers, and in improving brand image, in many cases, they fear that adding extra security is an inconvenience to customers, and may deter more than it attracts.
That can be true in some cases. If done correctly, though, improving cybersecurity can add value to your brand. The key is to show customers you take the issue seriously, without putting obstacles in their way.
In this article, we’ll show you how to do that.
The importance of trust
As with many areas of branding today, when it comes to the issues of cybersecurity and trust, marketers can learn a lot from Generation Z. Younger people are generally more aware of the importance of good cybersecurity, are well-versed in the complexities of data privacy issues, and are more likely than older generations to make use of cybersecurity tools.
Though older generations are not as tech literate, they are more willing to buy from brands that take their security seriously. Ecommerce customers frequently show that they are willing to invest the time and energy to adopt new payment technology for the promise of greater security, and two-thirds of ecommerce shoppers would modify their online behavior if it led to safer shopping experiences.
These positive outcomes of implementing strong cybersecurity are not limited to ecommerce retailers, either. According to research by PSFK Lab in partnership with MasterCard, 95% of consumers expect their bank to have the latest technologies to keep their financial information safe and secure, and 89% expect stores they shop at to stay up to date with the latest financial safety technologies.
In this context, it is clear that there are huge gains to be made for brands that respect their customers' privacy and security.
Which claims actually matter?
All this said, making it clear to your customers that your processes are secure is easier said than done. In doing this, there are two major obstacles that need to be overcome.
The first is that you need to make the correct claims. You should obviously avoid sending marketing communications that look like dangerous email attachments. Similarly, there is no point telling your customers about the new encryption algorithm you’ve put in place if hardly any of them are going to understand this technical jargon.
Equally, avoid making claims that can be debunked by even a little research. This is a problem that has recently come to the fore due to VPN companies claiming they have “double encrypted” user traffic; when the standard 128 bit AES encryption algorithm would take a supercomputer a billion years to crack, such claims are easily exposed as empty.
The safest way to tell your customers about the cybersecurity you have put in place is to stick to the facts. Cybersecurity companies realized this long ago, and now focus their branding on the hard statistics of how many attacks they have prevented. A quick look at the companies offering WordPress-managed hosting is enough to confirm this: in a highly-competitive market where security is key, there is little point using marketing jargon to try to encourage sales. Instead, point to your track record.
The second difficulty you face – and arguably the one that is hardest to overcome – is that many security features make your website, app, or online services more difficult to use. There is a difficult balance to be struck here between implementing security features that keep your customers safe, drawing attention to them, and not frustrating their user experience.
Prove that you take security seriously
Due to these reasons, the best approach for brands is often to capitalize on the security features you have already implemented by drawing attention to them. This can be done by providing “cues” — i.e., clues or behaviors — that indicate that you have advanced security systems in place.
These cues can include:
Every time you make a security update, tell your customers about it. You can also provide details for more tech-literate customers.
Similarly, include a logo on your site or app that highlights the encryption you are already using, or the cybersecurity advisors that you work with.
You can even add a new authentication step to your ecommerce site. The key, here, is to explain to your customers why they need to complete extra details and stress the benefits to them that this brings.
These are just the beginning, though. One of the biggest shifts in recent years has been marketers making use of new technologies to identify customers more precisely than ever before. Though these technologies, such as Amazon’s automated recognition software, were originally designed for marketing purposes, they are now being used to improve cybersecurity. This kind of “personalized security” can be a powerful way to bring home to your customers how much you value their data, and ultimately improve their view of your brand.
Are your efforts working?
Thanks to the sometimes “vague” nature of online branding, it’s hard to tell what works and what doesn’t. What hopefully has been made clear through this discussion is that you can’t leave this to chance. Cybersecurity is but one part of what should be a comprehensive reputation management strategy that focuses on monitoring what people are saying, taking proactive steps to increase the odds that what they say is positive, and dealing with negative statements head-on when it isn’t.
When more than 90% of shoppers go online to see what other people say about your business before they buy, you begin to realize that you can’t miss any opportunity, cybersecurity included, to stack the odds that what they encounter is a possible experience.
The bottom line
All of these features have a value far beyond improving customers’ view of your brand, though. They also improve the security of your systems. This is what makes security one of the best investments SEOs can make in 2019, and also points to the future.
Ultimately, the best way for brands to respond to the rising concerns about cybersecurity is not to feel threatened by them. Nor is it to make inflated claims that most customers see through instantly. Instead, be honest and open about your security, and encourage your customers to work collaboratively with you to improve it. If your customers feel invested in this, they also feel invested in your brand more generally.
Sam Bocetta is a freelance journalist specialising in US diplomacy and national security, with emphases on technology trends in cyberwarfare, cyberdefence, and cryptography.