The role marketers can play when it comes to cyber attacks

Cyber attacks seem to be impossible to escape, with news left, right, and centre reminding us just how at risk consumers' extremely valuable data is. As a result, many are worried about what companies are doing with their information and what steps are being taken to protect them. It may seem like an issue for the IT department to solve, but it has an equally significant impact on marketers too, writes Wojciech Bednarz, data and insights senior strategy manager, Greenlight Digital.

Marketers face rebuilding both a damaged company reputation and lost trust with their customers. In fact, a recent study by FireEye discovered 76% of consumers would take their business elsewhere if they felt their data was being handled negligently. And even more worryingly for marketers, 72% of consumers would be inclined to share less personal information about themselves because of it.

It seems that consumers are increasingly becoming aware of the value of their data and, as a result, are becoming more reluctant in sharing it. It seems collecting consumer data is only going to get tougher with the GDPR coming into force in 2018. It is a complex piece of regulation; but marketers should pay attention to the fact that it aims to give consumers the power to 'opt out' of sharing data with companies if they want to. This may result in marketers struggling to get the right information to execute effective campaigns.

What is making consumers nervous?

Cyber attacks can hit a company of any size; and marketers don't have to look far for a reminder that no matter the magnitude of the company, a cyber attack can ruin a reputation overnight. This was brought to life recently when the WannaCry attack hit the NHS last month, as well as thousands of businesses across the globe, spanning over 150 countries.

Cyber criminals have varied tactics from phishing emails to ransomware, and it is only set to become more difficult as they develop even more effective manners of targeting both consumers and companies. The security measures protecting the data aren't something marketing teams can necessarily control, but they will have to deal with the repercussions if they fail. As, if data lands in the wrong hands, it could affect how people share their personal information. For example, consumers may tweak the information they share about themselves in newsletters or even refuse to share it altogether. This could leave marketers gathering incorrect data about their customers, which will lead to poor targeting as a result.

How to overcome it

The unfortunate reality is that cyber attacks aren't going anywhere and consumers will become increasingly nervous about the potential consequences. Thankfully, there are tools marketers can use to paint a better picture of customers without having to rely solely on the data they choose to provide.

A good starting point is concentrating on the data that is already available. Data analysis can be made simpler by using tag display campaigns and extracting richer insights on who their users are. Marketers will be able to better identify who is clicking on which ad and which customers really convert to purchase.

Marketers should not feel limited as they have plenty of options:

Look at what your customers have bought in the past: Purchase history shows what they have been interested in and can give a good indication of what they are looking to buy next. A customer may have purchased a new sofa and coffee table, so could they be redoing their living room?

Don't limit tools: Simply using data from one tool will always be limiting, so take advantage of the depth of data available from using cookies, for example.

Focus on multiple characteristics: Assuming that everyone who is of a certain age likes the same thing is a risk. Always check for the common threads that link customers together outside of the traditional 'age, gender, location' brackets.

Finally, marketers should not be afraid to seek expertise from others. Marketers are finding themselves with an ever-growing to-do list; and data-management services are fast becoming a go-to resource to analyse all-important data. With many marketers not having the time to analyse what can be a huge amount of data, they should make the most of the help available to gain the insights they need to be successful.

Marketers don't need to know all of the finer cyber security details, but they must be prepared to address the consequences of cyber breaches without allowing it to stop them getting the insights they need. By concentrating on using varied tools and touchpoints to gather the information they need, cyber breaches will not influence the effectiveness of the marketing industry.

This article was first published on the ExchangeWire website.

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