Marriott is Positioning to Fend-Off a Challenge from Airbnb

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Typically, major players in an industry are not pioneers into uncharted and untested niche territories; territories that promise to disrupt the status quo of long proven performances and produce huge revenues and “cash-cow” models that make C-suite executives and stockholders giddy. An atmosphere of invulnerability supported by decades of dominance in an industry has torpedoed many once dominate brands. Does anyone remember Kodak? Likewise, tobacco companies dismissed burgeoning e-cigarette marketers until they realized the potential threat to their nicotine delivery dominance. Perhaps due to a similar perceived threat, Marriott International is announcing its entry into a home rental market niche that will feature 2,000 “premium and luxury homes” in more than 100 locations in the US, Europe, Caribbean, and Latin America.

The new brand effort, called “Homes and Villas by Marriott International”, will collaborate with property management companies around the world to make private residences available to customers seeking upscale residences for business and personal travel accommodations. The effort appears to be in response to Airbnb’s launch of Airbnb Plus, which features high-end listings with strict hotel-like benefits. Marriott’s new plan infringes on Airbnb efforts, but doesn’t completely compete with it in every way. Homes & Villas will have minimum three-night stays, with prices ranging from $200 – $10,000 per night.

Airbnb offers mostly single-room accommodations from a menu of 6 million listings, primarily privately-owned properties. Its target market is mostly budget-minded travelers who would prefer staying in a hotel but can’t afford the higher costs. In comparison, while Marriott operates 7,000 properties in 130 countries, its entry into Airbnb territory offers just 2,000 selections. Still, many industry experts see Marriott’s move as proof that the hospitality industry leader is feeling the heat from Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway. “People stay at different hotels for different trip purposes,” Stephanie Linnartz, the global chief commercial officer at Marriott. “Home sharing is another offering.”

If Marriott is to be successful in its attempt to stall Airbnb’s progress into its territory, it will need to figure out a way to ensure delivery of the same high-end quality of product and service that the company is known for. Working with outside property managers who represent independent property owners poses a challenge to maintaining the brand image. Will Marriott’s management be able to effectively enforce the demanding processes that have resulted in the brand’s lofty image?

Perhaps a better question is whether Airbnb, best known for its credibility in low-cost, hostel-type accommodations, will be able to make inroads into an upscale hospitality environment dominated by a long-standing leader in the high-end market niche. Either way, it is refreshing to see an accomplished industry player respond to a credible challenge to its market dominance. Experience has demonstrated that size, market position and dominance is not guaranteed to any player.

Location Based Marketing: How Much Loss of Privacy will Consumers be Willing to Tolerate?

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Location-based marketing provides advertisers the ability to connect with consumers through their mobile devices based on location. While the technology and the marketing practice is not new, the practice of location-based marketing has, until now, been tempered by concerns over personal data collection and sharing. Consumers who receive ad messages while walking or driving past an advertiser’s location often tell of an uneasy sense of having their movements watched or monitored. A sense of paranoia is heightened and initial experiences with the practice leave many with a “creepy feeling”.

But a recent survey by RIS News and global research and advisory firm IHL Group indicates that 58% of retailers in North America say that they plan to invest in proximity or location-based marketing in 2019. The report indicated that 85% of the high performing respondents to the survey view performance-based location tracking as very important to their marketing strategy. However, concerns about the trafficking and sharing of personal location data remains a large concern amongst consumers and many marketers. In an early 2019 survey, 59% of respondents said overreaching concerns about consumer privacy was one of the three leading factors that prevented them from implementing location-based initiatives.

Going forward, responsible companies will avoid connecting with audiences around personally sensitive locations and adapt and evolve to new federal and state legislation. Adhering to three basic fundamental elements: regulation, a proliferation of new data sources, and attribution will be critical to a successful location-based marketing campaign. Restaurants, grocery vendors, sponsors of special events, automobile sellers and seasonal brands can benefit the most from geotargeting campaigns. What is next for location-based marketing?

The rollout of 5G will create massive sources of highly accurate location data, coupled with billions of new sensors being deployed in every device imaginable. The utilization of geographical tracking and mapping apps like Waze is allowing for marketers to not only see where consumer targets are currently located, but also where they are going. The team at Waze refers to this newest solution as “destination-based marketing.” Waze will use driver navigation data to help advertisers anticipate where consumers are going and ultimately attempt to influence decision-making through mobile marketing.

“Destination-based marketing is about driving people to a store, curbside, drive thru. It is about getting them there. It is about impacting people on the go. Location-based marketing is about the consumer’s current geographic location, not their next one,” says Suzie Reider, managing director of Waze Ads. “Waze Ads is shifting to destination-based marketing as a newer industry term to describe the next step beyond location-based marketing, which is more common in the industry at the moment.”

Ultimately, geographically-based marketing utilization and success will be determined by consumers’ concerns about the free market trading of their data and the diminishing effect it has on personal privacy. Consumers beware! Sellers are watching. They now know where you live and where you are, and soon will be able to predict, with accuracy, where you are going next. Scary?

Keep Your Collaborators Close and Your Most Damaging Competitors Even Closer

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Perhaps the most inconvenient aspect of shopping online is returning an item that failed to meet expectations. Repacking and taking the unwanted item to a shipping location is often inconvenient, time consuming and expensive. Amid all the fanfare about how online sellers are eating brick and mortar retailers for lunch, a surprising partnership between one of the nation’s leading, traditional department store chains and online giant Amazon is attracting a great deal of attention.

Beginning in July, if you buy something on Amazon and want to send it back, Kohl’s will take the unwanted item off your hands and return it to Amazon for you. The department store chain has announced that it will accept Amazon returns at all of its 1,150 stores. Kohl’s says it will accept “eligible Amazon items, without a box or label, and return them for customers for free.” The program is an expansion of a pilot program introduced at Kohl’s stores in the Los Angeles, Chicago and Milwaukee markets in 2017. “Amazon and Kohl’s have a shared passion in providing outstanding customer service, and this unique partnership combines Kohl’s strong nationwide store footprint and omnichannel capabilities with Amazon’s reach and customer loyalty,” Kohl’s CEO Michelle Gass said. She added that this is part of the company’s bigger plan to “drive traffic” to stores and “bring more relevance” to shoppers.

Kohl’s predicts the partnership with Amazon will help attract consumers and get them to  buy something while in store to return an unwanted Amazon purchase. As a result of the pilot program in Chicago, Kohl’s reported a 9% increase in new customers and increased sales volume in stores participating in the program. Shares of Kohl’s Corp. soared nearly 12% after the announced expansion of the program.

The brick and mortar retailer also announced plans to carry Amazon products in more than 200 of its stores. The moves are seen as an attempt to respond to the decline in traditional retail sales brought on by consumers trending towards online purchasing. Forming a partnership with your biggest competitor could be akin to keeping your collaborators close and your most damaging competitors even closer.

It is also a good example of how the survival of traditional retailers is dependent on creating a positive experience for consumers who have abandoned the Malls and embraced online shopping. If brick and mortar sellers are to survive, they will need to reevaluate their marketing strategies, form mutually beneficial partnerships and focus on doing the things for customers that the competition is unwilling or unable to do.  This partnership will set the example for others to follow!

A Little Mystery and Intrigue Accompanies Apple Card Introduction

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Flashy introductions touting world shattering, high-tech, gee whiz, holy cow demonstrations of almost magical performance have been the typical approach of Apple when revealing their newest products. The flash of the reveal has consistently been trumped only by loyal consumers’ responses. The recent introduction of Apple’s foray into the financial services sector was expected to be received with the typical enthusiasm awarded to past product introductions, but the initial response has fallen short of expectations. Perhaps it is the usual, ho-hum response typically afforded product introductions from the financial industry. Let’s face it, financial products generally are not described as sexy and disruptive.

Apple’s long-awaited introduction of the “Apple Card” made its debut with the company’s usual flare and promise. The effort is a partnership with Goldman Sachs, who is making its first offering in the credit card world, and MasterCard. Apple Card is built into the Apple Wallet app on iPhone, offering customers a familiar experience with Apple Pay and the ability to manage their card right on iPhone. While Apple is playing up the card’s benefits of no annual or late fees, no over the limit fees or international surcharges, the card’s cash back features have been described as underwhelming by critics and early consumers. The interest rates, dependent upon a cardholder’s qualifications, appear to be in-line with the current financial industry’s best offerings. The card does not contain a credit card number, expiration date or CVV security code, instead featuring facial and touch identity capabilities. The card is tied to Apple Pay, a service that lets people load banking information and pay in store or use it for purchases online. It works globally where Apple Pay is accepted, lets users track spending in the Wallet app, and focuses on transaction privacy.

But the new offering may be destined to receive a similar response from consumers as Apple Pay. First introduced five years ago, Apple Pay has struggled to capture a modest two percent of the credit transaction market dominated by MasterCard and Visa.  “It’s just easier to use card payments,” said Harshita Rawat, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. “Mobile payments need to evolve their value proposition to get consumers to switch from their plastic card payments. This new offering Apple Card is a step towards that but it needs to evolve even further.” Apple appears to be banking on the new Apple Card and the “Z” generation to boost Apple Pay acceptance. Jeff Fromm, author of “Marketing to Gen Z” and a partner at agency Barkley, says, “Gen Z is going to ‘hashtag’ Apple love this card.”

Whether on a revolutionary or evolutionary path, the Apple Card is already having an impact on the established players in the credit card market. Competitors are investigating advantages like privacy protection, no card numbers and advanced security features. And while credit cards may not be sexy, there is a certain amount of cool factor to the Apple Card for all those loyal Apple fans. “Although the Apple card’s rewards aren’t too exciting, it might bring more value to its already loyal customers in the form of convenience and security,” says Jill Gonzalez, an analyst at finance site WalletHub. “When using the card via Apple Pay, users will quickly be able to see where and how they spend their money without the use of a third-party app.”

For Apple, the journey into a field less traveled and experienced contains more than a little mystery and intrigue. Will the brand’s magical touch of the past be repeated? It appears that even for a veteran like Apple, only time will tell.

Look Out! After Some Tweaking, Subscription Service Might Just Work Here

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Once the relatively sole purview of magazines, cable TV and book of the month clubs, subscription business models are now popping up all over. Software, once purchased and installed on one computer at a time and repurchased when a new version became available, is quickly being replaced by monthly subscriptions. Ownership of the product remains with the provider and access is subscribed to consumer users over time. The expansion of subscription service is being driven mainly by advances in technology where barriers to forming and maintaining ongoing consumer/marketer relationships are eased or eliminated.

For a monthly fee, consumers can now contract with providers for everything from personal care, fitness, movies and entertainment to financial services. Many believe that the larger market is seeing the beginning of the end of personal ownership. A McKinsey report found that the value of online subscriptions rose from $57 million in 2011 to $2.6 billion in 2016. While the subscription e-commerce market has grown by more than 100% percent a year over the past five years, the growth of the model has been accompanied by a significant amount of trial and error and as much pain as gain.

With subscription business models, revenue is generated from individual customers making recurring payments for continued access to a good or service over an extended period of time. The challenges to success are many, but matching customer demand for utilization with a price for the service is perhaps the most critical calculation. MoviePass, the subscription movie ticket upstart, paid each movie theaters’ full price for their subscribers’ tickets. The price was predicated on estimating how many times each month customers would utilize the service. When it was discovered that 15 % of customers were visiting theaters more than what was predicted each month, the difference between projections and reality resulted in a $147 million loss for the emerging business. Getting the price right is critical.    

If the price isn’t perceived by the consumer to be a good value then the service will fail to launch. However, set the price too low and sustainability and growth of the provider company will be elusive at best. Ultimately pricing should be flexible enough to respond to unanticipated volatility in demand and new competitive market entrants. Longer term pricing rates will provide opportunity to level market demand over time and give providers more time to form stronger connections with individual customers. Building strong, ongoing customer relationships are important to every business but are particularly critical to subscription services where referral from family and friends generates three to five times higher conversion rates than any other channel of marketing.

Subscription service, once thought to be nothing more than a threat to profit margins by many traditional business model executives, is finding converts even among the most skeptical. The trend appears to be gravitating towards each brand offering their own unique pricing plan rather than third party player offerings across multiple brands. The rate of acceptance and transition also is dependent upon the maturation of consumers, particularly among those who still find comfort in one-time payment for ownership. As the fine-tuning continues in delivery and more consumers cross the divide between traditional ownership to shared usership, it is likely that subscription services may just find their way into every imaginable type of product or service business. Just another case where fundamental market disruption results in the demise of the “it won’t work here” premise.

Markets Where the Small and Few Can Succeed Among the Large and Many

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Niche markets are quickly becoming popular opportunities for small to mid-sized companies looking to survive among large businesses. Specialized markets are not new. They have always had a place in the larger and broad-based markets that volume business models have historically been willing to overlook. Often considered too small to generate the required return on investment (ROI) usually courted by mega marketers, niche markets can be a haven of profitability for businesses willing to focus on the more fastidious consumer. Considerable success can be achieved by focusing on serving market segments that large competitors are unable or unwilling to serve. Niche markets exist across the entire spectrum of business and industry, consumer and business to business (B2B).

Targeting niche markets in eCommerce requires strong, comprehensive content in multiple formats and across multiple channels. Creating successful content requires attention to narrowly focused, high quality and in-depth messages that seek to capture the attention of the few, not the many. Because the target market may already possess a comprehensive understanding of the products and services they are seeking, authentic, knowledgeable and detailed content is critical. “To effectively appeal to an audience that’s already interested in your field, you’ll need to hire a team that’s capable of digging deep into that topic,” says Kenny Kline, Managing Partner at JAKK Media. “That means every member of your team should already possess a strong interest and knowledge in your chosen topic. This may require a shift in your approach to hiring.”

A strategy of attracting a loyal customer base over time will result in sustainable growth in market segments that often resemble closed communities where word of mouth between consumer members can make or break a player. Niche market websites need to be hyper-focused on narrow-niche keywords in order to stand out among the noise of the larger market players. “Most niche marketing websites use content to establish credibility, rank well in the search engines, and connect with visitors,” says Beeskow Blay. “Developing content, whether for the purposes of affiliate marketing or direct product sales, must be done in a way that delivers value to a niche audience. A deep understanding of, and interest in, your niche helps your message resonate with visitors and sets your brand above pitchy, shallow competitors.”

Niche market success demands authenticity. Losing focus and trying to be someone you are not will derail progress to sustainability. Understanding the intricacies of both the targeted consumer and the solutions they are seeking is vital to credibility. Faking it can be fatal. In a mega-marketing world where more often begets more, there exists a place where less equals more and where the small and few can outperform the large and the many.

Consumers Relearning Some Old Lessons with the Advent of Influencer Marketing

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Influencer marketing, the technological equivalent to traditional word of mouth advertising, involves promoting products and services by celebrities and individuals who have influence over consumers’ purchase decisions. This influence typically comes from the actors’ expertise, popularity, or reputation. Consumers respond because they feel an affinity to the influencer and find them credible. Influencer is quickly becoming a profession category where genuine celebrities and self-made “stars”, who are famous for just being famous, are making a career of endorsing everything from beauty products to machine tools.

 With an estimated 800 million people actively using Instagram each month, in addition to other social media platforms, marketers are lining up to spend vast sums of money to connect their brands with consumers through these influencers. The medium is estimated to be worth more than $1.5 billion worldwide. The Association of National Advertisers has determined that 75 percent of marketers currently work with influencers in part due to the fact that the marketing tactic has 11 times the return on investment (ROI) of traditional digital marketing.

Some recent experiences though are having an impact on the new advertising medium. As with many shiny new things that produce nearly instant sizzle, influencer marketing is experiencing the consequences of fraud brought on by a lack of transparency. Reminiscent of the introductive days of television advertising, when pictures first married with prose to create visions of products and service performances that rivaled a snake-oil salesman pitch, social media advertising seems to be intent on rivaling the worst of these historic activities. Honesty, truth and transparency, most often portrayed as essential to effective advertising, are once again coming under fire, or is it Fyre?  Cynicism is quickly replacing much of the enthusiasm for celebrity word of mouth. Some critics are claiming that as much as 50 percent of influencer marketing industry performances are plagued by fraud.

Perhaps no better example of what can go wrong when famously famous people endorse an event without exercising responsible due diligence, is the now infamous Fyre Festival of 2017. Host Brian McFarland promoted an over the top, luxurious festival experience to launch his music booking mobile application. Famous celebrities lined up to accept as much as $250 thousand to advertise the promise of gourmet food, glamorous tents and villas, rock stars and a bevy of famous supermodels. Ticket buyers arrived to find the amenities woefully lacking and the promised performance stars and international models non-existent. Event attendees found themselves stranded on the far-away island of Great Exuma in the Bahamas. It was anything but an entertaining experience.

The failure was blamed on the promoter’s inability to launch an engagement, but in hindsight many consider the catastrophe nothing less than intentional fraud. With influencers receiving huge sums to promote the event, critics were quick to focus some of the responsibility on those influencers that failed to perform reasonable fact checking and investigation into the event promoter’s capabilities and credibility.

The industry was forced to initiate reforms following the debacle. Technological solutions are being implemented that will identify and recognize fake followings and fake engagements with the goal to separate fiction from reality. Harsher penalties are now in place for those who do not post the requisite full view notifications paid partnerships tags. The United Kingdom’s Advertising Standards Authority has warned hundreds of social media influencers to comply with stricter rules and to ensure that all sponsored or paid-for content is clearly labeled. Many people believe that the influencers involved with Fyre should be held accountable for helping market what ultimately became a failed event.

In the end, consumers bear a certain level of responsibility for their victimhood. For generations we were brought up to expect that; if it looks too good to be true it probably is; don’t believe everything you hear and though a picture can be worth a thousand words those words and the pictures may not be true. With the advent of software that can place someone where they have never been, saying things they have never said, this axiom deserves an increased amount of due diligence and scrutiny.

Despite all the amazing technological advances of the past decades, personal behavior, like fashion tends to repeat itself over time. Bad actors and criminal behavior are more often encouraged, not bounded by all the shiny new advances in digital communication. The former one to one approach to connecting with an expanding audience is being amplified by the internet’s “one to many” social media environment. Consumers are being forced to relearn some life lessons and are responding to the demise of influencer transparency and credibility in this new form of advertising. In a recent global survey of consumers, Nielsen found that 83% of consumers trust the recommendations of friends and family over other advertising influencers.

In 2019 successful brands will find a way to authentically utilize the expansive amount of customer content to more successfully connect their brands with consumers.

A More Diverse and Socially Conscience Generation of Consumers

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Grouping an entire generation of people into a single marketing segment has its pitfalls. Not every member of any group or demographic segment can be expected to see the world from an identical perspective and follow a single behavioral pattern. However, generational differences and behaviors are influenced by disruptive events. The Great Depression and World War II had a dramatic impact on baby boomers, both in the way they saw the world and their role in the future. The technology revolution is generating much of the same impact on Millennials, and to an even greater degree, Generation Z. Such dynamic experiences tend to not only alter established patterns of process but often disrupts the way people reinterpret and redefine fundamental societal norms.

Marketers found measured success in developing strategies that connected with Millennials only after struggling to fully understand the impact of the technology era on those born and reared during the years that saw unprecedented disruption in traditional communication processes. Millennials were the test subjects for social media platforms that were born and that matured during their formative years. Both Millennials and the generation that followed became accustomed to fast paced growth of new technologies and the impacts they have on the world.

Generation Z consists of those born in 1996 or later. They make up 25.9% of the United States population and will account for one-third of the U.S. population by 2020. The most tech savvy and information consuming generation in history, Generation “Z’ers” tend to be less focused on a single thought but are demonstrating an amazing ability to multitask and a lack of patience with a single subject. Since 2018, members of Generation Z spent up to $143 billion and will represent 40% of consumers by 2020. In order to successfully market to this generation, it is important to recognize how this new set of consumers differentiates from the previous generation. While Millennials learned to coexist with the development of digital devices, Z’ers are perpetual in their use and have demonstrated a mastery of everything smart and mobile.

Marketers are experiencing a massive shift in advertising methods and content messaging in order to successfully connect with Generation Z’s shifting values. “When it doesn’t get there fast they think something’s wrong,” said Marcie Merriman, executive director of growth strategy at Ernst & Young. “They expect businesses, brands and retailers to be loyal to them. If they don’t feel appreciated, they’re going to move on. It’s not about them being loyal to the business.” Like their predecessors, this new generation values authenticity. However, Generation Z’ers desire even more transparency from companies requiring brands to alter their approach to focus to a greater degree on social media influencers. This generation of shoppers indicates they are more likely to be motivated by social media influencers than by celebrities. Four out of five Generation Z members say they allow social media to influence purchasing decisions.

Contrary to digitally honed social insights, Generation Z is more socially diverse and conscious than former generations. They are more likely to appreciate face to face relationships, be willing to do great work for an employer and are predicted to be willing to invest years in a job that propels them forward to achieving personal self-development. According to Generation Z marketing strategist Deep Patel, “the newly developing high tech and highly networked world has resulted in an entire generation thinking and acting more entrepreneurially.”

It would be easy to button-hole this newest generation of consumers into one market segment, but care must be exorcized to understand that each new generation is influenced by those that have gone before. In reality, while greatly impacted and honed from a lifetime of technology, this new generation may be much more diverse having been influenced by interactions with each preceding generation.

The State of Capital Markets for Expanding and Emerging Businesses

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The economic turn-around is bringing more than competitive disruptions to independent start-ups and existing businesses that are looking to expand and grow. Funding options are expanding to include venture capital, angel investing, private equity markets as well as traditional bank lending. Each funding option comes with its own set of requirements, costs and performance characteristics. This year’s Pepperdine Private Capital Markets Report (PPCMR) specifically examines the behavior of senior lenders, asset-based lenders, mezzanine funds, private equity groups, venture capital firms, angel investors, privately-held businesses, investment bankers, business brokers, limited partners, and business appraisers.

The Pepperdine Private Cost of Capital (PCOC) survey is conducted each year by Pepperdine University Libraries  and investigates each private capital market segment, the important benchmarks that must be met in order to qualify for each particular capital type, how much capital is typically accessible, what the required returns are for extending capital in today’s economic environment, and outlooks on demand for various capital types, interest rates, and the economy in general. Originally launched in 2007, the report was the first comprehensive and simultaneous investigation of the major private capital market segments.

The report findings indicate that the cost of business capital varies depending on the size of the funding, the type and the level of risk. “The data reveal that bank loans have the lowest average rates while capital obtained from angels has the highest average rates”. Other sources reveal that 2018 turned out to be a boom year for non-bank business lending as a reported 80 percent of small bank business loans were rejected.

The accepted thought among a majority of business soothsayers is that 2019 will be a good year for optimistic entrepreneurs to engage plans to open or expand their business. However, 39 percent of the responders to the PCOC survey believe that general business conditions will worsen over the next 24 months and that nearly 44 percent of predicted loan demands would increase. A third of the lenders responding to the survey thought domestic economic uncertainty was a leading issue for independent businesses that sought to expand in the coming year. Labor availability and access to capital were also seen as complicating issues.

Refinancing, expansion and acquisition was the most commonly described financing motivation and concern for debt-service coverage ratio remains the most important factor when deciding whether or not to invest. Loans between $1 million to $10 million require the greater amount of personal guarantee and collateral. The survey reports that 31% of cash flow applications were declined; 34% of applications were declined due to poor quality of earnings and/or cash flow and 19% were declined due to insufficient collateral.

Despite all the preponderance of predictions, funding an independent business comes with significant risk both for the borrower and lender. Regardless of the source, spending investment dollars wisely remains an important factor for success. While most organizations are applying their investment dollars responsibly, it is important to be reminded that there is no such thing as “free” money. Gaining the best information on the available sources and the cost and requirements associated with each is critical to the success of any start-up or expansion plan.

Securing a Website with an SSL Certificate is More Important than Ever Before

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More than a billion web users’ personal information was stolen by cyber hackers in 2018. While large companies appear to be the victim of the vast majority of attacks, small business websites are proving to be an attractive target for cyber criminals looking to find an easy pathway to the riches that can come from the fraudulent use of everyday consumers’ personal financial information. While the level of illegal intrusion leveled-off last year, security experts are warning that recent advancements in website security measures may be doomed to the insistent and persistent improvement in hackers’ ability to adapt to the new security improvements.

Not unlike burglars who pass by homes with obvious security systems for an unprotected target, cyber criminals are turning to small business websites that fail to take even the most basic security actions to protect customer data. While the past two years have seen a dramatic increase in the number of websites taking actions to protect customers’ personal information, more remains to be done. The number of websites supporting HTTPS over encrypted Secure Socket Layer (SSL)/TLS connections has skyrocketed over the past year. Recent studies reveal that over 50 percent of web traffic is now encrypted. “Many sites need to catch up to avoid the ‘Not Secure’ warnings,” said DigiCert chief product officer Jeremy Rowley. “We urge IT administrators to check the sites they look after and deploy the appropriate TLS certificates.”

Perhaps the greatest incentive for website owners to gravitate to HTTPS protocol is coming soon from Google. With the release of Chrome 68 later this year, the search engine leader will mark all sites that haven’t adopted HTTPS as “Not Secure”. All other secured sites will continue to be displayed with green https letters in the URL, which means they are secured by an SSL certificate. Google will also give websites with encrypted connections a slight rankings boost. Imagine the number of website visitors who will be reluctant to frequent a company’s site when they are confronted with an “unsecure” warning. The consumer demands for increased web security is on the rise and consumer awareness of cyber security victimizations is heightened. It has been predicted that the Microsoft, Apple and Mozilla search engines will likely follow Google’s direction.

Research conducted by Ipsos, a global market research and consulting firm, found that 87% of internet users will not complete a transaction if they see a browser warning on a web page and more than half of respondents indicated they would seek to complete the purchase on a competitor’s secured website. SSL certificates have been available for decades but many website owners have delayed activation due to the perceived high cost and complications of implementation.

The cost associated with migrating to HTTPS and its significant benefits to a web owner is quickly becoming more affordable. Many hosting providers are offering free SSL certificates to clients. With “trust” becoming an important factor in the marketer/consumer relationship, a “secure” banner across the top of a company’s website is an indication that the site’s owner shares their customers’ concern for data security.