Is your website fit and secure for King Consumer?

B2B websites could learn a lot about security from their consumer facing compatriots suggests Bob Tarzey.

Is your website fit and secure for King Consumer?
Is your website fit and secure for King Consumer?

All businesses are now dependent on their online presence to a greater or lesser extent. Websites are no longer simply a source of information, but a place to transact with customers. This requires investment to ensure consistent high speed performance and appropriate levels of security. Those that fail to do this will see customers and prospects go elsewhere; especially if they are consumers.

A free research report, Online Domain Maturity, sponsored by Neustar, a supplier of online monitoring and security services, shows how the consumer-facing majority (77 percent) and non-consumer-facing minority (23 percent) differ in their approach to managing their online presence and security.

The report conducted by Quocirca shows that state of the art security is major area of investment for consumer-facing businesses. They are more likely to have in place continuous and/or emergency distributed denial of service (DDoS) protection, fraud detection, security information and event management (SIEM) and advanced threat protection. Their non-consumer-facing counter parts, on the other hand, rely more on older technologies such as host-based anti-malware and intrusion detection systems (IDS).

The report also highlights the fact that consumer-facing businesses are almost twice as likely to be increasing the budget dedicated to online resources compared to those that only deal with other businesses. This extra investment is focussed on improving the user experience, which includes ensuring individual consumer needs are understood through recognition of their devices, browsers, connect speeds, and geographic locations. The metrics gathered can be used to match user behaviours to revenue and gauge customer loyalty.

The research also shows that consumer-facing organisations are less likely to rely on in-house skills to achieve all this. They outsource both infrastructure and security leaving them free to focus on the customer experience and increasing online transaction closure rates. Content delivery network (CDN) services, domain name service (DNS) infrastructure and the management of web sites and online applications are all more likely to be trusted to third party experts.

When it comes to security, in almost all areas consumer-facing organisation are more likely to turn to third party cloud-based services. This not only frees up IT staff to focus on customers, but allows the resources used to closely mirror uptake. Pay-as-you go pricing and the ability to quickly add resources to deal with excess capacity are cited as two of the main benefits of on-demand services, along with better security than many organisations are able to achieve in-house.

A major driver for these difference is that business-to-consumer (B2C) relationships are more fragile than business-to-business (B2B) ones. For instance, consumers are more likely to abandon a potential transaction if they experience slow performance and instead seek out a faster, and ultimately better, user experience on a rival site.  For business users however, their choice of services may be more limited and a slow website affects their employer's time rather than their own.

The way payments are taken also varies. B2B transactions will often have delayed payment covered by lines of credit, whilst consumer transactions are usually taken there and then, bringing many consumer-facing organisations in to the scope of the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) and other data protection regulations.

The internet is now embedded in so many business processes that the choice is how well a given business manages its online presence rather than whether it has an online presence in the first place.  Dealing with consumers raises the biggest challenges and consumer-facing organisations are rising to these through investment and successful partnering with on-demand infrastructure and security service providers.

That is not to say all consumer-facing organisations have got it right, many still have room for improvement; the laggards need to learn from the leaders. Organisations whose primary focus is B2B certainly need to shake off their complacency. As more and more digital natives enter the work place they will bring their consumer expectations and habits with them. They will expect to be able to find the resources they need online with the performance and security to match. The customer is king, and whether they are transacting for business and personal reasons, a regal online experience is expected. Businesses that fail to deliver this do not have a long term future.

Contributed by Bob Tarzey, analyst and director, Quocirca