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Security, Privacy & Other Non-monetary Forms of Currency

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November 1, 1999 *2,600 subscribers* Volume 1, Issue 10
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ECnow.com 1999 trend #01: "While consumer-based security concerns continue to decrease, privacy concerns will increase leading companies for focus on the non-monetary forms of currency (time, attention, trust and convenience)"

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Trend Prediction: While consumer-based security concerns continue to decrease, privacy concerns will increase leading companies for focus on the non-monetary forms of currency (time, attention, trust and convenience)
By Mitchell Levy
Publisher, ECMgt.com

As we are mid-way through the last business quarter of the 20th century, ECnow.com's number one top trend prediction for 1999 is only partially on target. This prediction is that "while consumer-based security concerns continue to decrease, privacy concerns will increase, leading companies to focus on the non-monetary forms of currency (time, attention, trust and convenience)". In short, security concerns have decreased, privacy concerns have increased; however, not a lot of attention is being paid to the non-monetary forms of currency.

From a security perspective, in 1999 the average consumer is feeling more comfortable shopping on the Internet than in 1998, but this increased sense of security also is accompanied by an increase in awareness and concern about privacy. Both phenomena are the result of industry and the press informing the public about security and privacy. Press stories decrying lax security, such as the "misleading" stories that focused on laptops and databases being stolen from credit card companies and ISPs, were supplanted in 1999 with stories of the significant increase in volume of sales over the Internet. Regarding Web privacy, the general U.S. public needs a lot more education. One of the leading Web privacy practices is the use of a Web site privacy policy to explain what a company does with personal information gathered on the site.

There are a number of organizations that are focused on privacy. See the chart below:

Privacy sites worth visiting:

As the pioneer in getting businesses to adopt Web privacy practices, TRUSTe appears to be the industry leader (see the feature article this month by Dave Spear).

It is clear from readers' comments this month that there is still a lot of concern and disagreement about the importance of Web security and privacy. More importantly, there are a number of readers who feel that the average consumer does not distinguish between security and privacy.

Once again, what is missing here is education. It is important to educate consumers about privacy statements and to encourage consumers to look for one on every Web site they visit. It is significant that some of the largest advertisers on the Web -- including Microsoft, IBM and Intel--have stated that they will require the sites they advertise on to have a privacy statement. But does the average consumer know this fact and understand its implication? I think not.

I would like to make a call to the press to spend more time educating the public on security and privacy. Security is the easy part and as more consumers successfully purchase online, transaction security concerns will continue to decrease. As time moves on, concern about transaction security will become a thing of the past. But concern about corporate use of personal information will be an on-going problem online and off-line. Posting privacy policies on Web sites is a good first step online, however more action to protect privacy in general is necessary. Expect privacy concerns to be an ongoing issue in many aspects of life.

In addition to a competitive price, a privacy policy on a Web site can interest a customer in buying, but used in combination with other non-monetary forms of currency/value -- such as time, attention, trust and convenience -- will really close the deal. It is amazing that these forms of currency have not received as much attention in 1999 as they deserve.

As more and more valuable content is made available and as we are inundated with different vehicles to communicate with each other, we are finding that there is less time in a day. Sites that help save time, capture attention, quickly establish trust and provide convenience not only quickly win my praise but also my business.

First there were Hotmail and Yahoo that offered free e-mail to users who were either exposed to upfront advertising or to an advertisement in the e-mail's trailer message. Then there was Cybergold.com that recognized the value of someone's time and attention by paying registered users to view banner ads. More recently, there has been a slew of companies paying people to surf the Web (such as Alladvantage.com) or receive free access or a free computer, while judiciously subjecting the user to sponsorship information or advertisements. In return for receiving a product or service for free, the user pays with a little bit of time, attention and "in-convenience" by being exposed to a constant barrage of advertisements.

These companies have realized what a large percentage of the current-day click-and-mortar and dot-com companies have not: it is important to focus on the non-monetary forms of currency. Here is a suggestion: Grade your site and those of your competitors with the non-monetary forms of currency as a barometer and see how you do. The exercise my surprise you.

Company / Non-monetary CurrencyTimeAttentionTrustConvenience
Your Company    
Traditional Competitor (1..n)    
New Competitor (1..n)    
Scale is 1-5: 5 is great, 1 is poor

Let me leave you with a couple of my favorite quotes this month:

  • There will be a trend towards non-monetary value, as monetary value is deemed less important than other things. For instance, in France there are a high percentage of people who are happy to take a reduction in pay to work less, i.e. the new legislation on 35 hours. (D.B., Paris, FRANCE)
  • Non-monetary forms of currency are very critical. In the business arena, time is money, and the faster we can complete purchases (be it online or otherwise) the better so that we can get on to more important things such as conduct our business. (R.G., Vancouver, British Columbia, CANADA)

I hope you enjoy this eZine.

See you in cyberspace,

Mitchell Levy

President, ECnow.com <http://ecnow.com>
Publisher, ECMgt.com <http://ECMgt.com>
Coordinator, SJSU-PD ECM Certificate Program <http://ecmtraining.com/sjsu>

  • ECnow.com is an e-commerce strategy, e-marketing and training firm. ECnow.com is engaged in strategic e-commerce consulting and Internet marketing activities for US-based and international corporations.
  • ECMgt.com is a monthly e-commerce eZine focusing on strategy, trends and related news.
  • San Jose State University, Professional Development, Electronic Commerce Management (ECM) is a Certificate Program for e-commerce professionals <http://ecmtraining.com/sjsu>.

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