Internet technology inspired a business and commerce revolution not witnessed before. Once used for military purposes, internet communication nowadays provides an important platform for business to business, and business to customer interaction. Company websites have become primary tools where potential customers source for information on particular corporate products before making the actual purchase.
Besides, websites have become important cost-effective marketing platforms where businesses launch products and display crucial marketing information for the end users (Arnold, J. et al, 2011, p. 56).
Despite the unmistakable advantage however, the rise of the internet and other online technologies have led to creation of security loopholes that, when maliciously exploited, negatively exposes the concerned businesses (Garfinkel & Spafford, 2002, p. 48).
This discussion will focus on internet technology, marketing and security from the perspective of Microsoft, a leading US software development firm whose products like windows have become a household name.
Specifically, the discussion will concentrate on description and evaluation of Microsoft’s website in terms of product information, corporate contact information, tailoring of products for customers based on their taste and provision of customer information at purchase.
Additionally, there will be an analysis and evaluation of Microsoft’s privacy and security policies as well as the envisaged corporate response to a security breach. In this regard, there will be special emphasis on a security breach on the company’s website and system sometime on
October this year, which caused a scare among customers and prompted a quick reaction from Microsoft’s security team. Furthermore, the discussion will tackle the company’s internet marketing strategies and the competitive advantage that its website offers. Finally, there will be recommendations on two tools that the author feels are necessary in the firm to ensure greater security for its customers.
A corporate website is a business’s online window and a vital gateway to online business success (Catalano & Smith, 2000, p. 118). While a “good” corporate website is relative, web content in any credible website must identify specific problems to which they extend solutions to customers as well as the important goals they help customers attain.
Additionally, web content must establish credibility and also present a call to action that nudges the customer to take the next step in buying the product or service.
In Microsoft’s case, the website home page conspicuously displays the tabs linking to product information. Though a bit cluttered, the respective pages provide a somewhat brief explanation of the products under software, business software and hardware and entertainment categories.
The approach the company has undertaken in dispensing its product information is understandable given the large portfolio of the products they offer under every category.
The layout through the product information arrangement in the pages displays a subtle acknowledgement of the size of the product portfolio hence the efforts to balance the information available. In a nutshell, Microsoft’s website offers precise product information that is necessary and enough to help a potential customer make an informed decision.
On a face value, the company’s website has not given any special emphasis on the contact information. The website displays the “contact us” tab in the traditional way that is characteristic of most corporate and private websites.
The “contact us” link however leads to a detailed page that offers e-mail, chat and telephone links through which to reach the company. The above three links further have sub links that easily enable a prospective customer to access the required information with more precision. It is necessary however, to enhance the “contact us” link on the home page in a way that enhances a “good” customer service perception.
There is a concerted effort to develop products to the specific needs of customers. Given the dynamic and varying nature of corporate needs, Microsoft’s website has done well in expounding the basic meaning of products, where they suit and where they best fit.
One of the strengths the website displays concerning customization of products for customers is avoidance of blanket statements that tend to lure customers with the belief that the company can sort their software problems “no matter what they are”.
Microsoft’s website lacks an online portal that will enable customers place online orders, perhaps due to the complexity and specificity of the company’s products. It is apparent that the company relies on the contact information “further assistance” and possibly for provision of customer information on purchase.
As a result, there is an acute lack of customer purchase information in the website. Despite the links however, it is a strategic failure for the website not to avail such information even in the most general terms.
Microsoft Internet Marketing Strategies and Competitive Advantage
Initially, Microsoft’s resources and innovation helped it to enjoy some sort of monopoly status in internet and software development market. However, the company nowadays is facing stiff completion from counterfeits and other rising companies such as Google and Apple (Boone & Kurtz, 2011, p. 175).
The company has in place a marketing strategy that places emphasis on internet marketing. Some of the internet strategies include, collaboration with social networking sites especially aimed at promoting its search engine Bing, placing ads in rival search engines and promoting offers through their main website (Beyazitoglu, 2010, p. 98).
While the above strategies are likely to pay dividends, they are part of the traditional internet marketing strategies whose effectiveness is likely to face limitation. However, social networking sites are yet to give their full potential in terms of marketing, hence it is a smart strategy which the company needs to improve and concentrate on in order to stay competitive.
According to McDaniel & Gitman (2008, p. 108), competitive advantage is largely based on a company’s ability to outdo competitors by doing what they do better or by doing it in a completely different way. While Microsoft’s website is up to date, it offers little competitive advantage compared to its rivals.
The only competitive advantage perhaps the website provides is the fact that is offers the company’s flagship products like Windows which have almost become a necessity for all computer users.
Privacy/ Security Policy and Response to Security Breach
According to the policy, the company clarifies that it collects personal information with a customer’s consent, explains the uses of the personal information, gives information on how to contact it in case of any issue regarding privacy and also highlights on a customer’s choices and options concerning promotional communication from the company.
Generally, the policy is comprehensive and addresses most of the concerns an average Microsoft website users would be interested in regarding privacy. It is important to note that Microsoft has one of the most elaborate cyber security systems in the corporate world (Ratliff & Ballard, 2006, p. 24).
Despite assurance of security of personal information in the website, an attack on the website in October this year cast doubt on the company’s ability to detect and repulse hackers out to siphon information. In the attack, hackers remotely transferred source codes from the Microsoft website by sending passwords to an external e-mail account in Russia.
The attack that according to the company lasted for 12 days used the QAZ Trojan malware which gained access to the company system through an employee e-mail. It is possible that Microsoft did not secure their network’s access points effectively exposing their remote access system that resulted in security breakdown.
The company’s response to the breach included invitation of FBI Computer Analysis Response Team that examined the company’s PC’s and including a review of network logs whose sole aim was to detect traceable fingerprints of the intruder.
Additionally, Microsoft blocked and in some cases limited access of some of its employees to its network outside their office. By this action, Microsoft prevented a return of any hacker to its network.
In light of the above security breach it is important that the company beefs up its virus scanning/protection as well as network access point protection. The above attack may have happened due to a breakdown of virus and access point protection systems.
Logging systems also have become some of the most vulnerable security points in any network system (Bhasin, 2003, p. 67). It is also important that the company disables unused ports besides initiating close monitoring of the logging system.
Given its ability to help businesses slash costs like in the case of Dell, the internet’s potential in business and commerce is yet to reach its epitome. Besides e-commerce, there are still more innovative applications that corporations are yet to exploit. Growing global access to the internet, especially by previously unreached populations especially in Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe offer a great marketing opportunity.
However, the threat from illegal intrusion is also growing by the day. It is therefore prudent for corporations to invest in secure internet technologies through research and development in order to ensure safe internet transactions, while guarding against data theft.
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