Promoting a safer customer experience

Vendors are continually trying to drive a message of caution to consumers regarding the online threats they are exposed to, but it's a message that often gets lost in translation through the retail channel. Vince Steckler, Symantec's senior VP for worldwide consumer sales, speaks to Channel Middle East about the challenges in this area and what retailers should be doing to better cater to security shoppers in the Middle East.

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By  Dawinderpal Sahota Published  October 31, 2007

Vendors are continually trying to drive a message of caution to consumers regarding the online threats they are exposed to, but it's a message that often gets lost in translation through the retail channel. Vince Steckler, Symantec's senior VP for worldwide consumer sales, speaks to Channel Middle East about the challenges in this area and what retailers should be doing to better cater to security shoppers in the Middle East.

Talk us through Symantec's consumer channel strategy in the region?

There's lots of different ways we sell products. A box product in a retail outlet is the most visible, but almost every computer that you buy comes with a 90-day trial of our product and the user is given the option to pay online after the 90-day period to upgrade. Overall in the last quarter, 75% of our business worldwide happened online. So we use retail to get these customers, and it's the best channel for getting these customers, but we use online to keep them.

Does using such a model mean the opportunity for retailers to make money on selling security is diminishing?

Not many customers tend to go online to purchase new software, they tend to go online to renew their subscriptions, so the retailer opportunity is there. Instead of letting that customer use the trialware, the retailer should try and sell the full box product with the sale. That's a much more effective means than trying to get people to use the trialware and renew it.

Are retailers in the region doing enough to attain a high attachment rate of security products with a PC sell?

In this region it's just starting, but in other parts of the world the attachment rate is 50% or higher; with half of the PCs that are going out of a store, the retailer is successfully selling security alongside it. That's really what the focus is these days in this region, to get the attachment rate going.

How aware are consumers in the region of PC security threats?

Almost every user understands they need some sort of security, but do they know all of the details of all of the threats? No. And should they know? No. Customers just want to be protected when they're on the internet; they want trust in the name ‘Norton'. We just make sure that they realise that there are lots of threats out there, but if they use Norton, they can feel confident, secure and go about their business on the internet without a worry.

So how would you advise a retailer to drive revenue growth of security products?

The retailer needs to sell the product when they sell a PC, and it doesn't take a whole lot of effort to do that because the customer is already wanting to buy something. Secondly, have enough awareness of the security threats to really be able to guide the customer, because you need to be a trusted advisor to the customer. Now the threat is a type of organised crime and it's going after financial data, trying to steal credit card information. And if the consumer is going to try and do online commerce and online banking, then you absolutely have to have an online security product.

As power retail develops in the region, the technical advice customers used to receive from smaller retailers is lacking. What impact does this have on the consumer security channel?

Smaller retail shops gave a lot of personalised attention - they were almost like system integrators for the consumers - but they are not able to maintain the price points in the mass market. That's a pattern we've seen around the world, moving from small shops to big retailers. Quite often in those types of shops, staff may not be quite as technically sophisticated as those in smaller shops. But now in some of the bigger shops in Europe and the US, they offer a technical specialist. Behind a counter is a technical person who will walk you through what products you need, what you need to connect it to your printer and they'll even install the products. It's the same kind of attention you used to get in smaller shops, but translated into some of the larger shops. It's very common in the US, but not so much in the Middle East. We encourage retailers in the region to do this, because it's really the opportunity to sell security.

What trends do you see shaping demand for consumer security over the next 12 months?

The region is huge on smart phones, and here they are used for a lot more than just talking. They become your second computer and when you use this type of device for more than talking, you need security. We've released Norton smart phone security, which runs on these devices and protects against mobile threats, and the markets in Asia and the Middle East are far ahead of the US and Europe in this technology area.

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