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Photo of Dr. Xueming Luo
Dr. Xueming Luo

There’s a crucial strategy in online advertising that could revolutionize the way marketing agencies target online consumers, according to Fox School of Business researcher.

Dr. Xueming Luo studied how the strategy of competitor-poaching in online advertising influences consumer behavior. His most-recent publication on the topic was named Best Track Paper in Social Media & Digital Marketing at the 2015 American Marketing Association Winter Educator Conference Feb. 14 in San Antonio, Texas. It also received the conference’s honorable-mention distinction among all submissions.

Competitor-poaching in online advertising is responsible for why consumers can search the term “iPhone” using Google’s search engine, and corresponding ads for the Samsung Galaxy, Apple’s closest competitor, will appear, said Luo, Professor of Marketing, Strategy, and Management Information Systems. In his research, Luo uncovered that this strategy results in “clicks wasted,” as consumers glance over the competitor’s ads while remaining loyal to their initial preferences.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” Luo said. “You can increase the impression of the competitor’s brand, but you cannot get consumers to purchase the poaching brand.”

This effect is partly seen because online consumers often develop specific brand loyalties by word of mouth or from reviews that sites like Amazon and Google provide, he said. Firms, Luo found, seek to continually build brand equity and increase positive socialization around their products in order to thwart attempts at online poaching.

“Online poaching impresses non-loyal customers, but fails to get more sales conversion from customers who have high loyalty to the brand under attack” Luo said.

Asking a consumer why they want or prefer a certain product or brand, and how price influences their decisions, can help clarify what incentivizes shoppers, Luo said. Marketing agencies should then target their competitor’s keywords with advertisements that include discounts, he suggested, to capture consumer curiosity.

“To switch consumers from a brand, you need a deeper incentive, such as a 30-percent discount,” Luo said. “If you do this the wrong way, you’ll waste your money. That method can only engender clicks, but not sales conversion.”

This research, Luo said, is a part of his greater interest in how online marketing interweaves big-data analytics, mobile strategies, and consumer insights. As founder of the Global Center on Big Data in Mobile Analytics, which is housed at the Fox School, Luo is interested in investigating how big data gleaned from search engines reveal varying patterns in the evolving sphere of online ads and mobile targeting.

“This is a great way to outsmart competitors and connect customers for superior company performance,” Luo said.

Many companies and organizations have set up defenses to keep hackers on the outside, protecting the information of their customers and clients. However, with increasingly sophisticated use of malware, some hackers can sit silently within a company’s information systems for years without being detected.

A new report from the Temple University Institute for Business and Information Technology (IBIT), at the Fox School of Business, examines advanced persistent threats to information assets by using the medieval analogy of barbarians inside the gate.

In December 2013, retail chain Target announced a security breach resulting in 40 million credit and debit card records being compromised. Other retail chains such as 7-Eleven and Carrefour have also suffered attacks, having 160 million credit and debit card numbers exposed. Hackers have also targeted Nasdaq and bank accounts at Citigroup and PNC.

“My goal with the article was to raise people’s awareness, which is the most powerful tool [for security enhancement],” said Gregory Senko, associate director of the Fox School’s Master of Science in Information Technology Auditing and Cyber-Security program. “I wanted to make people aware that there is a risk and they need the proper tools to know when they are being attacked.”

While working on a book, Security Intelligence – How Big Data and Machine Learning can tackle the increasingly complex world of Cyber Security, Senko realized that the rate of persistent polymorphic attacks is growing and that more vendors are developing tools intended to address these threats.

Symantec, a leading information security company, noted the escalated rate of reported Advanced Persistent Threats (APT). In November 2013, the number of reported APT attacks increased to about 118 from only 57 in November 2012. “We’re likely to see a
big wave of aggressive attacks,” Senko said.

The Stuxnet virus in 2010-11 served as the first well-publicized appearance of a successful, state-sponsored act of modern cyber warfare. This virus inspired hackers to employ analytics, reverse engineering and code cannibalization to design malware that was able to circumvent traditional security arrangements that recognize threats as patterns in digital transmissions. This allowed hackers to penetrate networks that seemed secure,
operating stealthily over extended periods of time. These attacks are known as Advanced Persistent Threats.

Senko recommends four transformative steps to achieve even more robust enterprise security.

First, he urges companies to strengthen their fundamental security processes. This means spending money to pay for up-to-date perimeter security and employing well-educated security engineers and well-informed employees.

Second, Senko recommends companies to look at metrics used for performance management, issue identification and problem mitigation, from a more security-oriented perspective. According to the report, “this same data may yield opportunities to identify
subtle changes in activity that underlie a persistent attack.”

Third, a culture must be created that promotes information security organizations to act proactively. Procedural and structural approaches to deal with day-to-day prevention need to be set in place, versus waiting to react to emergencies.

Finally, Senko suggests companies should invest in tools such as cloud-based, Big Data-driven offerings that allow for more enhanced network performance management and improved network management.

“Companies will find this preventive approach can be expensive. But they will end up dealing with the problem sooner or later. The question is: Will spending now avoid even greater spending later if they don’t take steps to protect themselves,” Senko said.

The ongoing IBIT Report series is based on rigorous, vendor-neutral academic research that provides actionable knowledge on topics relevant to industry partners. To download Senko’s full report, visit http://ibit.temple.edu/blog/2014/02/20/barbarians-inside-the-gate-dealing-with-advanced-persistent-threats/

—Alexis Wright-Whitley