As marketer, you have an obligation to protect your company from consumers who might not have honest intentions. For example, have you noticed how you sometimes have to reproduce a strange-looking set of letters or words before you are allowed to make a purchase when buying something online? That simple step prevents automatic ordering by bots. A bot, which is short for robot, is a kind of program that performs automatic functions online. One of those functions could be to purchase products, such as tickets to a highly desirable sporting event, that the buyer can then resell at a higher price. Or a bot could be used to obtain many units of a freebie that someone can then resell. Bots can be used for many illicit purposes; a good marketer anticipates their uses and creates barriers to prevent being taken advantage of.
A legal tool to help protect your company is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. This act is designed to prevent copyrighted material from being pirated online. While prominent cases involve downloading music, your marketing information is also included. When you find a good way to market your offerings online, a competitor can’t just steal your communications and insert their name. You are protected by this act.
What is very difficult to protect against is phishing, or soliciting personal information in order to steal an identity and use it to generate cash fraudulently. However, you may find it reassuring to your customers to remind them of your privacy policies and your customer contact practices. For example, a bank may remind its customers that it will never ask for a social security number by e-mail. Making sure your customer contact policies protect your customers can also help protect them against phishing from someone pretending to be you or your company.
Sugging is selling under any phony type of front. It includes posting fake reviews about products online. Sugging damages a seller’s trust among buyers and should never be done. U.S. laws govern how products can be marketed, both those that are sold electronically and through more traditional channels. Companies must have permission before they can send you spam, and they have to tell you how they will gather and use your personal information. Warranties—expressed and implied—are binding no matter how companies deliver them. Good marketers anticipate less-than-honest activities by individuals and take steps to prevent them. Bots are online robots that some people use to take advantage of marketers.
- What damage is done by sugging? If the customer buys your product, was the sugging OK? How does sugging differ online versus in person?
- What does the CAN-SPAM Act do?
- When do you mind a company having a lot of information on you and when is it OK? Are there advantages to you as a consumer when a company knows a lot about you? Are there disadvantages? What safeguards are there for consumers?
- How can a bot hurt a marketer?