Have you ever bought something online and never received the product, or the product was not the same as on the photos? Then when you contact them, they either ignore you or tell you that it is somehow your fault, and you have to pay for shipping? These are just few examples of what can go wrong when shopping online. Of course, there are other more serious issues related to online shopping, such as fraud and security, privacy, lack of full cost disclosure etc. So, what can we do to ensure our online shopping is safe?
We all know that buying things online is cheaper, faster and easier way to shop. The rapidly increasing numbers of consumers going online to buy their favourite things is astonishing. In 1996, in USA, online sales accounted for only 0.16% of total Retail sales, and this figure rose to astonishing 4% by year 2009. It is expected to rise rapidly as consumers are realising many benefits, such as convenience, information and reviews, price and selection and so on.
There are few simple steps we can take to minimize or even eliminate risks associated with online shopping and safeguard our online shopping. All these steps can be accomplished by carefully checking the safety of merchant’s website. Things to look for are:
– Website’s performance. Are the downloads slow, are there broken links, or poor HTML coding? Overall, does the website work properly? It is an indicator to how much a merchant cares about his consumer and his own reputation.
– Return/Refund policy. You would want to see 100% customer satisfaction guarantee, accompanied by a detailed explanation on how the guarantee is implemented.
– Site usability. A credible merchant would ensure his website is user-friendly, easy to use, and appealing to consumers. The last thing a consumer wants to see is illogically built website with tons of useless information, which is difficult to navigate, and/or find information.
– Contact details. Merchant must be easily reachable. A site must contain easily locatable contact links, and email address, which are bare minimum. A toll number, Question and Answers pages, Online Help, and Live Chats are a big plus.
– Security. One simple step to minimize a risk of fraud is to ensure the website has a high security level. Security shows how secure your credit card details will be by using encryption and the SSL (secure socket layers) technology. SSL is the industry-standard method used for protecting all sorts of Web communication. By viewing the website’s address/URL, you can check if it is safe; if a site has a letter “s” after http, it means SSL security measure is employed on the website. It is an obvious feature used by many reputable merchants nowadays, which shows the merchant’s seriousness about consumers’ security, and his own long-term success. “https://…”
– Shipping. Using reputable shipping companies, such as FedEx, UPS is another indicator of site’s trustworthiness.
– VeriSign, Trust Commerce, and BBBOnline Seals. These seals on the merchant’s website are great sign of credibility. However, some merchants are inserting the graphic to attract customers, so ensure that these seals are CLICKABLE. Once you click on them, you should be able to verify that the merchant is really registered with above-mentioned.
– Payment options. Having payment options such as Google and Paypal on the merchant’s website will help make the shopping experience more secure.
– Virtual credit card numbers. Some credit card issuers will allow you to have a temporary or one-time-use credit card numbers, which will eliminate a security and fraud risks associated with online transactions.
– Detailed product information and reviews. It is extremely important that you buy from a site, which provides detailed information on a product or service. This might seem quite obvious, but lack of adequate and sufficient information about products is a huge issue, which can be easily addressed. Look for detailed information, rating/product reviews, which will tell you the real story. Also, ensure that there are at least 5-10 reviews from different customers, who have bought a product or service to make sure reviews had not been falsely created by the merchant himself to allure consumers.
Another way to minimize or even eliminate security and fraud risks is to use websites, such as http://www.Amazon.com, www.eBay.com, where all of the above mentioned website checks are not really necessary. Looking at product reviews, seller ratings would be sufficient to ensure a seller is trustworthy. One dissatisfied customer can significantly affect seller’s rating, and leave a bad mark on his account, which can consequently lead to reduction in seller’s sales. Therefore sellers do their best to make sure the transaction goes through as smoothly as possible, from start till end.