Fear is a powerful motivator preventing online shopping

With all the hullaballoo after Christmas telling us that online shopping was a huge success bringing in hundreds of millions, it hasn’t taken long for a dose of reality to hit us firmly between the eyes. A new survey by the electronic payments company, Cybersource, suggests that two thirds of people don’t want to shop online because they are frightened of credit card fraud. In other words, the billions of pounds that are being spent online are from a minority of people. Most of the customers you reach online are never going to spend any money with you because they are frightened of the potential negative consequences.

More worryingly, the survey suggests that one in three people know someone personally who has been the victim of online fraud. That seems high, admittedly, but there is no doubt that it takes place. And the associated media coverage is putting people off visiting your site and buying from you.

We can tell people as much as we like that the risks are lower than they think, that their fear is unfounded and that secure transactions with respected card processing firms are more secure than using your card at a cashpoint machine. But they will not believe us. The socially constructed notion prevalent in society is that the Internet has several dangers, one of which is credit card fraud. The result is, according to this survey, that the people who spend money on your web site are very much in the minority.

But it also means something good for your business – it means there is a huge untapped audience out there who would spend money with you if they trust you and your payment system. So, you need to demonstrate clearly that your site and your credit card processing can be trusted.

  1. Firstly, if you don’t have it already make sure your site has a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). This provides encryption of data and signifies protection by showing a “padlock” sign at the bottom of the screen and also changes the address bar to include the tell-tale “https://” characters. Most web hosting companies will allow you to have SSL on your site, but you will need to purchase a certificate of authority. Your web hosts may be able to organise this for you, or you can get an acceptable one from places like Verisign or Thawte.
  2. Next, make sure your web site has your physical address, phone number and email address on the footer of every page. People look here to see if you are “real”. It provides them with a degree of trust, assuring them you are not some fly-by-night firm, on the make.
  3. You will need also to consider your credit card processing provider. Is it a “name” – a brand people already know and trust? If not, time to consider changing in order to increase the chances of people spending cash with you.
  4. Furthermore, is your shopping cart awkward or straightforward? The less steps it takes to get through, the more people believe the site will “hold up”. One of the concerns with going through several screens to order and pay is that something odd will happen to the connection and they’ll lose their credit card details into the ether. The fewer steps you have in your shopping cart, the better for trust levels. Again, you may need to change your shopping cart system to something more suitable. Try 1ShoppingCart in combination with WorldPay Invisible for a one-step cart and payment system.
  5. Notices on your web site about privacy and whether you store credit card details in any way should be prominent. If you do store credit card details, make sure you provide information about physical security. Can people easily break into your office and open up a paper record? If so, you won’t attract custom. If you are in the UK and you are not registered with Information Commission then get registered. Let people know your registration number so they can check up on you.
  6. Place visible security signals on your web site, such as padlocks and other signs which show your customer the security measures you have in place.
  7. Put a face on your web site – the actual person they can speak to in case of concerns about using your ecommerce facilities. Invite them to call in case they have worries so they can discuss them with you. This further increases trust and shows you are commited to security.

These will all help increase the chances of people using credit cards with you. But even so, there will still be plenty of potential customers who will not pay you via credit card. So, you need alternative methods of payment available for people  to use on your web site. Make sure you say you take cheques, direct payment into your bank account, bankers drafts – even cash delivered to your door. Also, offer alternative payment systems such as PayPal or Nochex. The more ways you can take payment from people, the better. Some people who would never use credit cards online would be happy to wait for the goods and services but pay you by a cheque sent in the post. Don’t lose their custom – make such payment possibilities part of your site and publicise them well.

You could even construct your own currency. Customers could send you a cheque by post, or pay directly into your bank account. In exchange you provide them with vouchers or “points” in an online account. They can then order things from you online, simply taking “money” out of their online account with you. This also has the advantage of the fact that you have their payment in advance of them spending with you…!

I am sure you can come up with more ideas – indeed let me have your suggestions by commenting below.

But whatever you think of doing with your ecommerce system, do think about it now. This latest report from Cybersource merely reveals how much money is NOT being spent online. Increasing the trust people have in your web site and your ecommerce suppliers will help that situation, as will having alternative means of payment other than credit cards. Do both and you will substantially raise your chances of people buying from your web site.

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