Consumers More Trustful of Online Shopping, but Has Enterprise Earned that Trust?

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    I admit that I am a paranoid online shopper. My concerns started years ago, when online shopping was a relatively new concept. I ordered my favorite brand of coffee, which I couldn’t get locally, from an online store (the coffee brand didn’t even have an online presence, that’s how long ago this was). A few weeks later, I got a phone call from my credit card company because they noticed charges at a surf shop in Southern California — the exact town where the coffee store was located.

    While I realize that this was likely a case where some rogue employee figured he was safe “borrowing” the credit card number of someone who lived across the country and that credit card numbers are stolen even during in-person transactions, the theft made me think twice about my online buying habits. (In fact, my husband still brings up that incident whenever I order my coffee — from the brand’s actual online store.) So much has changed since that shopping venture in the late 90s. Online retailers and other businesses have made shopping safer for their customers, but the threat of information — beyond credit card numbers — being stolen is greater. Online consumers have every reason to remain wary.

    However, a new survey by Avira found that consumers are growing more comfortable with online transactions. They conducted two surveys a year apart, with the exact same questions, to see if concerns and fears about online shopping have subsided or increased. What they found is nearly everyone is now aware that online fraud can and does happen and reactionary fear of online shopping has now morphed into a sober, calculated risk. In fact, in one year, there was a 23 percent increase in the number of people who felt comfortable shopping online. Travis Witteveen, COO of Avira, said in a statement:

    Consumers have largely embraced online and mobile shopping, and the stereotypical Luddite who refuses to shop online at all hardly exists anymore. What we are seeing this year is an educated consumer who is aware that online fraud can happen, but they are careful about which sites they shop and they look for evidence of secure payment features. They are willing to take a calculated and controlled risk.

    This, obviously, is great news for any company who has turned to online sales and other transactions. But it should also be a bit of a warning: Is your business truly worthy of that trust? When a consumer makes a transaction, he or she can take precautions, such as using a secure connection and going to sites that are trusted, but once they enter all of their information, security falls to the enterprise side. The Washington Post has an excellent article on the importance of making a security checklist (and taking a cue from Santa, checking it twice). I especially like the reminders that all data should be encrypted and to remember that a company of any size can (and probably will be) hacked, so you have to be prepared.

    This year’s holiday shopping season is well under way (although some of us haven’t even begun to shop yet), but most of us continue to shop year-round. Take the steps to make sure your customers trust in your security so that they’ll come back after the holidays.

    Sue Poremba
    Sue Poremba
    Sue Poremba is freelance writer based on Central PA. She's been writing about cybersecurity and technology trends since 2008.

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