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Run! It's the Internet!

Global consumers may be too scared to buy from your site.

If you think e-commerce took the world by storm, you're wrong: the United States accounted for three-fourths of all online sales in 2000. So why hasn't the rest of the globe jumped on the e-tail train? They're afraid they might get hurt.

And according to an October 2000 Research International Group survey of Internet users from 38 countries, fears of e-commerce extend beyond stolen credit card numbers. In South America, for example, consumers fear divulging personal details will increase the chance they'll be kidnapped.

The solution is to not ask for excess information. "When I walk into a store, you don't ask me [those things]," says David Walker, Research International's director for new media. "Why should I have to give you this information before I can buy [online]?"

Then there's the credit card thing. Whether it's fear of disclosing too many details or fear of debt-as in Germany, where only 10 to 20 percent of adults have credit cards-global e-commerce consumers prefer alternative payment methods like cash on delivery, payment through their service providers or payment in installments.

"[Global consumers] are less risk-taking, and the technology is less important in people's lives," says Walker. "If you want to do e-commerce outside the United States, the United Kingdom or Japan, you have to offer an alternative to credit cards, or you're going to miss whole parts of the population."

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This article was originally published in the August 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Run! It's the Internet!.

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