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Inspire Confidence in Your Site

Keep customers coming back by putting measures in place so they know their privacy is protected.

While online shopping is definitely on the rise, many people remain wary of e-commerce. Their fear centers on the transmittal of personal and financial information over the Internet and the perceived risk of releasing sensitive data to unscrupulous eyes. Unsolicited e-mail campaigns, rumors of hacker break-ins and media coverage of unethical Web commerce practices further intimidate would-be-customers.

Understanding and addressing customer concerns about online buying are critical to your small business' success selling on the Web. Here are some steps you can take to encourage customers to give online buying a try:

Address security issues directly

Include a statement on your Web site that informs buyers about your policies. Two elements are important to this statement: what security you have in place to protect transmitted data and what you will and will not do with buyer information. Most customers feel more comfortable buying from someone who agrees not to release their contact information or buying patterns to outside parties.

Mention the Fair Credit Billing Act

It's important for consumers to know that there are laws that protect them when they shop with charge and credit cards in cyberspace. This law gives consumers the right to dispute charges on their monthly bill. In general, consumers are held liable only for the first $50 of fraudulent charges.

Guarantee your security

Demonstrate your confidence in e-commerce. Consider guaranteeing payment of the $50 that shoppers would be responsible for should there be a security breach on your site. This will encourage buyers to trust your system. Accepting responsibility for this payment will also allow you to remove one of the most common barriers to shopping online - perceived financial risk.

State your security record

Most customers are surprised to learn how infrequently security breaches occur. If your site has never had one, say so. For example, Web bookseller Amazon.com clearly states that none of its 3 million customers have reported fraudulent use of a credit card resulting from purchases made at its site.

Flaunt your protection procedures

If you take extra steps to ensure buyer information is protected, let visitors know. For example, if your secure service provider makes a weekly effort to break into its own system, just to reinforce security, state this fact on your site. You may also want to mention the technology you have in place by name. Many consumers are familiar with Secure Socket Layer (SSL), Secure Electronic Transaction Protocol (SET), and digital signature certificates that help authenticate the identity of all parties involved in a transaction.

Seek out approval from consumer organizations

Organizations such as the Better Business Bureau Online, the National Computer Security Association and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants offer seals of approval for online shops that meet their standards for conducting business. Displaying one of these marks on your site accomplishes two things: it alerts consumers that you are a legitimate business and it serves as a virtual beware-of-dog sign for would-be-hackers.

Use statistics

Round up some numbers that testify to the safety of online purchasing. You can find these statistics within the Web sites of research organizations such as Gartner Group and Forrester Research, as well as within sites devoted to computer industry news such as ZDNet. You may not want to clutter your home page, so consider providing a link to another page within your site that houses these statistics.

Provide alternatives

Some consumers will never agree to transmit personal information across the Internet regardless of what assurances you supply. To capture these customers, offer alternative methods for buying your business' product and services once they have learned about your offerings and your company online. One page of your Web site can direct them to fax, phone, or mail for order fulfillment.

The views and opinions contained herein are not necessarily those of American Express and are intended as a reference and for informational purposes only. Please contact your attorney, accountant or other business professional for advice specific to your business.

Copyright © 2002 American Express Company. All Rights Reserved.

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