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 peopleremain wary of e-commerce. Their fear centers on the transmittal ofpersonal and financial information over the Internet and theperceived risk of releasing sensitive data to unscrupulous eyes.Unsolicited e-mail campaigns, rumors of hacker break-ins and mediacoverage of unethical Web commerce practices further intimidatewould-be-customers.

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

Address security issues directly

Include a statement on your Web site that informs buyers aboutyour policies. Two elements are important to this statement: whatsecurity you have in place to protect transmitted data and what youwill and will not do with buyer information. Most customers feelmore comfortable buying from someone who agrees not to releasetheir contact information or buying patterns to outsideparties.

Mention the Fair Credit Billing Act

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

Guarantee your security

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

State your security record

Most customers are surprised to learn how infrequently securitybreaches occur. If your site has never had one, say so. Forexample, Web bookseller Amazon.com clearly states that none of its3 million customers have reported fraudulent use of a credit cardresulting from purchases made at its site.

Flaunt your protection procedures

If you take extra steps to ensure buyer information isprotected, let visitors know. For example, if your secure serviceprovider makes a weekly effort to break into its own system, justto reinforce security, state this fact on your site. You may alsowant to mention the technology you have in place by name. Manyconsumers are familiar with Secure Socket Layer (SSL), SecureElectronic Transaction Protocol (SET), and digital signaturecertificates that help authenticate the identity of all partiesinvolved in a transaction.

Seek out approval from consumer organizations

Organizations such as the Better Business Bureau Online, theNational Computer Security Association and the American Instituteof Certified Public Accountants offer seals of approval for onlineshops that meet their standards for conducting business. Displayingone of these marks on your site accomplishes two things: it alertsconsumers that you are a legitimate business and it serves as avirtual beware-of-dog sign for would-be-hackers.

Use statistics

Round up some numbers that testify to the safety of onlinepurchasing. You can find these statistics within the Web sites ofresearch organizations such as Gartner Group and ForresterResearch, as well as within sites devoted to computer industry newssuch as ZDNet. You may not want to clutter your home page, soconsider providing a link to another page within your site thathouses these statistics.

Provide alternatives

Some consumers will never agree to transmit personal informationacross the Internet regardless of what assurances you supply. Tocapture these customers, offer alternative methods for buying yourbusiness' product and services once they have learned aboutyour offerings and your company online. One page of your Web sitecan direct them to fax, phone, or mail for order fulfillment.

The viewsand opinions contained herein are not necessarily those of AmericanExpress and are intended as a reference and for informationalpurposes only. Please contact your attorney, accountant or otherbusiness professional for advice specific to yourbusiness.

Copyright © 2002 American Express Company. All RightsReserved.

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