Consumer Concerns of Online Security Impact Smaller Businesses

Multichannel Merchant Holiday 2014 FeedAs consumers increasingly shift their holiday shopping habits from in-store to online, their concerns about cyber security are also on the rise. For the 2014 season, Deloitte reports that 55% of consumers are concerned about the protection of their personal data when shopping online, and 51% of shoppers are more concerned about the online protection of their personal data compared to a year ago. These heightened fears are understandable, especially in the face of high-profile security breaches like Heartbleed, and more recently, POODLE.

Although the majority of media attention has focused on mega-retailers like Target, small businesses are still looking to find ways to calm customer fears as they enter the biggest selling months of the year. For some context, there are some key differences in how smaller retailers tackle online security than their larger counterparts, the most important of which comes from a technical standpoint – unlike large retailers who normally manage their hosting and security infrastructure in-house, the large majority of small online businesses depend on a third-party hosting provider, typically via their ecommerce platform.

Because small business owners are dependent on their hosting providers for backend security measures, their focus to ease shoppers’ security concerns are focused on the front-end. In a report from Volusion, small online retailers were asked their top strategies for instilling trust and confidence with their online customers this season.  According to the report, 60% responded that they’re focused on providing a “professional presence via web design,” with another 23% working to prominently “display security seals on their ecommerce site.”

This approach is a solid one, as perception is often everything for online shoppers. According to eMarketer, 68% of U.S. online shoppers agree that they’ll distrust a site that has an unprofessional appearance. In order for smaller retailers to place wary shoppers at ease before the holiday rush hits, the following actions are recommended:

  • Streamline the experience: First impressions matter, meaning that small shops should focus on high-quality homepage design, including specific calls to action that drive shoppers deeper into specific product or category pages. Next, retailers should ensure that all links are fully functioning and that the customer checkout experience is as clean, simple and efficient as possible.
  • Use third-party validation: Prominently displaying security seals, such as one’s SSL certificate, is a quick and easy way to show shoppers that a website has been verified as secure from a third-party. Another helpful way to add outside validation to the security of a website is to leverage customer reviews – if shoppers can see that other customers have had a positive experience, it will make them more comfortable completing a purchase themselves.
  • Showcase personalized contact information: Customers naturally feel at ease when there’s a helping hand within reach. Small retailers can take advantage of this notion by sharing real-time contact information, including a phone number, online chat capability or even an email address within the website’s header or footer. Having a dedicated “Contact Us” or “About Us” page is also helpful to show shoppers that there’s a real human on the other side of the transaction.

It’s also a good idea for smaller retailers to contact their hosting provider for additional information on what types of security measures they’ve put in place for the holidays, as well as learn more about their security protocols and overall hosting infrastructure. Doing so will help in the event that a customer has a question about the back-end technology powering an online store, and just as important, better educate small business owners as to what’s going on behind the scenes.

Matt Winn, Senior Marketing Communications Manager at Volusion

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