The Internet has changed our buying habits. Many people have found the convenience of shopping online to be a great experience. You can easily click and see the product. You have fun shopping, browsing, reading and learning about products. And you don’t have to take time out of your busy schedule to fight traffic, crowds and lines to buy the perfect gift for your recipient.
No wonder internet activity generated $301 billion in revenue last year, according to an estimate from the University of Texas.
If you compare online and offline shopping, you would think that when it comes to security, it would favor offline shopping, right? Not really.
In years past, shoppers were more reluctant to shop online – now things have changed a lot. And this consumer confidence directly reflects the huge growth in online sales.
I have a friend who took his wife for a romantic evening at a local restaurant. The last place you would expect credit card fraud to happen. By the time he noticed that they had charged him double the amount for their dinner, it was too late to return to the restaurant. He phoned me and we concluded that it must have been a mistake. It was later that we discovered that the restaurant owner’s reputation was a little fragile. Apparently, he frequently overcharged customers in hopes they wouldn’t notice.
I do not know. It’s a funny world we live in.
Does this mean the Internet is safe? Relatively yes, but remember that the Internet is an open domain and there are bad elements.
We have been shopping online for years. We have never had a problem with internet credit card fraud. But then again, we always take precautions. From now on, you will see 10 checkpoints that online merchants must go through to secure our business…
Will your credit card details be safe?
Reputable online businesses know that one of the things that keeps customers from placing orders with them is that customers don’t know if their credit card details will be safe. Responsible companies have taken this concern into account and have implemented their systems to provide the customer with maximum security.
How would you know if you are entering your payment information on a secure page?
You should see an image of a padlock in the bottom right of your screen. This lock will appear on the page you complete when ordering and ensures that your name, address and credit card information is sent to the online store via an encrypted code. This encrypted code means a hacker won’t be able to steal your credit card information.
Does the online store respect your privacy and confidentiality?
Before the advent of the Internet, when I ordered something from a mail order company, mysteriously, I received advertisements from companies I had not done business with. At the time, I was unaware of companies selling your personal information for advertising purposes to other companies.
Getting spam was annoying, but due to the cost involved, it didn’t happen constantly. Now imagine if you do business online with a company that does not respect your privacy and sells your email address.
The next time you open your email software, you are bombarded with emails ranging from a dozen to hundreds. Now that’s not boring – it’s intolerable.
So moral of the story here, make sure your email address won’t be sold. Make sure the online store has a privacy statement stating that they will keep your personal data in the strictest confidence.
Does the online store have contact details?
You might think, of course, that an online store would display its contact details on its website. You would be surprised. I was. No email address, nothing. This is a sure red flag.
Reputable companies will have their contact details.
Do they have a refund policy?
Offline stores have a refund policy and you enter the store, physically select the product and then are allowed to return it for any reason. If a refund policy is important in offline stores, it is twice as important for online stores.
The convenience of the internet surpasses the offline world when it comes to shopping – but one thing it can’t match is that offline you can physically touch the product. Therefore, a 30 day money back policy is great, longer is better. No refund policy and I would stay away.
Do they send you some sort of confirmation when you place your order?
When you place your order you need something to tell you they received it, a receipt if you like.
A reputable company will email you one or post a new page on their website where they will thank you and tell you that the order went well and your product is on its way.
When do they deliver?
What time of day do they deliver? Do they deliver on weekends? Can you choose a time to have your gift delivered? Will it be personally delivered to the intended recipient or will the courier leave it outside their door?
How will your gift arrive?
If it’s flowers, will it come with a vase or in a nice box or wrapped? Will your bouquet include flower care instructions? How about fertilizer to make your flowers last longer?
If you ordered another gift product, will it be packaged? In what type of material will they deliver it? Do they tell you these things on their website?
How long have they been in business?
That might not mean much. There are companies that start and outperform all others. But maybe for your peace of mind, you might want to use an online store that has been in business for a few years. To check the history of the company is easy.
You can go to networksolutions.com and click on “whois” in the top bar. You will be redirected to a page where you can enter the web address of the online store you want to check and you will be given the relevant information.
Is the online store site easy to use?
Is navigation easy? Is the product search easy? Do their graphics load in a reasonable amount of time? A sure sign of an amateur show is if they have their website cluttered with information.
Have they received bad reviews?
A reputable company isn’t necessarily a company that doesn’t have bad reviews to its name. It is practically impossible to please everyone.
There were companies I bought that I loved. So it sometimes surprises me when I come across a bad review of their products or even bad comments about them.
So when is a bad review on a business worth considering? I take note of reviews where the author complains of:
- not receive the product
- not receive a refund
- not having an answer to their e-mails
If you want to see what kind of reviews a business might have, click on alexa.com. When you access the website, enter the address of the store you want to visit. It will also show you how long the business has been in business.
Online shopping is fun. Take a little care and make it an experience! Good shopping!