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They’re Online! And So Should You!

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Secure Online Shopping

The internet has changed the way people do business.  From a business owner’s perspective, this meant a vast increase in market reach and a huge drop on overhead cost.  From the customer’s perspective, the internet spelled convenience and freedom.

But while it is true that a lot of people embrace online business, there are still the conservatives who are afraid to take the plunge and join the online bandwagon.

The Business Owner

Most brick-and-mortar business owners have this mistaken notion that it takes an arm and a leg to set up an online shop, and so they delay, or merely disregard, the move to have one.  Well, yes, it is true that it will entail cost, but to the informed entrepreneur, it does not always have to be expensive.

All you need to start with is a hosted domain.  It only gets costly when a business opts to have a coded site, where you need to hire a developer.  On the other hand, there’s WordPress, and its thousands of free themes.  Just don’t tell my developer friends that I said this.

Aside from the fear of the high set up cost, other things that give a business owner worry are the ones enumerated below.

Payment Fraud – A single fraudulent transaction can cripple a business.  Businesses that accept credit card payments are the favorite targets of cyber criminals, especially if they have products that are really appealing.  But this can be minimized, if not totally prevented, by putting in place security protocols with the payment processor.

Authorize.net, for example, offers a fraud detection suite to their business clients, as follows:

  • Daily Velocity Filter– This filter allows for limiting the total number of transactions received per day. Transactions received in excess of the established threshold will be processed according to the filter action set. This filter is available to all merchants regardless of whether they are subscribed to AFDS (Advanced Fraud Detection Suite).
  • Amount Filter– This filter allows to set lower and upper transaction amount thresholds. Transactions submitted for an amount less than the lower limit or greater than the upper limit will be processed according to the filter action set.
  • Hourly Velocity Filter– This filter allows for limiting the total number of transactions received per hour. Transactions received in excess of the established threshold will be processed according to the filter action set.
  • Suspicious Transaction Filter– This filter examines transactions based on proprietary transaction behavior analyzed by the Fraud Management team. Transactions that trigger this filter will be processed according to the filter action set.
  • Shipping-Billing Mismatch Filter– This filter allows to identify transactions submitted with different shipping and billing addresses. In the event of mismatches, transactions are processed according to the filter action set.
  • Transaction IP Velocity Filter– This filter restricts the number of transactions received from the same Internet Protocol (IP) address per hour. Transactions received from the same IP address in excess of the established threshold will be processed according to the filter action set.
  • Enhanced AVS Handling Filter– The Address Verification Service (AVS) is a standard feature of the payment gateway that compares the address submitted with an order to the address on file with the customer’s payment card issuer. This filter extends the AVS functionality by enabling customization of how to handle transactions that return AVS mismatch codes.
  • Enhanced CCV Handling Filter– Like AVS, Card Code Verification (CCV) is a standard feature of the payment gateway. CCV uses a payment card’s three- or four-digit number to validate customer information on file with the card association. This filter extends the CCV functionality by allowing to customize how to handle transactions that return CCV response codes.
  • Shipping Address Verification Filter– This filter verifies that the shipping address received with an order is a valid postal address.
  • IP-Shipping Address Mismatch Filter– This filter compares an order’s originating IP Address with the shipping address provided. This helps to determine whether or not the order is shipping to the country from which it originated.
  • Regional IP Address Filter– This filter allows to flag orders coming from specific regions or countries. Filter actions can be customized based on an entire geographic area, or select country by country on how you wish to process transactions flagged by the filter.

Of course, this kind of security will cost the business owner, but may be well worth every penny.

Product Loss – Items getting lost in transit can also cost a business owner big money.  It’s not only losing the merchandise, but the customer has to be refunded, too.  So it’s losing money twice at one go.

This kind of risk can be minimized, if not totally prevented, by using only the delivery service that you have built a relationship with.  Reputable delivery companies are also concerned about their public image, and would be diligent in ensuring that they keep their customers happy, especially the business owners who regularly use their service.

Insuring expensive packages also helps, so you are assured that you can at least take back the value of your inventory.

Fraud can happen in deliveries, too, when a customer claims to have not received the product, but really did.  Requiring a signature card may help circumvent this.

Store Security – A non-techie person getting into an online business may be in a lot of trouble if he is not careful, so it is best for one to have the technical stuff taken care of by an expert.  Just like a brick-and-mortar business, robbers can also clean up your online store if you do not set up the right security protocols.

Build the site on a secure server.  This will not only protect the business owner, but also build confidence for the buyer to visit and transact with your store.

A robust firewall is also essential, as it will allow you to detect attempts to hack your data. Configured correctly, a firewall can filter IP addresses, domain names, specific words or phrases, and ports.  Of course, configuring a firewall has to be well-planned, as one may inadvertently block prospective legitimate customers from accessing your site, which translates to loss of potential income.

The Customer

For the customer, the convenience of online shopping can easily be outweighed by fear of losing hard-earned money in a transaction.  There’s this fear that after paying, will they ever receive the merchandise they have paid for?  Or, after giving their credit information to pay, will they be surprised one day of charges they completely have no knowledge of?

Secure Online Shopping

I’ve asked my friends who have been shopping online how they discern safety in their decision to do online transactions.  The following are what they have generally shared.

  1. Look for customer reviews and satisfaction ratings. Read what other customers before you have experienced.  Look for the numbers, not the stars.  A 5-star rating means nothing if the rater is a lonesome 1.  A 97% satisfaction rating out of 1,500 customer reviews is better than 99% from 10.
  2. Check if the site is at the Better Business Bureau site. A history of complaints is your signal not to transact with that online shop anymore.
  3. Look for the lock. A secure site will display a lock next the the URL, and the web address is “HTTPS” instead of just “HTTP”.  That tells you that the site uses encryption.
  4. Don’t do your online transaction on a shared computer if you can help it. Or if you really have no other option, just make sure that you log out from the site, then clear the browsing history, cookies and page cache.
  5. Don’t leave your birthdate and/or social security number on an online shop. All they actually need from you to deliver your order are your shipping address and credit card number.
  6. Check the site for a physical address. If what’s visible at the site is a P.O Box, leave the site and find what you’re looking for elsewhere.
  7. Check the site’s policy on return, refund, exchange and shipping.
  8. Check the site’s privacy policy. Some sites are unscrupulous enough to resell your information to market research companies, telemarketers and other online marketing companies.
  9. If at all possible, shop with a retailer that you personally know, or patronized by your family members and friends.

For both the buyer and the seller, there will always be risks, but if both parties will exercise good judgment, there’s no reason why both will not benefit from the advantages of transacting online.

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