Safe online shopping

Top tips from an ecommerce industry leader on what to look out for

February 26, 2013

Statistics show that online shopping is growing at a rapid rate in South Africa, with ecommerce sites like Loot.co.za reporting over 80% growth in certain product categories over the recent festive season.

A recent survey undertaken by the Digital Media and Marketing Association (DMMA) indicated that 52% of respondents had shopped online in the last year. The majority of people were satisfied with their ecommerce experiences. In comparison to the previous year, 19% of respondents spent less online in 2012, 27% spent the same amount, but 45% of respondents spent more online, indicating a significant overall increase in online spending.

That said, there are still a lot of people who are apprehensive when it comes to shopping online. Concerns that are raised most frequently centre on safe, secure payment mechanisms and delivery time.

So what should you look out for when shopping online?

Gary Hadfield, CEO of Loot.co.za, believes that there are certain elements that you should be aware of when determining whether a website is safe or not.

“You need to look out for certain telling security/trust elements,” Hadfield says. “Does the company have a good privacy policy listed on the website? Do they have a good returns policy? Are their contact details clearly communicated on the site? Do they visibly promote valid SSL certificates such as Verisign, Thawte or Norton.”

A further indicator of an organisation’s reputation is whether the company is promoted as a trusted shop or seller on price comparison sites like PriceCheck.co.za, Oneshop.co.za or Uprice.co.za. This accreditation is a good indication of the trustworthiness of the site and establishes the reputation of the company.

These elements go hand-in-hand with payment options. Reputable sites normally offer a broad suite of payment options, including credit card, EFT and bank deposits.

“It all boils down to a sense of trust,” says Hadfield, “Which these elements encourage.”

Once you have established the credibility of a site, the benefits of shopping online are numerous. The breadth and depth of range of products is considerable, prices are competitive, you can always find good value for money and there are rich quantities of product information available.

“The availability of information in the online shopping arena empowers the consumer to check prices and features, extensively research products and to compare them easily,” notes Hadfield. “It is all very transparent.”

The increasing use of social media and the growing influence of peer reviews allow consumers another platform from which to speak about brands and products. This encourages consistently good service from online shopping networks, as consumers are very vocal about disappointing products and poor service.

“Social media plays a key role in online shopping,” Hadfield adds. “If a company is engaged across social media platforms, and consistently interacts with consumers, this goes a long way towards establishing a further sense of trust in the brand.”

Once that trust is established, however, the benefits of shopping with a click of a mouse are impossible to ignore, and if current trends are any indication, ecommerce will continue to experience strong growth.