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Posts Tagged ‘trustworthiness’

KikScore SmallBiz Interviews’ Greatest Hits & Top Strategy Tips for Entrepreneurs: Part II

Friday, June 17th, 2011

KikScore has had the pleasure of interviewing many small business owners over the past few years, asking these entrepreneurs about all areas of their businesses and what has spurred their growth, while also throwing in light-hearted pop-culture related questions.

In Part I of this two-part Greatest Hits series, I highlighted the top five lessons learned from these interviews with regards to establishing a successful small business. If you missed Part I, click here.

In Part II, I will present five of the most important challenges faced by these small businesses that our interviewees shared with us. These issues are extremely pertinent to all small businesses and it is vital for small businesses to overcome these challenges in order to succeed.

Here we go, the five most common challenges faced by entrepreneurs and their small businesses:

5. Keeping Up with New Technologies

“As the cost of running business with a physical store or office is comparatively high due to the monthly rental fee as well as the consumption of electricity and the hiring of manpower, more and more businesses like us tend to create their presence on the Internet. Without a significant competitive advantage, a retailer will be forced to raise a white flag in this cruel and heartless battlefield.” – Margaret Chan, founder of Cherry’s Brandname Gallery

In today’s world, technology is rapidly changing and businesses must keep up with latest innovations in order to stay modern and be successful. Companies have to start utilizing the internet, for both its e-commerce capability as well as a marketing and advertising tool. Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter are essential to small businesses, as millions of users check and use their personal accounts on those websites multiple times each day.

4. Lacking Adaptability

“While it is important to hold on to your vision, it should never be at the expense of building a sustainable business model. Your business plan whether it is one page or fifty, should be an evolving document that scales to put you in the best possible position to serve your clients and generate revenue.” – Tai Goodwin, founder of Launch While Working

Another challenge entrepreneurs also face is the ineptitude to alter or adjust your business plan. The business world is full of surprises and unexpected circumstances.  In order to run a successful company, businesses must be flexible and able to adapt to the changing environment around them.

3. Fear of Failure

“Another challenge I had was more of a mental one, which was the fear of ‘Can I start my own business?’ There are so many company decisions that we take for granted until we have to make them ourselves.” – Gregg Hand, founder and owner of Hand Law Offices

Two weeks ago I mentioned how the number one piece of advice for having success as a small business is keeping the long-term goal in perspective and never giving up or losing hope. Therefore, one of the challenges faced with starting a small business is dealing with the fear of failure. You cannot be afraid that you’re going to fail and act hesitantly because then you will fail; you must be confident with all of your decisions and maintain the passion with which you started your business. Owen Wilson’s character in Wedding Crashers puts it best when talking to his partner, “Your goddamn negativity! I don’t need it! I’m an idea man. I thrive on enthusiasm. Don’t take the wind out of my sails. I need you.”

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2. Finding Customers

1. … and then Gaining their Trust

As a small business I believe our biggest challenge is gaining trust in a potential new customer.  If a shopper sees a Macys logo or a Best Buy logo they are not going to question is this a secure company/site.  As a brand that is growing, we are not mainstream and are years away from becoming a staple in the beauty industry.  We overcome that challenge by gaining one new customer at a time.  Proving to that customer we are legitimate business, that is not going to sell their name to any third parties, is going to ship their order, their most private and intimate information is in a very secure area, and if there is any problems whatsoever with their order we will do everything we can to correct it and make it right.” – Brian Esposito, CEO of Avenue You Beauty Store

In order to be successful, you must generate revenue from customers and unless you develop a brand-new product or have a revolutionary idea, you are most likely going to enter into an industry that already has a fair share of other competitors. There lies the biggest challenge of small businesses: finding customers and then keeping them. Finding customers as a small business relies on effective networking and marketing, and especially positive word of mouth. Whether it is online or in newspapers, spreading your name and attracting publicity is a must for businesses to find customers. In addition, promoting your credibility and trustworthiness is a necessity to ensure that once you land a customer, he or she will return.

This is the service that we here at Kikscore provide for online businesses. We show your potential customers that you can be trusted, allowing shoppers to review your record of reliability and creditworthiness through the Kikscore Trust Seal and the KikReport. After overcoming all these obstacles, you’ll be “so money”. More information regarding Kikscore and its trust seal can be found at http://www.kikscore.com/more.html and http://www.kikscore.com/confidence_badge.html respectively.

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Posts Tagged ‘trustworthiness’

KikScore SmallBiz Interviews’ Greatest Hits & Top Strategy Tips for Entrepreneurs: Part I

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

KikScore has had the pleasure of interviewing many small business owners over the past few years, asking these entrepreneurs about all areas of their businesses and what has spurred their growth, while also throwing in light-hearted pop-culture related questions.

In Part I of this two-part Greatest Hits series, I will highlight the top five lessons learned from these interviews with regards to establishing a successful small business. Many of these innovative and impressive business owners shared related advice and acknowledged similar trends in the e-commerce field. So without further ado, here are the Top 5 Things You Should Do When Starting a Small Business:

5. Keep your website simple and easy to navigate

– “My advice to people about an online presence is to keep it simple and clean and VERY easy to navigate AND to have a Content Management System (CMS) so you can update your site yourself.” (Whitney Zimet, owner of I Am The Maven)

– “Spend the money to get a good website.  We went with a woman who did “websites for small businesses” but she really wasn’t experienced in sites with a retail/shopping cart component.  So, the site looked okay on the surface, but I later learned that she had used very amateur programming on the back end, making it enormously difficult for another web programmer to make changes.  This also limited our SEO.” (Kimberley Stewart from OnBoard Outfitters)

4. Have a flexible business model, being able to adjust quickly to a changing environment

– “Never think what you’re doing today is what you’ll be doing 10 years from today. Markets change and products evolve. Learn to adapt quickly.” (Michael Alter, President of SurePayroll)

– “Be willing to change.  Always look at your business in a new way.” (Rick Shoop, owner of Oregon Seafoods)

3. Utilize social media outlets

-“Another trend is tapping into more social media platforms and applications.  Combining sites such as Facebook with applications developed by Wildfire you are very quickly able to promote coupons, contests, and/or sweepstakes.” (Brian Esposito, CEO of Avenue You Beauty Store)

– “Take full advantage of all social network and free Internet advertising. 50% of our sales come from social networking sites, the chain reaction you can achieve from them is priceless.” (S.J. Trotter, owner of www.exclusiveclothingretail.com)

2. Establish a safe and secure online presence

– “Apart from that, customer’s satisfaction is also of utmost importance to online business. Exceptional customer service results in greater customer retention, which in turn results in higher profitability. We therefore strongly believe that customer loyalty is one of the most crucial and major contributors to sustainable profit growth. Over 60% of our profits are from customers who came back and made their purchases more than once within the 3-month period.” (Margaret Chan, owner of Cherry’s Brandname Gallery)

– “In 2010, much of our energy will be focused on improving the website and making sure our customers have confidence in shopping with us. KikScore is a great tool that helps us demonstrate that trust online.” (Madalyn Duerr, owner of Tufted Topper)

1. Keep the long-term goal in perspective and never give up

– “Most importantly: Don’t let anyone tell you no. You are your own best advocate and no one is going to do the work for you. Don’t let obstacles prevent your idea from ever being tested – you have to go out and do it.” (Andrew Shelton from Trackpack Coolers)

– “In my opinion the most important ingredient in a business’s success is the passion of the person or people running it.” (Mark Sarpa, CEO of Frecklebox)

– “Stay far from timid, Only make moves when your heart’s in it, And live the phrase ‘sky’s the limit'” (The Notorious B.I.G.)

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Posts Tagged ‘trustworthiness’

Show Shoppers Your Online Business Can Be Trusted: KikScore Your Trust Solution

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

PROBLEM: Online Small Businesses lose billions in dollars a year in sales because shoppers do not know if they can trust those small businesses.

SOLUTION: Trust Seals – But which one?

It is established that small businesses, especially ones just starting out, can have a difficult time conveying to the public that they are trustworthy and reliable.  As a result, small businesses often lose significant sales because of this concern that the public has.  One of the primary ways that small businesses address these concerns is putting a “trust seal” on their website.  The trust seal is supposed to denote that a third party validation has occurred in some way and that third party therefore “vouches” for that small business so shoppers can then trust that business.  There are many trust seals out in the market that do different things and some of the providers of those seals include Verisign, TRUSTe, BuySafe, Trust Guard and the Better Business Bureau.

So we at KikScore often get the question: Why should a small business use KikScore and how is KikScore different than the other trust seals?

This post is not going to bash other seals, but there are critical differences between the KikScore seal and other seals that are on the market.  This post points out those differences and is meant to educate the community about why these differences are important.

1) Empowering Small Businesses To Show Their Track Record – A fundamental concern that shoppers have is can they trust a business?  Many businesses and business owner have an actual track record of reliability in paying their bills, having a strong financial history, reliably delivering products and services and historically being responsive to customers. Typically that has been built up over years of being responsible, reliable and trustworthy in the market.  So isn’t that track record work something? We say YES!  KikScore allows small businesses to take their own great track record and communicate it to the world and visitors to their website.  No one else allows a small business to take their business history and communicate that to the world so shoppers can get more comfortable with that business.

2) Promote Your Own Brand Not Another Company’s – A lot of other trust and verification seals do much more to promote their brand name on your website than actually assist in promoting a small business.  This is especially the case with some seals with lots of money behind their brand name that are widely recognized. Again these may be good trust seals that have a limited purpose, but they each miss out on a critical element to the trust equation.  They essentially are saying their brand name is more important to have on your website that your own brand name. At KikScore we do not believe that is the case. In fact, our seal is structured to take extensive amounts of information about the small business itself such as the management team’s names, their financial reliability, business policies, locations and website information and promote that information rather than our own brand name. We do this because we feel that information is more important to a website visitor or shopper in their determination of trustworthiness of a website.

3) KikScore is a Multi-Dimensional Trust Seal – Some trust seals try to do and message different things to the public. For example, some seals check for certain types of malware, some collect comments, some convey that an secure connection (SSL) is on the website, etc.  KikScore deliberately leaves those tasks to other folks because again in some instances those functions serve a purpose.  Those seals/services are, however, typically a one-dimensional service that only communicate that a small business website site gets a periodic and limited security scan.  You should note that based on our extensive information and first hand experience those scans can be helpful, but by no means are comprehensive and historically have not caught major pieces of malware that have resulted in some recent data breaches. KikScore’s seal actually incorporates all of these seals in our Certifications tab in our merchant report card, called a KikReport, in addition to providing the other wealth of information about a small business, its management and website history. Taken together this creates a multi-dimensional seal unlike others in the market.  This multi-dimensional seal allows small businesses to have one comprehensive seal that addresses the trust and reliability equation from a variety of angles.

4) Give Shoppers Dynamic and Continually Updated Information About Your Business – As small businesses know, their historical track record for reliability and trustworthiness always is being updated with new data and information as more transactions occur and a business grows.  Kikscore’s seal addresses this by being dynamic and continually updating a small business and their merchant report card (KikReport). The KikScore seal is set up to continually be updated and our own databases and data providers are scanned constantly for new information about a small business site.  So for example, when a small business website’s traffic increases meaning that business may be growing, that is reflected in the KikScore seal and the KikReport.  Also as a small business becomes more financially viable, that also gets reflected in the KikScore seal too and again helps demonstrate trustworthiness and reliability to shoppers. We do this, others do not.  Most other trust seals are static meaning they do not update information presented on a seal besides perhaps a change in the date of a scan that is performed – otherwise other trust seals just present static information.  That static information really does not do a lot to help address the issue of building trust for small businesses.

5) You Get a Unique Trust Score for Your Small Business –  Unlike anyone in the market, KikScore takes information, data and merchant provided information, analyzes that information and presents to the public a completely unique and dynamic trust and reliability score.  This trust and reliability score takes into account literally hundreds of data points and indications of trustworthiness in order to compute the trust score.  The trust score which in some ways is akin to a credit score except that the KikScore trust score is made available to the public so a small business can communicate to customers that they have a high trust score and therefore can be trusted.  Even better is that the trust score is based on data and information that is verified by KikScore through our systems and automated processes.

6) KikScore Helps Small Businesses Giving Wary Shoppers Transparency Into Your Business – KikScore attacks the heart of the trust issue for small businesses by giving small businesses a way to make themselves, their business and their management more transparent to shoppers.  We have seen that when shoppers are provided more information about an online business their level of comfort and likelihood of buying from that website increases.  Without this important transparency, sales are lost and shopping carts are abandoned.  Instead of empowering small businesses to provide this transparency, other trust seals merely provide a very small, isolated and static piece of information about a small business (a malware scan, etc). Those seals are just not comprehensive enough to fully address the trust issue.

7) Encourages Interaction with Your Customers – KikScore’s seal incorporates an interactive feedback platform within the seal.  This permits small businesses to interact in real time with their customers.  This also allows these small businesses to have other shoppers review the comments that are posted inside the KikScore seal about the shopping experience with that customer.  KikScore even incorporates these comments into the trust score for the small business.  One additional benefit of the interactive feedback platform is that it helps bring customers to the small business website to post comments instead of having those customers post comments on various unrelated sites around the internet like Yelp.  Now granted their are a few other seals that include comments sorting and response functionality, none of them have the comprehensive trust building solution that KikScore includes with the items listed in 1-6 before.

So I will leave everyone with the following:  We rarely and I mean rarely overtly talk about the KikScore product on our blog.  Instead, we use this blog to communicate with the community and provide valuable small business tips.  That being said, we thought that this would be a good time to take the opportunity to educate small businesses on the critical differences between KikScore and the many other seals that claim to address the trust concern that shoppers continually say are a barrier to buying more online.

We would love to know your thoughts on the differences we have identified.

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Posts Tagged ‘trustworthiness’

How the NFL Draft Can Help You With Online Trust

Friday, April 23rd, 2010


This is one of my favorite times of the year for sports.  The time of hope, promise and turnaround.  That means it is time for the NFL Draft!  My team, the Cleveland Browns, always enters this part of the year and the draft with hopes of getting the amazing college football prospect that will revitalize the team, give us a winning season for once and hopefully (yeah right) a trip to the Super Bowl.  The issue is that you never know if a player your team picks in the draft is going to turn out like you hoped and will deliver on all of the expectations you have built up for them or turn out to be a bust.  Or worse yet, that player ends up breaking the law and not only is he a bust, but he then becomes a shame to the team and the city.  In many ways this is similar to the issue of figuring out who you can trust online for doing business and for online shopping.

In the NFL Draft process, the teams that do the best job are the ones that do the most diligence on the college football prospects.  These are just some of the things that NFL teams and scouts do in the diligence and research process before selecting a player in the draft:

1) Conduct extensive background checks;

2) Put players through multiple interviews and give them tests;

3) Review, analyze and dissect a player’s past performances in college games and;

4) Talk to their coaches, teachers and other experts.

That is all done before draft day and before a player is selected.  And its all done on hundreds of players.  The interesting thing is what NFL teams are looking for in college players is very  similar to what shoppers look for before buying online: 1) a track record of success; 2) good character; 3) reliability and trustworthiness; 4) the ability to deliver and meet expectations and 5) someone you can depend on and that can be your “go to” person.

All of these traits are exactly what people look for for in businesses that operate online as indications of whether you can trust that business.  The commonality between the NFL teams that put players through these tests and online shoppers is: Information!  Information is king.  It is not only having access to that information but it is also having the right information about trustworthiness and reliability to make an informed decision about buying from an online store or selecting a contractor or consultant online that you have come across online.

So next time you are out looking to buy online or select a contractor, be like an NFL scout and look for these types of information. That will help you stay safe when you are shopping online.  Also businesses that have a KikScore seal certainly help shoppers get much of this trust and reliability information.  But just make sure you end up selecting the next Tom Brady and not Ryan Leaf when you decide to do business online!

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Posts Tagged ‘trustworthiness’

4 Reasons to Start Using KikScore Right Now to Demonstrate Trust & Increase Sales

Monday, April 19th, 2010

So many times we have friends, family and now potential customers and small businesses that ask us why should I use KikScore.  So I am going to give you 4 quick reasons (there are more than 4 but 4 seemed like a good quick number) for why small businesses should start using KikScore. The unique thing about this post is I am actually going to use some of our old blog posts to explain why and to give you the reasons:

1) In at least 7 different ways, Kikscore helps small businesses and online merchants demonstrate trust to shoppers and visitors to your website. KikScore actually helps a small business with each of these 7 Steps to Increased Trust for More Online Sales.

2. You can Solicit and Listen to Customer Feedback. The KikScore seal and KikReport gives your small business a dynamic feedback platform to interact with your customers.  By using KikScore, you can listen, manage and respond to comments and also display customer feedback as testimonials for your business.  Tell your customers to skip Yelp and those other review sites and have those comments posted on your site instead of third party sites!

3. Your small business can use KikScore to introduce itself to the world through a video introduction.  Small Business are increasing Using Videos to Help Your Small Business and if you use the KikScore service you will be able to use our video platform on the KikReport to not only introduce yourself, but also as a product, educational and thought leadership video.

4.  It works!  Small businesses that have signed up for KikScore and placed the seal and KikReport on their sites, have seen an increase in their sales because they are giving their customers more information about their business.  These small businesses are also being more transparent to shoppers.  The success actually goes back to our very first customers that signed up late last year when we launched.  Here is just one of the testimonials that we have received about KikScore heping demonstrate trust for a small business and increasing the small businesses’ sales.

So please try KikScore out!  Or if you have questions about our service, please either call 1-877-KikScore or email us at support@kikscore.com.

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Posts Tagged ‘trustworthiness’

Why you need to Build the Right Team for small business success

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

On Sundays, my husband and I usually try to plan out our week… which in turn yields discussions of when I have KikScore conference calls to when he can go have some beers with his buds, while juggling our 2-year old daughter’s bedtime schedule.   The KikScore conference calls change in frequency week to week, depending on the next big item we are working to push through or brainstorm on.  And I realized that having a key team and truly enjoying the people you do business with is crucial to not only its success, but your own sanity.  I was reading in Business Week about Hunch, and Caterina Fake brings up a very critical component of small business success — Building the Right Team.

Anyone can come up with a business idea, but taking that idea and making it a viable venture that can grow and prosper requires more brain power than one can share.  Creating a team of that nature isn’t easy by any means.  When I explain the KikScore story (at least since my involvement) to family and friends… it’s best summarized as: KikScore is the side-business I’ve been working on with a group of talented friends – ranging from development, project management, business development and lawyers… a few from previous jobs/lives and combination thereof.  The thing is, I wasn’t the one with the big idea, but when the core founders Mike, Raj and Joel approached me to jump in and help streamline the KikScore scoring algorithm,  I was honored and ecstatic to be part of an entrepreneurial journey.

The team continued to build from there as we quickly found that off-shoring all of our development was not only costly and time-consuming, but left us with little control over the integrity of the code.  So we searched (again from previous jobs/lives) to find an in-house development resource that could oversee the coding efforts and allow us to piecemeal items off-shore as needed, but not as a 100% solution.

Since we are still a night/weekend business, we have many conference calls and e-mails flying about daily.  Another key component to a strong team is keeping the communication open and being able to speak your mind — we argue, which in turn generates new ideas and challenges each of us to listen with respect.  This re-iterates the need for a strong team focus.  Each member has their primary role (albeit marketing, development, design, etc) but we all wear multiple hats when it comes to driving the KikScore business forward and setting priorities. In a start-up environment, flexibility is vital – what was a hot priority last week, can take a complete 180 turn the following week based upon customer feedback or some unforeseen influence.  The team needs to be able to react, respond and regroup —  effectively.

If you are working on a new business idea, who will you pull into your inner circle to make it happen?  Be selective… you’ll be spending way more time (on late night conference calls, etc.) with them, than with your family.

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Posts Tagged ‘trustworthiness’

Making the Grade

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

Our entire lives we are graded… from that first math test in elementary school through to cramming for the SAT/ACT’s… not to mention our parents own grade scale (in my house, aka the guilt trip) in determining if our behavior is worthy and success is likely as we venture out into the world. Even in Kindergarten I remember getting the U=Unsatisfactory in conduct because I couldn’t stop talking to my friend Beth during story hour. I remember my first B… It was 5th grade and I was convinced that my teacher was an idiot and I boycotted going back. Thankfully my mom (yes guilt trips can work wonders) convinced me otherwise.

The fact is, we are graded for everything and those ranges still apply to business… at KikScore, we’ve created our own range based upon the multitude of information being analyzed within our scoring model. The algorithm that keeps us math geeks going.  Yet, in the end, it’s still a ‘grade’… how does a consumer know that a site hasn’t hired a ‘front’ that is a false impersonator? Remember Making the Grade from 1984? Don’t be fooled!

I’ve shared below some guidelines to help with the comparison on what each KikScore range means. Merchants will strive for what works for them… but will it make the grade that brings customers??

Positive = KikScore Range 1000-600 (A’s-B’s)
• A merchant that openly shares information about the owners/managers of the company. This equates to full transparency and a desire to have their customers know them.
• A strong financial history shows that the merchant has made sound decisions, which promotes they can be trusted.
• The KikScore seal includes a Customer Feedback section. Merchants who consistently receive positive customer feedback display strong commitment to customer satisfaction.
• Pride in their website in establishing policies that protect consumers and provide highest levels of security

Average = KikScore Range 600-300 (Covers all the C‘s)
• Merchant that shares minimal information about the owners/managers of the company.
• Managers/Owners who have mid-range financial history may indicate that the merchant has made risky decisions over time. This promotes a sense of caution from a potential shopper.
• Minimal concern for consumer protection by establishing minimal policies and limited security within their website

Poor = 300 and below (D on down… or ‘U’ – Ouch)
• None or very little information is shared on the owners/managers of the company
• If information is shared, there is negative financial history (or minimal overall) which may indicate the merchant has made bad decisions over time and a potential indication that they could be shady.
• Negative feedback posted from previous customers indicates that the merchant hasn’t worked to make changes to remedy such customer concerns.
• No policies or security within their website indicates no concern for consumer protection and they are only out to make a profit

It is a Buyer Beware world as Raj shared in a recent post Cyber Monday. With KikScore we strive to provide avenues for merchants to succeed in selling online… but it’s their decision in the end on what to focus on and pave the way for their customer’s experience. Oh, and that B I got back in 5th grade… well, I studied harder and finished the year with an A.

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Posts Tagged ‘trustworthiness’

5 Must Read Tips for Safe Shopping on Cyber Monday and Beyond

Monday, November 30th, 2009

I was sitting around the dinner table this Thanksgiving telling friends and family about KikScore and a recurring story kept being told by different people. Multiple friends and family relayed horror stories of bad online shopping experiences.  These were just a few of the issues that they experienced:

  • incorrect credit card charges that were never fixed by the retailer;
  • others complained about never receiving their products that they bought from an online store;
  • still others talked about bad experiences with returning products that they purchased; and
  • there were complaints about having no contact information for the online stores so these shoppers had no way of contacting the store when there was an issue with the product.

These complaints do not even include the biggest fears of online shopping which often are worries about identify theft or compromised credit cards.  The common theme in these complaints is that shoppers wished they had more information before the bought from an online retailer.  Armed with that additional information, the shopper thought they would have been able to make a better choice of where to buy from at that time. This is especially the case when you are buying from small businesses that often offer better pricing than the larger retail chains that have online stores but often lack any significant information about the small business.

So with today being Cyber Monday (and I learned it is also the start of hunting season in my wife’s home state of PA so especially for folks in PA your safe tip for today is stay off the streets and on your computer to avoid being caught in the crossfire), here are some online shopping tips I gave friends and family. These tips will allow you, just prior to an online purchase, to quickly help gather key pieces of information so you can make a more informed shopping decision on Cyber Monday and in the future.

1. Contact Information: Make sure that the online store has contact information and preferably a phone number and/or email address so if there is an issue/question that arises post transaction you can contact the store.  Generally this information is under the “Contact Us” tab of a store’s websiste.  Remember phone numbers are generally better than email addresses and email addresses are better than no contact information at all.

2. Return Policy: Look for information regarding the store’s return policy.  This is important for you so you can understand what, if any, policy the store has about handling returns.  Be careful of stores that do not list a return policy or at least acknowledge that returns are accepted.

3. Management/Owner Information:  Look for information about who is the owner of the store.  An online store should provide information about who owns the online store, including their names and ideally some background information on that manager/owner.  I call it their story.  Here is a good example of a store at 17thandRiggs.com that provides information about the owners of the online store. This information gives shoppers comfort that there is a real person behind this store and it is not a fraud site. Some sites even have online videos that introduce the management to shoppers.  This is a good prior post on the use of videos to build credibility for your online store.

4. Trust and Validation Marks/Seals: When you go to a site, there should be some type of third party validation and trust mark that a store can provide a shopper.  These trust and validation marks run the gamut, but check them out and click on them before you buy. They provide different types of information about the store such as whether customer information is stored securely, whether the store’s website is scanned for vulnerabilities, where the store is located, and whether there are privacy and customer service policies.  The stores that have trust and validations marks that provide the greatest amount of information often are considered credible and reliable stores.  A few seals even provide much of the information that is covered in this post through just one seal that resides on an online store’s website. Look for those seals.

5. Customer Feedback: The online store that you are about to buy from should have some customer feedback.  Stores today thrive on this feedback.  Now, buyer beware there are ways to game customer feedback.  Its not hard to have friends or even the store’s owners themselves submit fake feedback.  So be wary of all positive feedback for a site.  With that caveat, online stores should have some feedback mechanism that you should be able to review to see what other purchasers experienced when buying from that store.

6. Bonus Tip – Your Own Internet Search: Use tools such as Domain Tools to quickly research the history of a website.  This is helpful because if the store says its been around for 20 years and you see that the store’s website was just registered last year then that should be a red flag. Also Domain Tools will tell you if that site you are just about to buy from is actually based in Nigeria when they claim they are in the beautiful, Buckeye State of Ohio. Again, this is a quick way to do your own diligence.

Next  do a quick Google search of the store’s entire website name (i.e. www.ClevelandSportsChampionshipTshirts.com) and the management’s name and see what comes up in Google. You can find out a lot about a store from an online search including their Twitter postings, Facebook etc.  Why is this important?  Because it will give you comfort that this is a legitimate store and that there are multiple avenues for you to communicate with the store, if something goes wrong. Also you may come across blog postings about the store which will give you even more feedback about the store.

Lastly, if you have concerns on whether the site is legitimate you can always check out a great tool at Compete.com that will allow you to review the traffic history for an online store.  If there is little to no traffic to the site and the store claims that thousands of people buy every day from the store, then that should be a red flag for you as well.

Start using these tips and hopefully you will have a safe and happy holiday shopping experience online.  Feel free to share if you have any additional safe shopping tips.

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Posts Tagged ‘trustworthiness’

Social Media & Your Biz: Open Up So You Can Close

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Though the Internet seems to be overflowing with blog posts, tweets, and Facebook updates, there are a good number of businesses that don’t use social media in any manner.  Initially, I wasn’t the biggest evangelist for social media.  In all fairness, others on the Team are much more sophisticated about how to properly use blogs and Twitter. My initial feeling on social media was “Why the hell would I want to read the thoughts of a complete stranger?”  The past 6 weeks, however, we’ve gone live with our site/service and my attitude has completely changed.  Initially, we did very informative, yet sterile, blog postings…ones that no one actually read.  My prejudice seemed to be confirmed.  We then became more candid and casual in our postings, linked them up to Twitter and Facebook and all sorts of good things started to happen:

1.  Our traffic and overall visibility to the site is growing exponentially

2. We have come across several companies that are reaching out to similar small business owners.  Two such partners are Shustir and MyBusinessAssistant — services that are helping small business grow faster and with less headaches.

3. We are getting direct feedback from the marketplace.

4.  Our customers have a good understand with whom they are doing business with — not just a slick website (though our site is pretty slick).

5.  I’ve been able to share my drinking stories and show pictures of my dog online under the guise of being helpful for small business.

We’re not just the only ones seeing the positive impact of opening up to social media.  One of our customers, www.17thandRiggs.com has a great blog and is active on Twitter http://twitter.com/RebeccaSM).  In under a year, Rebecca has transformed her site from a passionate hobby to a destination site for interior designers and those who want to keep up with the latest design trends (as well as a full-time business).  If you don’t like my anecdotal examples, do you prefer the Wall Street Journal’s anecdotal examples?  In a recent WSJ article, a featured small business discussed how her wedding planning business was significantly buoyed by using social media. 

Feel free to share your favorite social media success stories…or tips on using social media.

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Posts Tagged ‘trustworthiness’

2009 Online Ratings Survey Synopsis

Friday, October 30th, 2009

As dojomike’s previous post alluded to, LexisNexis recently released their 2009 Online Ratings Survey. In that 2009 Survey, LexisNexis revealed some interesting trends that are continuing to develop in the online community.

Trend 1: The vast majority of small businesses and consumers are active users of review and ratings Web sites (90% for small business and 80% for consumers).

Trend 2: Small business owners place a greater value on ratings and review Web sites than consumers.

Trend 3: According to Alfredo Sciascia, a vice president with LexisNexis, “review and ratings Web sites are being used to a greater extent than ever before to inform buying decisions”. Sciascia adds that “ratings offer consumers valuable insight into a wide range of goods and services, and they can be a powerful tool used by business owners to differentiate their goods and services from those offered by competitors.”

Trend 4: Despite the increased use of review and ratings sites (as dojomike indicated in his previous post), the reliability of many of these review and ratings Web sites are in question.

Lexis-Nexis Recommendation Based on Trends: According to Sciascia, “the survey indicates that in order to offer a trustworthy, complete resource that provides significant value to business owners and consumers, providers of ratings will need to incorporate a combination of qualitative and quantitative evaluations”.

Lexis-Nexis’ recommendation was derived from the fact that when asked what kind of evaluation would be most valuable, nearly 80 percent of small business owners and consumers find that a blend of both numerical scores (overall ratings score) and written feedback (verbatim comments/testimonials) would be the most valuable type of evaluation from review and ratings Web sites.

Accordingly, do not only listen to me or dojomike as you continue to purchase and/or sell online, also listen to the experts at LexisNexis who commissioned a survey to obtain information that me or dojomike would have gladly provided to them for free.

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