5 Must Read Tips for Safe Shopping on Cyber Monday and BeyondNovember 30th, 2009 | Data and Information Analysis,KikScore & KikReport,shopping,Small Business,Small Business Tips | 5 Comments »
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.