Online shopping has become incredibly popular in the last 10 years or so. When this process started at the end of the nineties and the beginning of the 21st century, most people were quite reserved when it comes to leaving their credit card data on e-commerce websites. This attitude has changed over time, and today, online shopping is almost as usual as buying groceries in a store around the corner. In spite of that, this process is significantly different than any other way people used to trade goods in history, which is why it also comes with its own set of pros and cons.
Benefits of Online Shopping
Other than providing plenty of benefits for online businesses, e-commerce has also improved the shopping experience for customers in many different ways. These are some of the benefits online shopping brings to customers:
- We can shop from our armchairs– E-commerce brings products to our doorstep, which is one of its prime benefits in a fast and lazy world we live in.
- Locating products is much easier with e-commerce– We don’t need to drive around and search for products we intend to buy, therefore e-commerce saves our time and gas money.
- E-commerce websites provide more information about the product– In stores, the information we receive about the product depends on the seller’s proficiency. Online retailers provide plenty of product information, plus links to the manufacturer’s page.
- Online stores work all the time.
Disadvantages of Online Shopping
Like any other trade concept, online shopping comes with a few cons as well. Some of them are:
- We can’t hear the salesman’s opinion– Although most e-commerce stores include (strictly regulated) comment sections, it’s always helpful to hear an honest opinion about the product from a regular retail store salesman.
- We don’t receive products immediately– Online retail companies usually need from one to several days to ship products.
- There are goods that can’t be sold online– Products that require special storing and shipping conditions can’t be sold online. The same goes for “odd-sized” products that would be hard to deliver.
- We can’t have a firsthand experience or try out the products we are buying– This is one of the main disadvantages of online shopping. When it comes to clothes for example, we are not able to try them before the purchase. Companies are trying to address this concern with a flexible attitude towards product returns.
The lack of an ability to inspect goods before purchase is just one reasons why people have security concerns when it comes to e-commerce. An even bigger threat is identity theft that can happen when buyers leave their personal and credit card information on e-commerce websites. Credit card numbers can be intercepted during transit and cyber criminals can break into online company’s databases that stores customer’s personal and credit card information, including names, addresses, credit card numbers, expiration dates and security codes.
Phishing is another fraudulent practice that results in stealing consumer’s personal and credit card data. Since anyone can run an e-commerce website, consumers can be fooled they are leaving their data to a respectable retail firm, while in fact the e-commerce website is being run by cyber criminals, who will use their data for illegal activities.
How to Shop Safely
In order to minimize the risks connected with online shopping, consumers should apply some of these security measures:
- Shopping only through well-known online stores– Big retail chains have many IT security experts in their ranks, whose job is to minimize the risks of data theft.
- Doing elaborate checks before buying on new websites– Consumers should check new e-commerce websites, by searching for reviews on review websites, social network pages and online communities, or conducting Google inquires by typing “website name+fraud” into the search box.
- Buying only on websites that are PCI compliant;
- Making sure that the check-out process in encrypted– The checkout process on e-commerce websites needs to be encrypted and protected by SSL. Consumers can check this by looking at their address bar. Pages that are SSL protected should have “https”, instead of “http” as the first part of their web address.
- Buying on websites that have several payment options– Credit cards are not the only tool for online shopping. Consumers can also use various other ways to pay, including different online payment systems like escrow, which is known as the safest of all, because funds are held by a third party, until both sides agree on the purchase terms.
- Using stronger passwords– consumers should use strong passwords on retail websites, no matter if this is required by the website administration or not. Using pass phrases can also be very helpful.
E-commerce is currently one of the fastest growing industries and only by introducing advanced safety measures and understanding this process completely will consumers be able to protect themselves from cybercrime.
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