Online shopping safety tips

Online shopping is set for strong growth in South Africa as more consumers gain internet access but there is still considerable consternation around safety issues.

Gary Hadfield, CEO of growing ecommerce site Loot.co.za has issued key things to look for when shopping on line.

Hadfield says there are certain elements that an online shopper should be aware of when determining whether a website is safe or not. “You need to look out for certain telling security/trust elements”.

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, says Hadfield, is whether the company is promoted as a trusted shop or seller on price comparison sites like PriceCheck.co.zaOneshop.co.za or Uprice.co.za. he says this accreditation is a good indication of the trustworthiness of the site and establishes the reputation of the company.

The latter elements says Hadfield 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 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,” says Hadfield. “It is all very transparent.”

He adds that 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 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, says Hadfield.

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