Trust Trumps Cost in Online Transactions

A study from VeriSign finds customers consider security more important than a low price when purchasing items online. While small and midsize businesses may have excellent Web security, are they doing enough to broadcast those credentials to the customer?

With the holiday shopping season in full swing (especially for the procrastinators out there), it is important to know how much of a priority security is to your customers when buying online. A survey of holiday shoppers suggests security is more important than finding the lowest price when purchasing items on the Web.
Conducted by network infrastructure company VeriSign and Synovate Business Consulting, the survey found 85 percent of consumers say trusting the site is most important when interacting on a Web site and sharing confidential information. In contrast, only 9 percent said competitive pricing was most important and 5 percent said ease of use was most important. Additionally, 93 percent of respondents said they would stop doing transactions on a site that is not secure.
Tim Callan, vice president of product marketing for VeriSign, said displaying your security credentials can only improve your standing with customers, and it is critical for small and midsize businesses to take advantage of whatever opportunities they can. "The more they're not necessarily known by that customer, the larger the benefit in showing the customer their security credentials," Callan said. "If you wear your security on your sleeve, your customers will respond to that."
The survey also found that 76 percent of surveyed consumers said identity theft is a "major" concern for them. When asked how they felt about brands that did not protect their online identity, 56 percent of respondents felt "distrustful," 17 percent felt "disappointed," 13 percent felt "betrayed," 6 percent felt "indifferent" and 4 percent felt "let down." The survey also found one in five respondents engaged in fewer online activities due to security concerns.
Callan said SMB owners need to understand the importance of displaying security credentials to their Web visitors. "I could provide the best security in the world and if I don't make it visible, then people will have a natural tendency to be suspicious of my security, and that would decrease my transactions," he said.

Most Web sites do a good job of security, Callan said, but they don't necessarily get that information out where the customer can see it. "If I'm a small business owner, the big thing I need to think about is, 'How am I going to telegraph that I've got best-of-breed security, and how is that going to affect my biz metrics?'"
The survey asked 919 U.S. citizens over the age of 18 who spend at least 3 non-work hours per week online. When asked how much savings they'd expect before considering shopping on an unprotected site, one in three consumers said they would expect at least a 30 percent discount. VeriSign said this finding suggests that businesses that don't provide security measures to gain consumer trust cannot anticipate getting the same value for their goods.
"The best security for consumers is education and using the latest tools and technologies that are out there to help counter fraud," said AOTA's (the Authentication & Online Trust Alliance's) chairman and founder Craig Spiezle. "As we move more and more of our lives online-for example, banking, shopping, paying bills, communicating, registering, renewing, etc.-fraud threats follow closely behind. The key is to keep one step ahead by knowing how to protect yourself online."