Survey Reveals Shoppers Are Nervous

I often hear people suggest that since eCommerce is growing so fast, shoppers are obviously perfectly confident and comfortable shopping online.  In my opinion, that is naive, and it ignores the facts. 

During the recent holiday shopping season, a new survey was published confirming that consumers are, in fact, nervous shopping online, and that these concerns are growing, not abating.  buySAFE commissioned an independent firm, InsightExpress, to survey 1,000 random, online shoppers for their views on trust, safety, security and eCommerce.  The eCommerce survey reveals that small and medium-sized retailers without well-known brand names are the big losers when it comes to nervous shoppers.  More than 1/3 of shoppers, 35%, feel "unsafe" when considering purchasing from unknown retailers.   

It really shouldn’t be a big surprise that uncertainty levels grow for consumers when they don’t know anything about the merchants.  That seems like common sense.  However, the 35% figure is extremely dramatic, and it points to the fact that merchants need to consider how they will overcome this confidence gap with online shoppers.

The other fascinating fact from the survey was that 76% of the shoppers said they would purchase more frequently from online merchants if there was a way to guarantee the shoppers’ online purchases.  Obviously, my interest in this finding is a bit selfish because that is what buySAFE does for merchants on their websites.  buySAFE guarantees shoppers’ purchases with a bond guarantee.  The following is an example of how buySAFE and MIVA are helping MIVA’s merchants address shopper trust and safety concerns: buySAFE for MIVA Merchant 5.

Other interesting facts revealed by the survey include:

  • Trustworthiness and price ranked as the top two considerations for respondents in choosing whether to buy from an online merchant.
  • Only 27% of shoppers shop most often from small, independent, online retailers.
  • 32% of shoppers would spend a greater percentage of their holiday shopping budget online if they had greater trust in the retailer.

Clearly, online merchants will have to develop effective, comprehensive strategies for overcoming shoppers’ trust and safety concerns. 

Here are a couple of additional interesting facts to consider.  For every Internet user that is confident shopping online, there is an Internet user that is nervous and who doesn’t shop online.  I do not have the 2006 figures yet.  However, data derived from eMarketer, Bear Sterns and IDC reports indicates that there were 185 million Internet users in the United States in 2005 with only 90 million Americans making an online purchase.  That is a pretty shocking statistic.  More than half of the people that actually use the Internet don’t shop online!  Why?  The driving factor is lack of trust.

eCommerce is a new medium, and so the developments here are quite exciting.  However, trust, safety and security are universal concerns that people exhibit in all facets of their lives.  Wouldn’t you agree that this is true for people in general?  Of course.  That is common sense.  eCommerce is not immune from these natural human concerns, and as the bad guys begin to figure out how to use the anonymity of the Web to steal from people, concerns over trust, safety and security will grow in importance. 

Online merchants need to understand this dynamic.  Doing so, is likely to be the difference between success and failure online in the coming years.

Related blog posts:
"Trust Tops Consumers’ Wish List This Season" by Rob Caskey

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