Problems, concerns and risks about selling online

We have many customers coming to us with concerns about selling online. Here I address some of these and provide some answers. Most of these centre around online credit card payments.

I’ve been told credit card payment online isn’t secure.

Firstly it’s important to note that nothing can be guaranteed 100% secure these days. All we can do is take precautions to protect ourselves and our customers.

Online credit card payments for goods can be secure, even more secure than your internet banking. However, problems with security can come from several sources:

-Lack of suitable methods for protecting customers’ information by online store owners.
-Lack of knowledge by store owners on what is needed to protect their customers credit card details.
-The unsecure storage of customer credit card information within the online store – easily accessed by malicious individuals.
-Viruses and other nasties hiding on the customer’s computer – when they enter their credit card details anywhere on the internet, this information is sent to a criminal who can then use the card to make purchases without the knowledge or consent of the card owner.

The problems are therefore divided into two areas of responsibility – customers and the store owner.

The store owner must make all reasonable efforts to provide a secure environment online through which the customer can make credit card payment.

But the customer must also take responsibility for keeping their credit card details secure – the responsibility of the store owner cannot extend to, for example, ensuring there are no viruses on the customer’s computer because this is impractical.

At OPMC we use a third party to process all credit card payments through our clients’ online stores. No credit card information is stored within the store itself – this helps keeps costs down and means the responsibility for safekeeping of credit card details is neither with us nor the client. Rather, we leave it to the experts, who are constantly investing in the latest technology to protect secure information from prying eyes.

While we do take this precaution with online stores, there is another option to stop you worrying about credit card security – simply don’t allow credit card transactions on your website!

I don’t want to sell online because credit card transactions are too risky!

Credit card transactions online aren’t any more risky than anywhere else, apart from when the conditions above are met and your online store, or customers’ card information is ripe for the picking by hackers. If you have a key logging virus installed on your computer and haven’t taken appropriate measures to protect your computer against these threats then of course it is going to be risky.

That aside, the other measure you can take is to not accept credit card payment through your website.

It is not necessary to accept credit card payment through your online store, although it may make things handy for your customers. If you are concerned about accepting credit card payments online there are many other forms of payment available to you.

For example, you can provide instructions through the order process that payment can be made by direct bank payment or cheque. Then, so long as you are satisfied with the conditions you have set for customer orders – eg, that payment must be received before the order is shipped – then you have yourself a “secure” online store. If you do want to accept credit card payments, but not over the internet, you can always offer the customer the option of calling to provide their credit card details. Do not let them e-mail you their credit card details, this could be much less secure.

None of my customers would buy from me over the internet because it’s not safe.

Online sales is a growing sales medium with some huge competitors in the marketplace. New Zealand’s own Trademe, Ferrit, or larger international stores like Amazon sell vast quantities of products to people wanting to buy over the internet. People choose to buy their plane tickets online, pay bills and gamble. The Government even allows online payment for certain services by credit card.

You can ignore this as a growth industry and potential benefit to your business, or you can consider it as an option.

But it’s not for everyone. A good place to start would be to profile your customers. Would they be open to the idea of purchasing / ordering online? Then perhaps ask some of your key customers about the idea with a set of questions about your idea to offer your products online. You can even go as far as to develop a basic online store to present to key customers to trial. Feedback from that will help you in your decision making process.

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