Online Shopping a Common Scenario

Online Shopping

I will never, ever buy anything over the Internet! Have you ever said this? I have heard this statement from a number of people. The first question I ask them is; Why? When I ask them this question I get a range of answers but the most popular responses are: ‘I don’t know who I’m giving my information to, how can I trust them’, or ‘The internet is not secure enough’, or ‘There are thieves everywhere on the internet.’

Let go through a little scenario.

You take your family out for a nice supper at a local restaurant, and have an enjoyable meal. The waiter/waitress brings the bill, you check to make sure it right and then hand over your credit card, they walk away to process the transaction. The server brings you the bill and the slip, you sign the slip and hand it back, the server should check to make sure that your signature is correct and hands back your credit card. This sounds like a normal transaction that happens countless times everyday around the world.

Now let’s look at what really happened here. When you handed over your credit card to this individual you gave them a wealth of information whether you realize it or not. The server has now walked away with your card and an unscrupulous person might take advantage of this. The information available to them to copy at their leisure is your credit card account number, the expiration date, the security number on the back of the card and a copy of your signature. This is more than enough information for a thief to use to purchase goods on your card.

We don’t normally think about this because using our credit cards at the local restaurant or store is a normal part of life for most of us. We have a face and usually a name to the person that we are dealing with and that gives us a certain level of comfort, an perhaps instills a certain amount of trust in the individual and the business we are dealing with, but do we really know the person we are dealing with, in most cases probably not. So what we work on is the perception of trust.

Now this is a pessimistic scenario, most people are honest, and law abiding and the overall stats around credit theft in this manner is extremely low, so I don’t want to alarm anyone but instead wanted to use this example to make my point. Doing business over the internet can be no more risky than handing your credit card over to the complete stranger serving you in the restaurant.

So now let’s look to see what happens when you purchase goods on the Internet.

You surf to a site where you find something that you either really want or need. You go through the process to order the goods and come to the screen where the company is now asking you to enter your credit card number, this generally causes the customer to pause to contemplate whether or not taking the next step is the right thing to do. This is the right reaction, you are about to enter some sensitive information on a form where this information will be sent electronically over the internet to the company that you want to deal with. So to make you more comfortable in placing an order there are a few things that you should look out for.

Making your Shopping Experience Comfortable.

When dealing with the store down the street you know how to find them if there are any problems with the products you purchase. You have an address, a phone number and most likely the name of the person that you are dealing with, so if you have any problem you know where to go and who to talk to in order to get any issues resolved.

Since the business you are dealing with is online finding them shouldn’t be a problem, but the company should also provide other means of contacting them in case you have a problem with the product.

Check to see if they offer a phone number and hours of business. If you are at all uncomfortable with dealing with a particular company, call them, you may find that a simple phone call will set your mind at ease. Suddenly you have a name and voice to go with the company.

Look for a physical address, a street address is always more viable than just a PO box. Either way this gives you another method of communicating with the company, and if your issue could lead to legal action sending a registered letter to the offending party can be very useful.

If you have questions about how a company operates, call them or send and e-mail. You’ll be able get a sense about a company, in the way they respond and how prompt they are at responding at customer requests. If they don’t respond in a professional manner then perhaps you shouldn’t deal with them, or if it takes them a long time to respond to your request then you would have to wonder if this is the same service you would receive after the sale.
Technical Queues to Look for.

There are also other technical queues to look for as well. You are going to be sending sensitive personal and financial information over the internet so you have to make sure that the company that you’re dealing with is looking after your interests as well.

Encryption:

The web page where you enter your personal and financial information should be protected by encryption. The form of encryption is called SSL (Secure Socket Layer) this is the industry standard for making secure transactions over the internet.

To verify that your information will be encrypted you should look for a visual clue that the web browser makers have built into the browser. For Internet Explorer users a small pad lock will appear at lower right hand corner of the browser window. If you see this you know that your information is being protected. For Firefox users a key will appear at the bottom right hand side of the screen to indicate that the information entered on the web page will be encrypted.

Depending on where you are in the world there are two commonly used levels for SSL encryption, 40-bit or 128-bit encryption, 128-bit being the stronger of the two types of encryption. In North America the two browsers mentioned offer 128-bit encryption.

The latest versions of the most popular web browsers, Internet Explorer and Firefox offer 128-bit encryption.
You can download the latest versions of these browsers from the following links.

Firefox:

http://www.getfirefox.com

Microsoft Internet Explorer:

http://www.microsoft.com/windows/ie/default.mspx

Most companies doing business online also present a logo for the company that they use to provide the encryption, you might see logos like these. Insert logos for thawte and verisign . To make you more comfortable investigate these companies, the two mentioned here in this article are very well known and reputable sources for SSL encryption.

The link tells a story too.

When you surf to a web page that you believe to be secure or feel that should be secure you can also look at the link a the top of the page. The first charactersof the URL (Universal Resource Locator) determine what kind of information will be displayed on the screen. For example a normal web page will start with http://, this tells the web browser to expect a web page.

When a web page is supposed to be encrypted the URL will start with https://, the additional ‘s’ tells the browser that the information collected and sent from the this web page will be encrypted.

So http: //www.mystore.com/buyhere.html is not an encrypted web page where https: //www.mystore.com/buyhere.html is encrypted. Just because the URL starts with https doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t look for the visual clue at the bottom of your browser, look at them both.
Making Payments over the Internet.
When most people think of shopping online they assume that they will have to use their credit card to make purchases. This, in my experience, can make people very nervous, especially when dealing with a company that they are not familiar with.

There are a number of things that you can do to limit the risk even further when dealing with a company that you are not 100% familiar with.

So you don’t want to use your platinum credit card with the huge limit on it, because you don’t want to risk that much credit on an unfamiliar company. Your credit card vendor should be able to provide you with another card with a smaller limit, somewhere around the $500 to $1000 mark, something that you feel comfortable with. So even if by chance you run into someone who is out there to be malicious your risk has been reduced by not offering them a card number that will give them access to thousands of dollars.

Another increasingly popular way to make payments online is through a payment processing company, here you place the amount of money you need to make the purchase in an internet account with the payment company and then the payment company will in turn pay the vendor you are purchasing from.

This form of payment is secure for both the purchaser and the online business. The company you are purchasing from never sees your personal financial information and your financial information is only available to the payment company. This way you are not sharing your credit card information with a bunch of businesses you only have to deal with one. In addition you are reducing your risk not only because you are only sharing your financial information with one company, this companies main purpose is to provide these services, it is their livelihood they are in that business to make it work not only for themselves but also for their customers, which include both the businesses that sign up to use their services but also for the consumer. Additionally youdecide how much money to place in this account, so instead of potentially risking more than the purchase price you can simply put in exactly the amount required to make the purchase, you control it, it’s your account.

The downside to payment processing company is that not all online businesses are subscribers to their services. If you feel more comfortable making purchases over the internet in this manner call or write to the company that you want to deal with to see if perhaps this is an option. If enough people do it the company may decide to make it a payment option for their customers.

If you’re not comfortable with providing any financial information over the internet contact the company they might be able to provide you with COD service, or take your order over the phone. Call the company most will be more than happy to accommodate your needs.
I hope that this has helped you to understand some of the issues and clear up some of the misconceptions about making purchases over the internet. In review here are the few things that you should look for.

1. Does the company provide multiple ways to contact them if there is an issue?

2. Is your personal information going to be encrypted when it is sent to the company?

3. Does the business offer different payment options?

4. Are you comfortable with the company you are dealing with?

5. How quickly do they respond to customer requests?

Here are a few things to look for once you have purchased from the company.

1. A confirmation that the transaction has been processed should appear on the screen as well it should be delivered in the form of an e-mail. This information should be the same as a receipt and contain information indicating when the order was received, an invoice number, an indication of when the order will be shipped and contact information incase there is a problem with the order. I would suggesting printing the web page containing the transaction information and when the e-mail arrives print it as well, for your records of the purchase. This is just incase the e-mail gets delete by accident.

2. Once the order has been shipped, you should receive another e-mail indicating the tracking number and the web link you can use to track your package.

If there are any issues with shipping your order the company should be prompt in sending a message to let you know what the issues are and when you can expect to seeyour delivery arrive. The company should also give you the option to cancel the order and get a full refund. Shopping online is not to be feared, it is the next step in commerce. Much like the advent of the catalogue and making purchases over the phone, shopping over the internet is simply the next logical step. The catalogue is now electronic and has the capability to reach millions of potential buyers, and instead of calling in your order the consumer simply enters some information and presses a few buttons on the screen. The advent of SSL and other technologies to make commerce online safe and secure has pushed this new avenue for businesses further than ever expected and there is no end to the growth in site. Every day there are more and more vendors embracing the internet as a source to reach new markets and open the world to new products. Just as the internet has made the world a smaller place to live electronic commerce is bringing people closer to the products that otherwise would never have been available to them.

If you have any additional questions that this article has not addressed or would like some clarification on any of the points made here, please feel free to send an e-mail to questions@new2technology.com, or visit www.new2technology.com we are here to help.

The contents of this article may not be reproduced, copied, published or modified in whole or part without the written consent of the author ©Copyright 2004 new2technology Inc.

The eVolution Of The iNternet Family Online Shopping Mall

Do you remember how great great grandfather did the family shopping? He would hook up his team of horses to the big wagon put in the family and trudge off across the prairie for a day or so to get to the nearest ‘general store’. Once there it was a great outing for the family. The store had everything needed from children’s store bought candy to mother’s ready made dress. If the store did not have that certain special item there was always the option of the catalog.

After the turn of the century (1900 not 2000) a couple of remarkable changes occurred that begin to alter family shopping. America began to grow up and out – at least to the oceans. And the automobile made its auspicious entrance. Now the family could get to the general store much faster. Mother loved that, she could make more trips is a shorter time.

There was, however, an embryo of change being observed in the stores themselves. The increase in populations made for more stores and a wider variety of markets. The general store began to break up. ‘Specialty’ stores began to emerge. Dress shops, drug stores, movie theaters etc. A whole group of cottage industries began to make an entrance. It is true the big boys were still ever present and getting bigger. Sears Roebuck and Co, J. C. Penny, and others were still on top, still selling through the ever present catalogs.

As our country grew through World War II it became more sophisticated. The little village grew into a city. This resulted in the concept of a ‘town square’. The big stores were usually on opposite sides of the square with the little specialty shops filling in the gaps. Usually these types of cities were the county seat so you would have a court house and a government office building. There was something else of importance that came into prominence through this period. Access to information began to grow with the appearance of the County Library.

As we moved into the 1960s the automobile presented a nightmare problem to family shopping that was totally unexpected. Traffic and Parking began to choke the city square concept. It is certain everyone still wanted to shop, but usually at the same time. It was near impossible to find a parking meter on the down town streets in the town square.

American ingenuity, as usual, prevailed. We made parking the priority item and called it all a ‘suburban shopping mall’. Now there were acres of free parking with the shops in the middle. The next major evolution was to air condition the whole shopping mall. What’s not to like? The big guys where still at opposite ends of the shopping mall. Now there was unlimited space for expansion of the specialty shops. Even better, it was all accessible on foot. Only thing left was the food court. Now family shopping had moved to heaven.

We refined and sharpen this concept to an art form over the next few decades. Some where during that period of time the government slipped in a not understood or utilized system which took the handle of the ‘internet’. So what? Nothing happened for a long time. Then the next stunning invention occurred. The mouse (computer) began to wiggle around. Do you not understand that without the mouse the computer is a black box? Put them together and we have the Personal Computer.

Somewhere in the eternal scheme of things the infinite minds of the computer geeks and nerds began to squeak and rumble. A marriage of the internet and personal computer took place. While that is a worthwhile discourse in its own right far too large for our purposes we would be remiss to pass it by without comment. It was only a few years back, in the mid 1990s that this even occurred. This is important to understand to be able to focus of the rapidity of current events, speaking of the internet online shopping. It was about 1994/95 time period that a company called Netscape came along with their commercial internet browser. It started an absolute revolution. It is not until about 1996 that Microsoft finally figured it out and came roaring down the road with their internet explorer. The race was on.

The other side of the story was the functional software development on the internet. In the beginning the only thing we could figure out for the internet was file transfer (FTP). Then it dawned on someone that if we could read from the internet why not write to the internet. Incredible concept! Websites began popping up all over the place.

We began to see a true information highway. Any company could advertise it presence throughout the world with minimal effort. The internet browser now could interact with a company’s data base. Of course, it was just a heart beat away until the website could actually sell products. The impact of this was absolutely profound. Shopping was changing course. It was now being called internet online shopping. Family online shopping was born.

Internet online shopping is now moving so fast it is near impossible to keep up from day to day. However, what goes around comes around; we are right back to the 1950s, electronically speaking. The big boys still have their big websites. But now the little specialty ishops are filling in the blanks. They can compete directly with the big companies-almost. There are online shopping malls all over the internet. Home shopping online, even discount shopping online is growing non-linearly everyday

There are now, as there always are, another set of complications that have risen with need to be addressed. There are literally millions of websites on the internet to be found or in most cases NOT to be found. This has caused the mushrooming of another incredibly fast most moving cottage industry in the form of Internet Marketing. Search engines, Pay Per Click (PPC), Website Content etc. are all now very critical to a website.

When you search during an online shopping spree, for our purposes a shopping search, it is not uncommon to get back several thousand websites. In order to truly shop you must go through one website at a time until you can find that for which you are looking. This gives rise to the word surfing.

The solutions for these problems are emerging in the form of holistic online shopping mall websites that provide categories from discount shopping online to online clothes shopping to surf through. The website bears the burden and responsibility of filtering and selecting appropriate merchants based on the subject of the website.

The next cutting edge development emerging is the ‘internet online shopping specialty ishops’. That is where a very narrow subject is the focus of a ‘mini website’. For example, a ‘Women’s Plus Size Clothing Specialty iShop’ or a ‘Family Scrapbooking Specialty iShop’. The list for online shopping specialty ishops will soon be endless. The important factor here is this type of website contains only merchants for that very specific specialty. That places all the major merchants plus many of the competitive smaller online shopping website within one click of the customer. It greatly curtails the endless surfing through each merchant website.

One last point, much like the shopping mall of old the specialty online shopping website will have the library, i.e., information highway, news links, ebooks, fresh content articles and what ever else is required to maintain a holistic family shopping environment at you finger tips.

Then the next step in family online shopping will be …

How to Profit From the Electronics Boom With an Online Wholesale Electronics Business

Online wholesale electronics retailers are consistently raking in six figures in terms of profits from gadgets and other electronic items. The easy access of customers to the instantaneous website availabilities make shopping for electronic gears a breeze.

The rock bottom prices let customers purchase the electronic gadget they prefer at the price that they can afford. Online businesses are very convenient for consumers for the following reasons:

· Consumers can shop from the comfort of their own homes. That’s a new hassle-free way of getting your goods.

· No gas or mileage is spent in the act of shopping, thus saving money

· Online electronics shops are a good idea for holiday gift giving or birthdays, since they are quick and easy and shipments take three days.

You do not even need to have an actual brick and mortar store. What you can do is create a website full of great consumer electronic goods and price your items in such a way that is affordable to people around the globe. For this reason you need to be aware of a few factors when setting up an online wholesale electronics store:

Make sure you are aware of what the prices of your particular gadget currently go for. For example, do not price your digital camera in the thousands of dollars if the current price for a camera with those particular features runs in the range of $99.

To catch customers like flies, it would be even better to attract more and more customers to have prices lower than any other website.