Once you have established your business online with a registered domain and you are getting traffic to your website, the next step for many businesses is a facility for online purchases. But where do you start and how do you ensure that the transactions on your site take place securely?
Natalie Thayer, former GM of MWEB, South Africa's leading Internet Service Provider, says there are several ways in which small businesses can ensure their sites are attractive for potential customers.
Make sure your site is secure
When customers are looking to buy from an online store, they want assurance that the website is secure before entering their personal and financial information. This security is indicated by a closed padlock on the browser's status bar or by an "s" at the end of http (e.g. https://www.onlineshop.co.za). MWEB will be able to assist you with the elements needed for secure site architecture like encryption to prevent hacking and impersonation, ensuring all transactions on the site are legitimate.
Establish your brand before offering online purchases
Customers are rightly cautious about purchasing online from a supplier they've never heard of. If your business is a purely online one, there are many ways to establish a brand presence in the online space - including online marketing, Adwords and viral marketing. If you have a physical business as well, the traditional marketing channels are key to creating that credibility. Should you have any guarantees that you can offer your customer, ensure that you state this on your site to further increase their confidence in using your online shopping facility. Always provide a contact phone number and preferably a physical address on your website as well, so customers can contact you by phone or in person.
Provide details of exactly what you're offering
Provide exact descriptions of your products and provide proof of authenticity for name-brand items. Photographs are also a great way to show customers exactly what they're getting.
Provide a method for secure online payments
South Africans are becoming more internet savvy and online shopping is growing in popularity as it is fast and convenient. However, as a business, you need to make sure your online store offers a secure payment gateway so that customers can purchase with peace of mind. MWEB's SafeShop platform is secure and includes a triple firewall security system and offers a variety of payment methods, including credit card, Standard Bank AutoPay, MiMoney, Diners Club, Cell Paypoint and eBucks.
All customer details are stored in an encrypted database off the Internet and transactions are conducted between SafeShop and the relevant partner banks using SSL encryption. (SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer and it allows servers to communicate across a network in a way designed to prevent ‘eavesdropping', tampering, and message forgery.)
"The cyber-world is not that different from the real world and similar rules apply. If you have any terms or conditions that your customer needs to be aware of, make sure they read and agree to the terms before their transaction is processed, and where possible stick to the specified delivery times or keep your customer updated if you cannot meet the deadline. It sounds like a small detail, but it's service like this that ensures repeat business," concludes Thayer.