While online shopping is safe for the vast majority of customers, there are still some people who are so concerned about fraud that they are reluctant to enter their card details on an e-commerce site.

According to a Get Safe Online survey (pdf) from last year, 14% of people in the UK are deterred from using the internet due to fear of online crime, so what can e-tailers do to combat such concerns?

In a blog post yesterday, Bryan Eisenberg suggests that online retailers can deal with this issue by providing the option of making a purchase over the phone by providing a visible contact number throughout the site and checkout process.

He also cites the example of PetFoodDirect, which saves on call centre resources by having customers fill in their order online, minus card details, and requesting a call back. This is a good idea, though companies would need to make sure these calls were made quickly so customers would feel confident in using this option.

Certainly, offering a phone number as an alternative is good practice, and for customer service as well as just for sales. Reassurance over the phone about a product or some details of the purchase can make all the difference.

Having looked at a few UK online retailers, it's surprising that many aren't providing the option of ordering by phone. While Comet provides a phone number to order throughout the site, as well as a click to chat option, many others don't, including Tesco and M&S. 

There are a couple of other ways to deal with customers' fraud concerns though:

  • Making your site as trustworthy as possible and addressing concerns about fraud and security may persuade some cautious shoppers to go ahead and make a purchase.

    Provide reassurance throughout the site, especially on product and payment pages about privacy and security issues, also third party verification logos such as VeriSign provide evidence that a site can be trusted.

    Shoppers also want to see contact details for reassurance that they can get in touch if something goes wrong with an order. Previous surveys have shown that customers are reluctant to purchase anything from a site which doesn't provide these details.

  • Offer alternative payment options - some shoppers that are reluctant to enter credit or debit card details may be persuaded to buy if your site offers a payment method such as PayPal or Google Checkout.

    This may also increase conversions; in a recent US survey by TrialPay, 59% of respondents said they would be more likely to buy online if alternative methods like Google Checkout and PayPal were available.

Graham Charlton

Published 21 April, 2009 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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Comments (6)

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Will Jones

Will Jones, IT Director at The BookDepository

Additionally, many customers around the world may not have access to the payment methods we consider standard. For instance cerdit cards are not common in some European counties and bank transfers are more popular. This is a big issue in a truely international business such as the BookDepository.

Options like PayPal are a great help with this. We've implemented this into our checkout today and will be following its progress closely.

about 9 years ago


Kendra Pratt

Just want to echo Will's comments. PayPal is as secure as it gets for an online electronic payment tool.  Why?   they offer customers the highest level of security, a robust, non-spoofable technology called extended validation ssl.   Check for yourself on any site where the url bar turns green, d-click on the company name to expose the actual certification, issuer, dates etc.  Sites should want to "extend" users that warm-fuzzy feeling when they are entering their private information.

about 9 years ago


Kendra Pratt

I completely echo Will's comments. PayPal is as secure as it gets for an online electronic payment tool.  Why?   they offer customers the highest level of security, a robust, non-spoofable technology called extended validation ssl.   Check for yourself on any site where the url bar turns green, d-click on the company name to expose the actual certification, issuer, dates etc.  Sites should want to "extend" users that warm-fuzzy feeling when they are entering their private information. 

about 9 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & CEO at PRWD

Great article Graham - it touches on some of the most important areas as to why retailers lose potential sales, specifically security concerns, lack of trust and in-flexible payment options.

Surprisingly in some sectors there are retailers who not only provide just a single internal checkout, they don't make it clear to shoppers what cards they accept (at shopping basket but even better at product page level) - instead its not until the shopper is 3/4 way through checking out that they realise their particular card (maybe a debit card) isn't accepted - a sure fire way of frustrating the shopper and losing a sale.

As you say the point on providing a visible phone number is really important, and this actually prompted a question at todays e-commece best practice training course from one of the delegates - "Why would you provide your sales/customer service number if the visitor is already in your checkout process? Surely you want them place their order online and save not use precious staff time?".

My response focused on 2 of the main (but different) reasons this is important for online retailers:

  1. if you've failed to convince the visitor that paying online is fully secure, at least if they can immediately find your phone number, make a call and place their order over the phone, you've at least rescued a potential lost online sale
  2. if the visitor has a query on their order during checkout, they don't need to potentially come out of the process to find your contact details, instead they are easily seen

Will - I'll be very interested to see how your new Paypal payment option impacts on conversions from non-UK customers, which from watching your excellent live shopping feed is a fair few customers!

about 9 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Thanks Paul,

I've often wondered why more online retailers don't offer PayPal and other alterntives as a way of dealing with concerns about card payments, as well as appealing to as many customers as possible.

I've just written a brief post on Kiddicare which has introduced a payment method I hadn't thought of: buying vouchers by cash from PayPoints and paying online by entering the code.

about 9 years ago



Graham, in response to your question, why dont more etailers offer paypal. Many do but the majority of people that offer only paypal are those that cannot get their hands on regular merchant accounts. paypal can be used by anyone and large merchants want to differentittae themselves.

almost 9 years ago

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