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Lack of trust and security concerns are still holding people back from shopping online, though consumer confidence has grown significantly over the last few years.

According to a consumer survey (pdf) carried out by the Office of Fair Trading, nearly one in three are put off from shopping online. For 30%, lack of trust was the biggest reason, followed by concerns over personal security (20%) while 15% said they did not trust companies that sell online.

The OFT has compared results of the 2009 survey with one that was conducted back in 2006, and does find that trust in online shopping has improved in that period. Among the shoppers who do buy online, 54% think it is as safe as offline, compared to just 26% in 2006.

What customers look for before they buy

The survey also revealed the kinds of things that consumers are looking for to reassure them about buying online. More online shoppers are now looking at the T&Cs on e-commerce sites; 55% in 2009 compared to 49% in 2006.

Other signs of trust that consumers look for are reviews of the website (36%) and contact telephone numbers (57%). Also, 79% felt that e-commerce sites provided accurate information on returns policies, though this suggests that 21% are not providing this basic and crucial information.

There is plenty that e-tailers can do to make customers trust their website enough to buy from it, some of which, such as providing returns information and a contact number are very basic.

There are other things too, such as being transparent about prices and delivery charges, providing alternative payment methods for customers worried about card security, as well as providing logos, signs of server security etc.

Security / fraud concerns

While consumers are more confident about online shopping than they were three years ago, there still seems to be a large number that remain to be convinced. Only 46% of the 1,000 respondents had shopped online in the past twelve months, while a surprising 31% had never even used the internet.

Consumer concerns about shopping online:

Consumer concerns about shopping online

Of the 23% that had used the internet but not to buy online, 49% cited trust and security issues as the main concern. While in some cases retailers can do more to convince these web users, there is some lack of awareness on the part of consumers.

27% were unaware that they were not liable t pay in cases of credit card fraud, while others were unaware of their consumer rights when buying online.


Online shoppers are less concerned about delivery than they were in 2006; 12% in 2009 compared with 24% three years ago, though one in five online shoppers reported some kind of problem, around half of which was related to delivery. 

Graham Charlton

Published 12 May, 2009 by Graham Charlton

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

2565 more posts from this author

Comments (8)

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More online shoppers are now looking at the T&Cs on e-commerce sites; 49% in 2009 compared to 55% in 2006

I'm guessing that is a mistake, but apart from that as always, an interesting read.

over 7 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Thanks Peter, corrected now.

over 7 years ago


Jerry Okorie

Interesting to see that a high number look for the contact telephone numbers. Nice article Graham..

over 7 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Yes, though quite a few e-commerce sites don't provide contact numbers or make users work too hard to find them.


over 7 years ago


Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum.co.uk

Graham, something else interesting from the report:

only 46 per cent of respondents to the telephone survey had
shopped online over the past 12 months, with 31 per cent of
respondents having never used the Internet.

So a good chunk are still not net-savvy.


However, there was no significant change in the number of shoppers experiencing problems since 2006, with around one in five online shoppers reporting a problem. Around half of these related to delivery.

So that's 10% problems other than delivery.

Some of that is the site's technology letting a percentage of users down at the last check out stages - which can reach 5% under peak traffic times, things like:

A) Jump-back: takes the user back in their journey: frustrating and loses user confidence, but as the new page is still a valid page, no logging anywhere will show this

B) User John sees user Jane's basket and vice versa! (Does happen - we see it 3 or 4 times a year on retail sites)

C) Partial page- the site is working, the shopping basket page is served OK, but the user is left with some part of the page missing (eg a gap after ' you have the following in your basket'). If the user ignores that and carries on, things will work... but how many drop out a that point.

All the above are by definition invisible to web analytics, and tech logging.

An approach that has helped some online retailers to nail down that problem percentage and to fix it - is the use of 'customer focused' user journey based web monitoring.

Not just getting a few pages to check they served OK, but actively checking for the 'upset the customer' kind of glitches - so it's  serious level of checking going on, customized to the site in question.

And to real get clear call to action results, it's also cool to weight the results to show the £ Lost sales identified, not just % of problems.

Can take some initial effort to get in place. Have to work out the ROI, but it's likely especially worth it where folk already have a hunch that the site is letting people down sporadically, but no one so far has come up with 'proof', so it's been kind of ignored.


over 7 years ago


Gratis Goody

over 7 years ago


Katherine Klein

I look for two things on a retail site where I have never shopped before.

yes the contact number and I call it, no human = no biz

because I have learned to inquire about inventory and "if" what is represented on the page is actually what is in stock.

then the shopping cart must be secured with extended validation SSl certification.  I click on the green url and check to see if the expiration date,

I heard thru another blog sites are not renewing as timely as they should.

I was attempting to login to my cc company website to make a payment and noticed some strange characters on the sign in dialogue and what I felt could have been a fake url/website.  Suffice to say I write checks to that company and sail mail.

over 7 years ago


Natural Born Shopper

It doesn't surprise me at all that people are still wary of shopping online - and after seeing a particularly scary phishing email from "alliance and leicester" yesterday (one the most convincing I've ever seen) the threats of security etc are still real. I know emails from your bank are a completely different kettle of fish to an online shopping website - but to a novice web user, the first creates a threat, so the second pays the cost too - the user's confidence in the web is shaken.

Especially people who are self-admitted novices - they'd probably be fine, but they say "oh you know what to look for, but I don't know how to tell if a site is genuine or not".

I'm surprised though that you say people are less wary of postage costs now... I'd have thought that was still a biggy! Esp in these credit crunch times!

over 7 years ago

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