Business has been transformed with the advent of the internet, and by this point that shouldn’t be a shocking statement. Luckily, the hard lessons have been learned by others before you and we can take advantage of their trials and tears to have a pretty good idea of what’s good practice when conducting business online. Consider the following:
- Assurance of Delivery
- Assurance of Payment
- Prevention of Fraud
- Security of Information
In the days of old, a customer would walk into a store and inspect a product to purchase from the shelf (prevention of fraud). That customer would purchase the product from the cashier (assurance of payment) and walk out with the product in hand (assurance of delivery). The cashier, at the end of the night, would take the record of the sale and lock it in a safe (security of information) to ensure it’s not lost or dropped into the wrong hands.
So how do we conduct online transactions in such a way that we can still enjoy the safety and peace-of-mind that defined 1950’s America?
In its basic form, the digital presence serves as an analog to a physical office or storefront. Rather than conduct business completely online, you use the website to generate leads for your office itself. Some perfect examples are law offices, insurance sales, “big ticket” items like cars, etc. The benefit of this model is that the customer is still able to conduct business with a live person and it offers the company the opportunity to build a rapport with them. In this method, payment is typically arranged on the phone and can easily be assured by withholding the service until funds are delivered.
The eCommerce Shop
This was where online sales really began. Rather than dive into a walk down nostalgia lane (can you believe eBay is over 21 years old at this point?) let’s focus on how to properly run an eCommerce site today.
- DO have your products on display, with clearly marked prices.
- DO offer direct shipping to the clients.
- DO have realistic shipping standards (and confirm addresses).
- ABSOLUTELY DO make sure you are using a 3rd party credit processor. This makes sure that the customer’s card information is stored safely and, most importantly, NOT on your site. The cost of a single breach will leave you sued into oblivion and out of business.
- Do NOT keep any unneccesary customer information saved in your site.
- Do NOT deliver until payment clears.
- ABSOLUTELY do NOT do 3-party transactions. (Customer overpays you and asks you to disburse a portion to another 3rd party. It’s a well-used scam.)
For modern eCommerce, there are popular platforms that offer secure, easy to setup, and easy to maintain solutions that keep these rules in mind and will help you stay out of hot water.
A recent phenomenon that is appropriate for both product and service sellers is a digital marketplace. This shared community of buyers and sellers draws on the collective credibility and security of the host platform. You are familiar with many of the popular companies that offer a safe, vetted platform to both buy and sell goods and services safety. These marketplaces have a host of rules to protect all parties while conducting business and will take either a modest percentage or fixed cost per transaction to support the digital space.
You know that selling goods and services online is a powerful way to reach new customers in the digital economy. Now you also know a little bit more about the ways you can go about selling online and some of the pros and cons.
So, keep these important points in mind as you contemplate online sales for your business.
- Choose the platform that best fits what you want to offer online.
- Protect yourself and your customers by ensuring that you limit the chances for someone to defraud or scam you by applying the common-sense moniker of “Would I do this if I was standing behind a cash register?”
- As Ronald Regan once said, “Trust but verify”. You can easily protect yourself by ensuring that payment is delivered either up front or by some secure means on delivery.
- Never store credit card or sensitive personal information on your site. Use trusted (and insured) 3rd party platforms. The peace of mind far out weights the minimal cost.
- Seek out partners you can trust to help you navigate your way into online sales.
By: Joe Adams, President, Cosmital Inc