Online commerce is massive business these days, but precisely for that reason, there remains a portion of the buying public that's both careful about their personal data and cagey about shopping from independent online retailers.
Privacy- and security-minded shoppers can seem like tough customers, but by keeping a few conscientious points in mind, you can earn their business and their loyalty.
Despite this caginess, however, you can reach these buyers. Do so by keeping a few privacy- and security-oriented points in mind—and designing your shopping experience accordingly.
There are some things that merchants can do to reach and retain privacy- and safety-conscious online shoppers:
Don't ask for lots of personal data. Lead-generation is big business online, and some sites and sellers have taken to requiring Facebook sign-ins or multiple lines of personal data just to browse products. This is a sure way to alienate privacy-minded buyers. If you want to reach them, you'll have to permit guests to see what you sell without requiring them to give you their data.
Use encryption. Ensure that your storefront supports https:// connections so that when safety-minded shoppers visit you, they see that their activities and data are protected.
Clearly state shipping practices and a generous return policy. Make shoppers feel safe by setting their expectations about the coming transaction clearly. Tell them how you ship, how fast, and what estimated delivery times are. Make it clear that you care about customer service, show that it's easy for them to contact you, and offer a generous and easy-to-follow return policy.
Enable guest checkouts. Avoid the increasingly common practice of requiring shoppers to create an account on your website in order to buy. By doing this, you're losing shoppers that simply don't want too many "accounts" out there with their names on them, particularly at independent websites. Provide a workflow that enables guests to purchase without creating an account and a password.
Select a payment provider with a conservative payments form. While conventional wisdom says to reduce shopper friction to maximize sales, the checkout process can be an exception to this rule. Shoppers are wary of sites that need minimal information to process a payment; they're more comfortable when they have to enter names, addresses, and card security codes. Be sure that you don't save credit card information, and state this clearly—or make the saving of payment information an opt-in process.
Show who your payment provider is—and make sure it's a reputable one. Privacy-minded buyers prefer to give credit card numbers to sellers that will safeguard their data. Show that you do this by being transparent about your payment processor during checkout. You get bonus points if you use the word "secure" and show a provider whose brand the buyer recognizes.
Offer optional e-mail confirmation and follow-up. Provide a field on your payment form to enable shoppers to receive an e-mail confirmation for their order. Make the field optional. Include an extra check-box to enable shoppers that wish to do so to opt-in to your marketing-oriented communication in the future (news, promotions, and so on).
Fulfill promptly. Ship quickly and provide shipping details (i.e. tracking information and estimated arrival date) to shoppers as soon as you're able to do so. This helps to keep the concern level low, and will tend smooth over any bumps that follow.
Make communication easy and reply promptly. Some percentage of buyers will have concerns after the transaction; this can't be avoided. What can be avoided is half-baked customer service that creates a rising sense of panic amongst safety-conscious shoppers. Ensure that your business is accessible to inquiries and responds promptly and professionally.
Communicate only within the shopper's parameters. For buyers that provide an e-mail address for confirmation, communicate only about their order—confirmation, shipment, etc. Don't fudge it an "accidentally" market to them every now and then. Be sure to include your security and privacy language and related link—along with an easy-to-use email unsubscribe link—in the footer of your email. Send further marketing communication only to users that opted in to your promotional mailings and have not unsubscribed.
Keep these points in mind and you have a good chance of converting sales with safety-conscious shoppers—and of retaining them through future transactions.