Your Business Online | Professional Jeweler



December 20, 1999
Safe and Sound
Prove your shopping site is secure

Two prominent concerns expressed by consumers about shopping on-line are the safety of giving credit card numbers over the Internet and trust in the vendors offering merchandise on-line. While Internet fraud affects only a small percentage of e-commerce transactions, media hype tarnishes the reputation of legitimate e-tailers. If you're a jeweler selling on-line, here are some things to keep in mind as you strive to win shoppers' trust.

Secure Sites: E-Commerce "Bouncers"
Many e-commerce Web sites are "secure sites," equipped with systems to prevent unauthorized access to information exchanged between consumers and vendors. Most Web browsers support the security standards used by these secure sites, so information transmitted via the browser is protected. If a customer contacts an unsecured Web site, the browser usually flashes a warning. A program called Secure Electronic Transaction (SET), established by Visa, MasterCard and other companies, provides a high level of protection allowing a customer to send a secured encrypted order and limiting use of the card to the customer's own computer.

Several companies offer Web security services. Typical of these is VeriSign (www.verisign.com), which provides its customers with a logo to display on their Web sites. When a business offers a secure site that meets certain standards, Better Business Bureau (www.bbbonline.org) will award the business a "seal" for display on the site. Other services also review e-commerce sites, offer third-party information about on-line vendors and offer logos for display to ease consumers' minds. These include Web Watchdog (www.webwatchdog.com) and The Public Eye (www.thepubliceye.com). Consumers seeking evaluation of Web sites also can contact Consumer Reports (www.consumerreports.org) for impartial reports.

Protecting Netizens from Harm
Web Guardian (www.webguardian.com) was created in the Silicon Valley to give Internet shoppers a means of reporting and recovering losses from deceitful companies. Available to businesses for consultation, Web Guardian links to additional help sites such as a blacklist of Internet advertisers who have not performed ethically or legally.

A number of commercial shopping Web sites offer consumers' suggestions in the form of "approved" lists of vendors. BizRate (www.bizrate.com) lists vendors by category. (It currently lists 40 jewelry sites.) Consumers can check ratings of vendors in 10 categories, such as on-time delivery, prices and ease of ordering. The site includes a direct link to each vendor. Similar to BizRate is Rating Wonders (www.ratingwonders.com), which lists 183 jewelry sites. It also invites reader comments.

Freemerchant (www.safeshopper.com) helps educate consumers about shopping on the Web and provides information on Web companies. It doesn't list any jewelry stores currently.

Jewelers with Web sites should be aware of consumers' concerns about safety and take steps to address them. Make sure your own e-commerce site is secure, keep up with new developments in Web security and check with some review sites listed above to see if you qualify for a listing.

- by Jack Heeger