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UK’s Online Shopping Expected to Increase This Christmas, Despite Down Economy

The percentage of the UK population that will shop online this Christmas is set to hit 86 percent, a six percent increase from 2008, according to an online YouGov survey commissioned by VeriSign (NASDAQ: VRSN), the trusted provider of Internet infrastructure services for the networked world. The research found that consumers across Europe plan to spend less than a third of their total holiday shopping budget online this Christmas, with online identity theft and lack of trust in Web security cited as a concern.

UK consumers plan to spend 32 pence in every pound, the French will spend 30 cents in every Euro, the Germans will spend 28 cents in every Euro and the Swedes will spend 21 öre in every krona online. With so much room for potential ecommerce sales growth, online retailers will be doing everything in their power to increase consumer confidence online and attract shoppers this Christmas.

Almost one in four (22 percent) Britons say they are being held back from shopping online this Christmas due to reservations over online ID theft and fraud, while 14 percent stated that they will not shop online because they do not trust ecommerce sites. These percentages represent losses that retailers could easily stem by promoting their online security credentials, and through technologies such as Extended Validation (EV) SSL Certificates. EV SSL turns the address bar green in high-security browsers, to indicate to consumers that the site they are buying from is safe.

Meanwhile, 32 percent of consumers say they are deterred from shopping online due to not being able to try before they buy. Unsurprisingly following the recent postal strikes, 27 percent are concerned that goods bought online will not arrive in time for Christmas.

Andrew McLelland, director at IMRG, the industry body for global e-retailing, said, "The research shows that fears over online safety are still holding consumers back this Christmas. More and more people are browsing online but not necessarily spending a lot. If people don’t trust the site they are browsing, they simply won’t buy from it. If there is even the slightest hesitation the total amount spent will dramatically be reduced."

"There is no reason why consumers should be put off from shopping online this season," said Martin Mackay, vice president of VeriSign EMEA. "With some of the best deals available on the Web, from travel to toys, consumers should feel safe shopping online as long as they are aware of the security signs to look for, such as the VeriSign seal, on the Web page."

VeriSign recommends the following tips for consumers to protect themselves online this Christmas. More details on these tips found at www.trustthetick.co.uk:

1. Look for visual cues. Prominent misspellings and frequent grammatical errors are signs that a Web site is fraudulent. You can also look for simple visual cues that show that the site is authenticated and protected. Cues include a green address bar in high-security browsers such as Internet Explorer 7/8, Firefox 3.0/3.5, Opera 9.X and higher, Google Chrome, Safari 3.2, Safari 4, Flock (social networking browser) and the iPhone. Other visual cues include a padlock icon in either the lower or upper right-hand corner of the screen and https:// in the browser; both of these indicate the site is secured.

2. Check out two-factor authentication. A growing number of sites are accepting a second form of user authentication that comes from physical devices such as a token, credit-card form factor, a USB drive and even your cell phone. Each device provides users with a dynamic onetime password that must be entered into a login page in addition to their user name and password. The extra layer of security prevents potential fraudsters from accessing personal accounts that are accessed by a simple user name and password.

3. Compare the checkout experience to well-known sites and look for anomalies. Most well-run Web sites — such as Amazon or eBay — send order confirmation, shipping confirmation e-mails and allow you to print out confirmations of your orders. Beware of a simple form with no "visual cues" and no confirmation that you entered or ordered anything. However, if the Web site is fraudulent, victims would lose their money, whether or not it had been entered securely.

4. Know your vendor. Read their ratings and reviews from other customers and take red flags seriously. Also make sure you have some way of contacting them — look for a phone number and mailing address. Finally, try to find out where the company is based in their "about us" section.

5. Pay attention to the order form. The site should not ask for more than your name, shipping address, billing address, credit card type, number and expiration. Data such as social security number, bank routing number, etc. should not be collected.

The UK the research also revealed differences according to region and age group:
-  Those over 55 are most fearful of online identity theft and fraud, with 32% saying this will hold them back from shopping over the Internet
-  The 35-44 year old age range is the most brazen, with 47% stating that nothing will hold them back from buying online this Christmas
-  Quality of gifts is most important to the 18-24 year old age range, with not being able to try before buying a key concern for 43%, and worries over delivery times putting off a further 39% from shopping online
-  Scots are the most fearful of buying online, with 30% worried about online identity theft and fraud
-  The Northern Irish are least bothered by online fraud, with 17% concerned about being defrauded over the Web compared with the national average of 22%

 [November 26, 2009]


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