Why UK shoppers still don't trust the internet

Internet security fears continue to put punters off online shopping, says the OFT.

Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

Apparently it’s not just the pointlessness of Twitter that’s causing an adverse reaction among internet users – the Office of Fair Trading suggests some people are still not comfortable with internet shopping either. According to its latest report, almost a third of us aren’t shopping online: 30% of this number claimed they don't trust the system, another 20% are worried about personal security, and 15% said they don't trust online retailers. So there's clearly more work to be done to build confidence...

The online retail market continues to grow in the UK - British shoppers spent about £43bn online last year, a 45% jump from the 2006 figure. For some of us, e-commerce has been around for so long that it's become second-nature - especially with so many well-established firms now selling their wares online. Indeed, the OFT reports that 56% of shoppers now think online shopping is as safe as doing it in old-school 3D on the high street, compared to 26% in 2006.

However, there's still a sizeable minority who remain unconvinced. And these security fears are understandable: it does require great trust to fire your bankcard details onto an almighty worldwide database that could be accessed by who-knows-who. What's more, most of us know at least a couple of people who’ve been stung by credit card fraud - which probably wasn't the case a few years ago. If online retailers fail to address these trust issues, the OFT warns, the market may struggle to achieve its potential size.

The good news for e-tailers is that surging broadband penetration and increased familiarity should boost sales further in the coming years (retail analyst IDG reckons the online grocery market alone will be worth £5bn by 2012). The net seems especially well suited to the downturn – offering immediate and convenient price comparisons for punters hunting the best deal. And let’s face it, using your card on the high street can be just as risky – any shop assistant could in theory take your details and use them for their own nefarious ends.

Nonetheless, the face-to-face nature of high street shopping does seem to make us feel a bit safer. So if the OFT is correct, retailers should be looking at ways to offer online punters the reassurance and professionalism that they could otherwise find in high street. Video is one possible route - commercial hosting service vzaar reports that several of its small business clients have been able to boost sales by including product videos on their site, allowing customers to see what they're buying. Tougher security measures would presumably also help build confidence.

That said, not every feature of high street shopping is worth replicating. For instance, we hope never to see a bored-looking paperclip in the bottom corner of the screen, asking: ‘D’ya want a bag for that?’

In today's bulletin:
Recovery hopes surge as Easter eggs on retail sales
Businesses landed with higher minimum wage
Enterprise Inns spends millions propping up its own bars
Why UK shoppers still don't trust the internet
Editor's blog: MP expenses are a dangerous distraction

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