If you are new to shopping online it can seen somewhat daunting at first. You may have heard about online security and identity protection but you don’t need to worry, a little bit of know how and some common sense will see you through.
Should I Trust This Web Shop?
You wouldn’t buy a car from a person that offered no form of ID or contact details so carry this thinking over to online shopping. If a web shop doesn’t offer clear contact details or company info then you would be wise to walk away. A legitimate and trustworthy web shop has nothing to hide and should make it as easy to get in touch as possible. Be on the lookout for phone, email and postal details. Other important details are the business registration and VAT numbers.
A very simple way to check out a company is to give them a call and ask them a question about the product you wish to purchase, they should be able to answer your question.
Many websites submit themselves to various consumer protection organisations and codes of practice. Should a website comply with the consumer protection rules of an organisation it will display a badge that when clicked will present the credentials and status of the website. These are good indications of the security and trustworthiness of the website.
These badges show that the web shop is checked or scanned for security flaws and has passed. They also ensure that the company is who they claim to be.
The image below is an example of these badges taken from www.thesitebox.com.
The Shopping Basket
Once you have found an item that you wish to purchase you will need to put it into your shopping basket in order to take it to the checkout. This is as simple as clicking a button and once done you will be given some visual indication that the item has been added to your basket. An area of the screen will be dedicated to the contents of your basket, it could show you a complete run down of the items in your basket or it could simply tell you how many items are in there and the total amount of your shopping so far.
This image shows an example with the basket area highlighted and enlarged.
You can keep adding to your basket until you have selected everything you need.
Before you complete your order and pay, it is a good idea to check the contents of the basket to double check that everything is correct. You may also be presented with a delivery cost estimate at this stage, remember that delivery cost may change depending upon the delivery address that you will provide later on.
Completing the Buying Process Online
Once you have decided to purchase the items in your online shopping basket it is time to move on to the checkout process. Every site will be slightly different but they all need the same info to complete the order.
Padlocks - Securing Your Personal Details
In order to keep your personal details secure as they are transmitted to and from the website the data should be encrypted. This is generally only done on the pages where you enter your details or those that display your saved personal details.
There are two very simple ways to ensure that the page is encrypted. Look at the start of the website's address for the page ( the URL ), it should change slightly from the previous page to start with https://. The important part of this is the s, this indicates a secure connection. The second way is to look for the padlock symbol, this should show a closed padlock similar to the image below - different web browsers may show it elsewhere.
You won’t usually see either of the above outside of the checkout process as there is no need for encryption at that point.
Secure Payment Methods
The most secure methods of paying for an online purchase are credit cards and online payment methods such as PayPal. You should avoid using a debit card as these generally do not offer the same level of purchase protection as a credit card.
Don’t forget to look for the padlock and https:// when paying for your purchase.
Entering Your Details
At some point during the checkout you will be asked to enter your personal details. Info such as your name, address and email address are crucial. Ensure that you get everything right. Some people use a fake email address to avoid getting emails but it also cuts off the fastest form of communication between the seller and you, if there is a problem with your order the seller needs to contact you.
Sometimes the checkout page will ask you to type in some details twice, this is to ensure that you haven’t made a mistake, if the two pieces of data do not match then there is an issue.
After Your Purchase
Once your order is complete you should be presented with confirmation of the order, an order number ( you can take a note but you should also get this info in an email ). In the day or days following the web shop will send out emails to keep you up to date with the status of your order.
You may be asked for optional feedback on your purchase either directly after the checkout process or via an email sent a short time later. These can ask you to use a star rating system or to simply leave a short message. If you have any comments or suggestions then let the company know. They will appreciate your comments and act on any problems you may have had.