How To Shop or Sell Safely Online – Black Friday or Not

The Black Friday 2015 has come and gone; but shoppers don’t need to worry as there are still great deals available online and sellers need to keep their websites full of bargains as there are shoppers still looking for deals of the year.

In the UK, Black Friday started two years ago when Asda brought the annual shopping bonanza across the pond. Thousands of people queued up to get their hands on the deal or deals of the year before Christmas. There was a chaos in the country with shoppers fighting over bargains which led to fights and arrests.

However, on Monday 27 November 2015 (Black Friday Day) was a different story altogether when stores opened their doors ready to handle mayhem but were disappointed as most people decided to login to the stores websites to avoid all those scuffles witnessed in the high street stores last year. The police, at the same time, warned bargain hunters that they may have fallen victim to cyber criminals.

But, the sales and bargain hunting phenomena always starts before the Black Friday and goes well beyond Christmas into January in the following year. But we have to shop or sell online safely. Underneath, we outline some basic measures that buyers and merchants MUST take to minimize the risk of unpleasant and costly consequences while buying or selling online.

For Shoppers

1 Use famous sites:

For starters, always start your purchase with the most trusted websites. We all know about many websites that are worldwide trusted for online purchasing of goods; for example, Amazon, eBay, Marks and Spencers, Selfridges, John Lewis, Debenhams are some of famous sites for online shopping in the UK.

2 Crooks need to know all:

Hackers need to know other important information than just your credit card number! Online stores do not normally ask for buyers’ personal information and you need to think twice before parting with information that is not mandatory for a purchase!

3 Do your research:

If you want to use a new website for online purchase, do your home work and conduct some research on the new site! Check ratings and reviews of that site and if the consumers have given positive comments on that site then go for it!

4 Don’t go for the best discounts:

Everyone gets attracted to the prices less than the rate of other vendors. Some rogue sites offers their products that gives us the excitement of shockingly low prices which in fact is not real. As the saying goes, “If it is too good to be true, it is too good to be true”. Beware of the scams!

5 Change passwords regularly:

The Metropolitan Police’s cyber crime unit Falcon said it is investigating a technique known as “diagonal brute forcing” in which username and passwords obtained from previous hacks are used to check if that same combination of username and password has a valid account with other retailers. If a match is found, the account can be accessed*. Therefore, it is vital that you change your passwords regularly to minimise the risk of an opportunist getting access to your personal details or do his/her shopping with your money.
*(Advice regarding online shopping)

For Merchants:

1 Always use HTTPS:

The encryption within HTTPS is meant to provide many benefits to you and your customers which include:

  • Confidentiality – the information remains confidential from prying eyes because only your customers’ browser and your server can decrypt the traffic.
  • Integrity protects the data from being modified en route without your knowledge.

2 Install phishing filter:

Install this filter as it creates a boundary between hackers and sites credential info and will enhance sellers’ privacy.

3 Strong passwords:

Create 2-step verification and strong passwords to prevent your site from hackers and intruders.

4 Check your site regularly:

Being a vendor, it’s your responsibility to check for any intruders to your site. It is very important because according to the UK Government’s 2014 cyber security survey, 81% of large businesses have suffered malicious data breaches.

In order to protect your site from hackers, begin with narrowing your focus and understanding the paths to the most valuable data in your organisation. Then, make the access to those paths as hard as possible and monitor them for suspicious activity. It cannot be over emphasised that you need to create a strategy and plan for checking your site regularly.

Happy Shopping and Merry Christmas!

Robust Internet Security in a Nutshell

Before we delve into this topic, it is necessary to get introduced to some basics which are necessary to understand the topic.

Internet Security

Internet security is a subset of computer security specifically related to the Internet. It involves both browser and network security. The main objective of Internet Security is to protect your valuable assets against any intrusion or misuse by any unauthorized resource. Since, Internet represents an insecure channel, Internet security regimen establishes rules and measures of how to exchange information over internet and what measures to use against attacks.

What are attacks/hacks?

Data sent over the Internet from email messages travel through series of computers and network links. As a result, unscrupulous hackers have ample opportunities to intercept the information and use it either to harm you or for its own benefit.

Another aspect of internet attack is that many data repositories e.g. database servers having confidential information are themselves connected to internet exposing them to attackers/hackers who can breach in and steal sensitive information like Credit Card numbers, Bank accounts etc.

Let’s consider an example of TalkTalk’s cyber-attack.

TalkTalk is one of the leading UK based telecommunication and internet service provider with around 5 Million customers. The company did quite well in acquiring the market by gaining trust of so many people. Still it became the victim of cyber-crime.

Personal details of almost 157,000 customers, 15,656 bank account numbers and 28,000 obscured credit and debit card numbers were accessed in this attack.

Although the firm’s CEO, Dido Harding highlighted, “Any information accessed cannot lead to financial loss.” But gaining trust of customers back after such incident is a nightmare.

According to the HM Government’s 2015 Information Security Breaches survey, 74% of small businesses in the UK have suffered an online security breach in the last 12 months, up from 60% last year. The average cost of each breach is estimated at £75k to £311k, and this doesn’t account for the potentially crippling effects of reputational damage and lost customers.

Now, with all the basics known, let’s discuss the Importance of Robust Internet Security.

Importance of Robust Internet Security and Risk Minimization

PwC’s ‘Global State of Information Security Survey 2015’ report revealed that internet security incidents cost large businesses – those with revenues of more than $1 billion – $5.9m on average this year. PwC said, though, there are non-financial costs to businesses that also arise from cyber security breaches.

So, it is of critical importance to have correct level of security built within applications to safeguard themselves against attacks.

Robust internet secure system can be achieved by:

  • Keeping Resilience (or Resiliency) as the first priority, i.e. the power or ability of the system to return to its original state after being attacked.
  • Building internet security awareness as an on-going program.
  • Including internet security metrics into staff performance reviews.
  • Use of biometric authentication for network access may also be implemented.
  • Capability in tracking events linked to Internet Security.
  • Use of a good Antivirus providing online and offline security solutions for e.g. ESET and AVG

Lack of preparation for attacks, ignorance of robust cyber infrastructure, un-encrypted data, insecure code, and other vulnerabilities should have been taken under consideration to avoid cyber-attacks.

Business entities considering importance of robust internet security are less likely to give hackers the opportunity to sneak into the system.

It ensures computer hardware/software safety against mischievous activities which can cost the company money, time and customer’s trust.

Top Factors That Are Changing E-Commerce

The goal of any e-commerce entity is customer delight and with the quickly changing world e-commerce businesses must work on their ability to quickly define what the customer wants and exceed it by delivering excellent customer experiences. To do all this businesses need to understand these five factors that are changing e-commerce.

Embedding E-commerce

The market for e-commerce software applications as well as digitally connected platforms and businesses processes is huge. This factor has been changing e-commerce for quite some time now and the total market size of e-commerce software back in 2013 even was estimated to be worth $3 billion and it has significantly grown since then.

Fueling E-Commerce Growth

There are industries that are termed most favorable for e-commerce. Industries like travel, entertainment, retail, lifestyle and distribution are the top ones that are fueling e-commerce growth in the past few years. These industries are quickly building strong digital infrastructure for better and safe e-commerce transactions in accordance with the customer expectations.

Growing Retail

The whole traditional retail system has been revolutionized with the use of web and mobile systems. The most advantage has been to the manufacturers with brands that have been struggling in the traditional market because of competition from private label retail brands, now most of them are doing their business online and are offsetting the loss on revenue from private label brands. E-commerce has been providing a favorable environment for brands by reducing their direct sales cost, storage and warehousing costs and better exposure through multi-channel targeted sales strategies.

Impact of Mobile, Social and Other

Mobile and social are the two major reasons why experts today are looking at e-commerce differently. Also with the popularity of cloud platforms and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), today there is more to e-commerce than just selling, experts are getting more and more data about their online customers and are devising strategies by using that data to know as well as predict the needs to their targeted users and even insights about specific business, competition and industry have been made possible with the proliferation of these technologies and platforms.

Influencer Marketing

Lifestyle shopping has become a huge trend across e-commerce industries. The power of image-based social networking platforms like Instagram, Pinterest and even Facebook has enabled customers to organize their own collection online and share it with thousand others. This trend is fueling personal expression in shopping and is making others reflect (positively/negatively) on their purchases too. This trend is engaging more and more online shoppers and it has given birth to influencer marketing and personal recommendations.

Bottom Line: E-commerce Businesses need to pay attention to these factors that are changing the whole scenario of online selling if they want to succeed in this rapidly-changing market. Businesses reshaping their e-commerce strategies to account for these factors would not only result in increased customer satisfaction but will stay as preferred business in the minds of their customers in the long-term.

Online Shopping and E-Commerce Solutions

Online shopping or online retail is considered as the most well-known e-commerce solutions known today. Online shopping mostly compromises of the business to consumer (B2C) sector, consisting of a process where a customer purchases products online through a web or a mobile device from a ‘brick and mortar’ or a ‘pure-click’ online retailer.

ONLINE SHOPPING IN THE UNITED KINGDOM

The online shopping market is predicted to grow consistently to a market of over $370 billion by 2017. Even today, the United Kingdom is one of the countries which has the highest online shopping penetration rate as of 2015 and currently is by far the largest B2C e-commerce market in all Europe with a turnover of more than 107 billion Euros.

WHY TO SHOP ONLINE

The reason why more than 41 percent of the total internet users are shopping online is because there are numerous advantages to shop online like:

Larger selection: Online shopping is not limited by retailer’s shelf space thus it provides much wider variety of items than a traditional retailer.

Saving fuel, time & energy: Shopping online does not cost you extra on fuel, it saves your precious time and it also does not drain your energy as you move from aisle to aisle looking for products.

Price comparison: Almost all retailers today are have price comparison or a price check system and you can also compare prices easily on different online stores to determine the best deals and the cheapest price online.

Convenience: Online shopping is all about convenience, with 24/7 availability and swift checkout system without having to wait in long checkout lines, online shopping is quick, easy and reliable.

Discreet shopping: Online shopping is private and you can easily purchase products that you don’t want other people to find out about.

HOW TO SHOP ONLINE

Online shopping is easy, the only things you need are:
1. A credit or debit card
2. An internet connection

Now you don’t have to do much you just have to go to an online shopping store and search, select the product you want to buy and click ‘add to basket’. Now your product details are saved and once you are done selecting products click ‘checkout’. You have to accept the terms and conditions on the next page and then you will be asked for your details like your name, contact, delivery address, and others. After providing the correct details you will be directed to a page that displays the summary of your order, if you find all details correct, click ‘continue’ to be directed a page where you would enter your payment details, you will be asked to provide a ‘Visa’ or ‘MasterCard’ code. Once the code is verified, your order will be processed and you would receive a confirmation email from your retailer that your order had been processed.

ONLINE SHOPPING SOLUTIONS

With the popularity of tablets, smartphones, mobile applications, easy checkout and better verification system, online shopping has become a popular shopping method. We at Universalsoft have been working for 30 years to cater the needs of this growing market. We provide Magneto based e-commerce solutions that promise a great user experience as well as profitable growth of your business.

How Digital Marketing Can Help You Grow Your Business

It was not that long ago when the first commercial internet service provider started its operation in the United Kingdom in the year 1991 and now more than 80% of the households have an internet access and around 70% of the total population in the UK is estimated to purchase goods online. It’s an age when people are giving up television to use the internet. Today businesses are doing everything they can to keep up with the competition and the changing behaviors. We are seeing more and more brick-and-mortar businesses completely changing their business models to online and businesses that are spicing up their existing marketing effort with a more effective digital marketing strategy, so with your competition and potential customers spending their time online, it is essential to know how to use digital marketing to grow your business online.

An effective digital marketing strategy covers all the relevant digital channels and mediums to keep you ahead of the game. The field is changing fast and here is how you can use digital marketing to help grow your business:

1. Set A Goal: The first thing that you need to be doing is to set a direction. Ask yourself what is most beneficial for your business, whether it is more customers, more recognition, beating competition or any other. Starting with a clear goal in mind helps you maintain your focus on what is important for your business.

2. Know Which Digital Marketing Tools To Use: It is essential that you should develop a customer–focused digital marketing strategy and an inbound marketing methodology is a great way to do that. There are four stages (Attract, Convert, Close, Delight) through which your potential customer is likely to travel to become a delighted customer and by knowing on which stage your customer is you can know which digital marketing tools would be more effective.

2.1 Attract: At this initial stage the customer is just a stranger and is looking for a solution for a problem. The customer has symptoms to a problem but the problem is not clearly known so you need to attract strangers and convert them into visitors in the initial stage and for that blogging, social media and an optimized web are some effective digital marketing tools to use.

2.2 Convert: Once you have converted strangers to visitors you then need to move them to the next stage in your marketing funnel that is to convert some of them into leads by getting their contact information. At these stage e-books, newsletter signups are effective tools and you should use digital tactics like landing pages and calls-to-action (CTA) for getting the contact information.

2.3 Close: Now its time to close the deal and at this stage you will need a good CRM software to covert the right leads at the right time.

2.4 Delight: The Post-sales stage is a stage where you need to develop a lasting relationship with you customers and make them the promoters of your business. Providing useful content, surveys and social monitoring are effective at this stage.

3. Create Several Call-To-Actions (CTA): A CTA may be an image, banner, text that prompts the users to take an action like subscribe to our newsletter or request a video demo. The more call-to-actions you create the better are your lead generation chances and you need to distribute these optimized CTAs strategically on your website. Marketing offers and CTAs should be used with the objective to trade information to move customers further into your marketing funnel by providing them with offers like a free download, newsletter, e-book and gathering their information that you will use to interact with them later.

4. Getting Quality Traffic: You need to have traffic that you can drive into your marketing funnel so in order to drive quality traffic here is what you need to do:

4.1 Search Engine Optimization (SEO): The biggest traffic source are the search engines so you need to implement the best SEO tactics so your website show in the top search results whenever a stranger searches for the symptoms to his problems. For that an effective Keyword strategy, quality content, an optimized website and effective link building are necessary.

4.2 Social Media Marketing: Another best way to drive quality traffic is through social media. The key is to create engaging post through the right mix of content, images, videos, timings and hashtags.

4.3 Paid Marketing: There is always the option to move towards paid marketing activities like Search Engine Marketing (SEM), Pay-per-click (PPC) and others for quick results but you need to ensure a positive ROI before getting into any of them.

Digital marketing shows result through targeting the right people that deliver the results the business needs. Today, the right use of the digital marketing strategy and tools provide the businesses the best chances of growth.