Simplicity Versus Security

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Simplifying an Online Store

When was the last time you bought something online? This morning? What do you remember about the checkout process on your store?  Was it simple, easy, and fast?  Was it labor intensive, time consuming and cumbersome?

Well-built e-commerce websites are generally focused to capture increased click-throughs, conversions, sales, and (ultimately) revenue.  Every effort is made to simplify the online sales process so that customers glide through the website, from initial entry to checkout.  Elimination of any roadblock to buying a product is paramount.

Amazon offers alternatives to the omnipresent “Add to Cart” button by offering “One-Click” options to buy, Dash Buttons, and the ability to buydirectly through Alexa’s voice-command tools. Instagram, SnapChat, Facebook, and Twitter all have their own streamlined way to connect customers to products.  You can purchase as a guest on many sites and practically every shopping cart software now offers some kind of one-page checkout option.

The major objective in all of this? Allow customers to buy what they want, with as little involvement or friction as possible – regardless of where they are. The simpler, the better.

And, it works.

The U.S. Department of Commerce reported an overall increase in online sales over over 15% in 2016,  and traditional brick-and-mortar retail sales increased less than 3%. The e-commerce migration is clear and merchants are well aware that the battle is no longer between retail stores and web. The monumental shift to internet sales means that the real dogfight is about capturing sales from an internet-focused, mobile-oriented, buy-where-I-am-right-now audience.  The simpler an online store can make the buying process, the faster the revenue stream flows.

But… security concerns are higher than ever.

One of the more ironic points about simpler e-commerce is apparent when we contrast these tools against our desire for better security. While internet transactions increase and online sales dominate, threats are peaking at all-time highs, too.  TrendMicro reports a 752% increase in global ransomware threats and claims to have blocked over 81 billion threats in 2016. Experian suggests that the fraud attack rate for e-commerce in 2016 was 15% higher than 2015.  Symantec’s 2017 Internet Security Threat Report shows international-funded theft from global financial institutions totalled over $94M.

The Demise of Passwords?

In spite of these concerns, the drive toward “friction-less” online experiences dominates.  VTEX, a cloud-based e-commerce software designed for sites selling up to $100M/year, now promotes a password-less checkout procedure.

Dubbed as SmartCheckout, the VTEX product makes the cart checkout process “faster, easier, more intuitive, and safer” while increasing conversion rates by 30% and lowering cart abandonment. The product is promoted as PCI DSS certified (we don’t question that claim), but wonder how compliance is achieved when password policies and management are part of the requirements to obtain PCI certification in the first place.

So how can we simplify e-commerce while protecting ourselves as customers (and website owners as merchants) from the risks of online theft and fraud? This is the next big question for online retailers to address.

Focus on the Customer

Our approach to the issue of customer security has always been fairly simple.  We have an obligation to protect customers from threats online and must do everything reasonable to ensure that safety.  While the goal of faster, simpler checkout sounds really appealing, the compromised security of an account sure doesn’t.

While the goal of simplified checkout is noble (and there are plenty of studies that indicate it is profitable), the process must remain focused on the protection and security of customer data. PCI Compliance is necessary for all transactional sites and the advent of encryption practices like SSL Anywhere can help avert risky behavior and protect users.

We are here to help.

If you’re interested in starting an e-commerce store or have a current store that is failing to perform, we’d be happy to share our perspective and help you evaluate the performance, reliability, and simplicity of your store. We offer a Free Website Review any time and would be glad to discuss it with you.

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