A note from New York and three tips to safe online shopping

The US will spend $50 billion on online shopping for the first time ever.

This week I am lucky enough to be working from our New York office.  Ah, New York, New York.  So good they named it twice.  Despite my packed agenda, I still have a “shopping list” provided mainly by my teenage daughter who just has to be “seen” these days in the playground in Abercrombie & Fitch, Vans or Ralph Lauren.  It doesn’t matter that I go bargain hunting in Macy’s or dare I say it Century 21 (which is next to my hotel and thus the easiest option) just as long as my suitcase is packed with goodies.

I am not alone in my current shopping.  The US is gearing up for the biggest ever holiday season with spending set to top the $50 billion mark for the first time ever.  Good news for the likes of Macy’s and the upmarket boutiques on Park Avenue right?  Well not quite.  That $50 billion will be spent ONLINE by Americans in a period when the economy over here is still ranked as “weak”.

With the proliferation of voucher and discount sites, consumers are looking for the best deal more than ever when they go online.  But how many shoppers will be disappointed come Thanksgiving when they open their presents and find out that the bargain they have been given by Uncle Buck is no more than a counterfeit item.  Unfortunately, too many people confuse an unbelievable online deal for a genuine item with a ridiculous deal for a fake.  An iPhone 5 for $10?  What a bargain?  Or what a fake!

As human beings we seemed programmed to be suckers for a good deal.  Over the last few hundred years clever businessmen (read “conmen”) have played on our “greed” to make a fast buck or two.  The Snake Oil Salesmen of the 19th century, the South Sea Bubble and more recent Ponzi schemes have all proved that the third deadly sin of Avarice is still alive and well, living inside us all.

So what can we do to protect our hard earned cash from falling into the wrong hands and being left embarrassed by purchasing counterfeit items?  Well, here are my three steps to online shopping heaven:

  1. Only use websites that display an SSL certificate.  Look in the address bar – is the bar green or does it contain a padlock?  If so click on it and look at the details.  Do the details match the name of the company you think you are dealing with?

  2. Fish where the big fish are – meaning if you want to buy specifically branded items such as a Lacoste polo shirt then first visit their official website.  Look at how much the item sells for and then use a comparison site like Kelkoo and see where the item is being sold online the cheapest.  Then do a search on that company and see what other people are saying about them.

  3. Still unsure?  Carry out a domain name Whois check and look at the details of the registration.  Is it fairly recent?  If so that should raise a flag of caution.  Again, run a search on the company behind the registration.

Brand owners also need to ensure that visitors to their website stay and buy.  This means ensuring they offer the highest levels of security by using an SSL certificate, as well as ensuring their website is free from any malware.

So before you press that “submit” button on the deal of the day, just stop for one minute and do the three step check.  As my Gran used to say “Better safe than sorry”... She also used to say “Better the clowt before May is out” so don’t necessarily believe everything your elders say.  Right, I’m off to fill up that suitcase with branded items from next door that will elevate me to God-like status in the playground of my daughter’s school.


Written by Stuart Fuller, Director of Communications, NetNames
19 September 2012