Digital Battlefield: The Ongoing Fight Between Retailers and Hackers

The weekend that retailers and shoppers have been waiting for has finally arrived. Bargain hunters everywhere will be waiting in line and logging on to find the best deals available between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Unfortunately, with all that excitement also comes a very high threat of credit card fraud.

Sellers are certainly doing their part to play defense in this game of digital cat-and-mouse. eCommerce merchants spend more than 7% of their total annual revenue combating fraud, according to a recent report by InternetRetailer. That’s a pretty large amount of money devoted to trying to stop cyber-thieves who always seem to be two steps ahead of the good guys.

As online and mobile sales continue to rise, so does the fraud total involving sales categorized as card-not-present, or CNP. This refers to any sales that are made to consumers who are not physically there to hand over their credit cards, either by computer, smartphone, tablet, phone call, or fax. The hackers take full advantage of CNP purchases, to the tune of what is expected to jump to an estimated $6.4 billion by 2018.

This may sound all bad, and for retailers, it’s obviously a costly part of doing business. Buyers, though, also have technology on their side. While chip credit cards are helping to curb fraud at brick-and-mortar stores, online merchants aren’t just sitting back and ignoring the problem. Sellers are using everything from fraud detection software and two-step verification to data encryption to protect their customers.

Tokenization is also making it much harder for hackers to get access to cardholder information. Tokenization systems convert your credit card number into randomly-generated values that protect your data. More simply, your financial info is never transmitted after you make a purchase. Instead, a random series of letters and numbers is used to represent your credit card number, which means hackers never get the chance to steal any meaningful data.

In a recent research report by Worldpay, 59% of merchants say they think mobile transactions bring more risk of fraud. This makes plenty of sense, but despite the concern, a whopping two-thirds of those same survey respondents say they don’t treat mobile transactions any differently from others. One could see this as indifference or even arrogance on the part of the sellers, but the optimistic view is that it means they’re working just as hard to make it safer for you to shop across all possible platforms.

Banks are also protecting consumers as best they can, detecting potentially fraudulent activity and keeping customers from being liable for those transactions. Most financial institutions are quick to issue new credit cards and replace your money whenever your account is hit with bad charges.

Bottom line: there is no reason to change your shopping habits this holiday season. Stay vigilant and look out for yourself, but be thankful that banks and retailers are doing everything they can to protect your money, as well as their own.

Blogging 101: 5 Things Every New Blogger Should Know

So, you want to start writing a blog? Ok, great! What now?

Getting a blog going can be incredibly exciting. It’s a constructive way to express your thoughts and share them with anyone who wants to read them. It can also be a bit overwhelming, especially for bloggers who have never actually done it before. Here are 5 important things to keep in mind as you get started:

  1. Write the way you speak.

Keeping it conversational can help you connect better with your readers. When things are a little more loose and relaxed, your blog is an easier read, and it can also help break down some of your more specialized topics into ideas that everyone can digest.

  1. Find your niche.

It’s important to find blog topics that will resonate with your target audience. There are millions of blogs out there. The only way to stand out from the pack is to find something specific that you’re passionate about, and write about the most interesting aspects of that topic. You’re not going to be loved by everyone, but that’s not realistic. The main goal is to appeal to those folks who have an interest in what you’re writing about, and keep them coming back for more.

  1. Research, research, research.

It’s not just about the writing… reading is just as important. Even with a topic that’s in your wheelhouse, you still need cited facts to back you up. There’s always more information out there that can give your blog a little something extra. Linking to articles where you found quotes, statistics or data to support your point will go a long way toward establishing the kind of credibility that you crave.

  1. Share and share alike.

Whether you love it or loathe it, social media is going to be a driving force behind marketing yourself and your blog. Share links to your writings on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and any other place that will push traffic to your site. You’re starting from scratch, so it will likely take a little while before the readers are coming in droves, but social media is always one of the best ways to get noticed.

  1. Keep at it.

You’re new at this, so try not to get discouraged, especially early on. Gaining a following will take time, so be patient. Make an editorial calendar, so that you know what topics you’ll be covering and when you’ll be tackling them. It’s important to generate content on a regular basis, with whatever frequency you chose to post. If you don’t like the direction things are heading with a particular topic, change gears to something that suits you better. Trial and error is just part of the process.


Fast & Simple: Creating a Great Checkout Experience

Think about the things that drive you crazy about online shopping: being forced to sign up for a new account with yet another new password; long forms to fill out; extra fees that make a good deal seem like less of a bargain.

Now think about the checkout process on your own eCommerce site.  If it drives you nuts, chances are, it’s frustrating your customers too.  That means fewer sales and more wasted opportunities for you.
Shopping online is supposed to make the process simpler for the customer, but an increasing number of prospective buyers are filling up their shopping carts, only to abandon them at the point of checkout.  A recent study by Baymard Institute put the number around 68%, which is staggering.
So why do 68 out of every 100 online shoppers fail to complete their purchases?  Some of the main reasons include complicated checkout processes, forced registration, unexpected shipping costs and lack of faith in security.
Crate&Barrel gets high praise for its user-friendly website checkout.  It lets you checkout as a guest with the option of creating an account after the sale.  Crate&Barrel also has a progress bar that shows you exactly where you are in the process and offers shipping options that are clearly spelled out for you.

On the other end of the spectrum is the British site Boots, which forces you to register before you can buy.  It also has way too many pages in its process and makes the user type separate addresses for shipping and billing, even if they’re the same.

Bottom line: put yourself in your customers’ shoes.  Make it easier and more pleasant for folks to buy things from your website… and they’ll keep coming back for more.