How to tell if an online retailer is safe and reliable

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More critical than ever to ensure that any online retailer is safe and reliable

E-commerce has exploded over the last 12 months and is quickly becoming the primary way many people do all their shopping. Unfortunately, that also means the number of people online with nefarious intentions has grown at a similar pace, so it is more important than ever to ensure the places you choose to spend your money on the internet are safe and reliable.

According to a report by Statista, worldwide retail e-commerce sales reached $4.28-trillion in 2020. While growth has been steady since 2014, there was a sharp increase between 2019 (R3.35-trillion) and 2020 of around $900-billion. This is mainly because many people worldwide are now working from home and therefore spending most of their time online, both for work and play.

Growth, opportunity, and potential are excellent words to hear as a business owner. However, they are also words that draw the kinds of people that might not have the best intentions, and because it is so easy to get set up to do business online, it is just as easy to set up a company that is not legitimate. This makes it more critical than ever to ensure that any online retailer is safe and reliable before handing over any of your hard-earned money.

Check that the retailer has a physical address listed on their website

The first port of call is to check that the retailer has a physical address listed on their website. This is one of the most important aspects for checking a business’s legitimacy for a couple of reasons. The first is to paste the address into Google street view to check if there is a business at the location. If you see a dark alleyway or a bank of PO boxes, that is a red flag.

The second reason is that a physical address is imperative for there to be a returns policy for defective or wrong-sized items. If there is no address listed, how can you return goods you are not happy with? And, more importantly, what are the chances of a legitimate retailer not having a return policy? Not very likely.

If possible, try to steer clear of general or user reviews, especially if they are listed on the website you are trying to verify. It is incredibly important whenever you are spending money online, not just in retail. For example, in the iGaming industry, it is vital to check the legitimacy of a website because you will, hopefully, also need them to send you your winnings back.

Instead of general reviews that anyone could have written, rather try and find out if the website has been scrutinised by an industry professional body like legit.org for iGaming or the Better Business Bureau if you are in the United States, Canada or Mexico. These types of institutions have been created to verify companies specifically, so you don’t have to.

When it comes time to make a purchase or transfer some funds, be aware of first-party online payment solutions. There are so many good options out there like PayPal, and the technology is so complicated to create that it is improbable an individual retailer would have developed their payment gateway. Stick to third party platforms you know and are comfortable with and if the retailer doesn’t offer your platform of choice, shop somewhere else.

And finally, one point that has been true since the start of human beings selling things to each other: If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. That isn’t to say there aren’t amazing deals to be found out there because there are, but if you see a retailer offering to sell the latest and greatest iPhone for $100 less than anyone else, beware.