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Study Finds Consumers Avoid Online Shopping Due to Mistrust

Merchants must combat the perception that online buying poses serious consumer risks as people are changing their behavior in response to such concerns.

The belief that their purchasing details could end up stolen for all kinds of criminal abuse could be driving some consumers to do their buying the old fashioned brick and mortar way. A report from the US Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) claimed security and privacy concerns are compelling people to do less online than they normally do.

Specifically, 26% of all households have avoided buying goods or services due to privacy concerns, while 35% of households who have reported a security breach avoided such activities.

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NTIA’s study used data collected by the US Census Bureau to determine the impact of malicious online actions on consumers. They found a sizable chunk of the US population sees reason to be worried about their online activity, sometimes due to first-hand experience:

“Nineteen percent of Internet-using households – representing nearly 19 million households – reported that they had been affected by an online security breach, identity theft, or similar malicious activity during the 12 months prior to the July 2015 survey. Security breaches appear to be more common among the most intensive Internet-using households. For example, while 9 percent of online households that used just one type of computing device (either a desktop, laptop, tablet, Internet-connected mobile phone, wearable device, or TV-connected device) reported security breaches, 31 percent of those using at least five different types of devices suffered this experience.

Criminal abuse like identity theft and credit card/banking fraud posed the most concerns for consumers. But activities like data collection and the perceived loss of control of personal data also weighed on the conscious of those surveyed. Such worries influenced some households to refrain from certain online activities, especially if they were already anxious about fraud or identity theft.

Unfortunately a legitimate and safe transaction by all appearances could hold an unpleasant surprise for consumers. The ongoing issue of counterfeit merchandise in the online marketplace continues to vex not just buyers but the legitimate producers and sellers of real products being faked.

As CNBC recently noted, these activities hit small businesses the hardest. What’s worse, counterfeiters are taking advantage of the trust implied by brands like Amazon.com and eBay to present their wares for sale.

Stated policies by both companies prohibit these activities and threaten punishment, but the sheer volume of counterfeiting appears to be thwarting efforts to combat such illicit goods and their sellers.

Note: See Friday’s EcommerceBytes article for information about recent studies that show most people are not up to date on staying safe online, which could have major ramifications for online sellers.

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David A Utter

David A. Utter is a freelance writer based in Lexington, KY. He has covered technology topics from search to security to online business and has been quoted in places like ZDNet and BusinessWeek. He considers his appearance on NPR’s “All Things Considered” with long-time host Robert Siegel a delightful highlight. You can find him on Twitter @davidautter and on LinkedIn.


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