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Confidence Is Very Profitable, Don't You Think?

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Posted February 8, 2001 By Beth Cox     Feedback

A recent report says the success of Web commerce sites is directly linked to the confidence customers feel about their privacy and security.

Remember that Jack Palance television commercial from a few years back, in which he intones in a dulcet voice: "Confidence is very sexy!"? The e-commerce version apparently is that "confidence is very profitable," at least according to a recent industry research report.

In fact, the report from Gartner Group's cPulse operation (which calls itself the Internet Satisfaction Monitor) says that the success of Web commerce sites is directly linked to the confidence customers feel about their privacy and security.

According to the report, nearly 65 percent of customers surveyed replied that they "always" or "sometimes" read privacy statements. Yet 89 percent of customers surveyed were not comfortable providing credit card information online and 49 percent were not comfortable with the overall issue of online privacy.

Hmm. I guess I feel much the same way, although I don't claim to study privacy policies at shopping sites. Yes, I know, silly me, but I suspect it's a practice for anal-retentives only.

Something makes me suspect that of the nearly 65 percent of the folks who claim to read privacy statements, many are probably just saying what they think is the right thing to do to appear to be a smart online shopper. It's probably kind of like all those folks who swear up and down they read the editorial page of their local newspaper every day, rain or shine or kids' soccer practice not withstanding.

Uh huh. Right.

The last time I tried to read an Internet privacy policy, it was the one at Amazon.com, and the effort was something akin to wading through the unabridged version of Moby Dick.

For starters, it was the absolute last link at the very bottom of the home page. Then you find that it contains language like this:

"If you choose to visit Amazon.com, your visit and any dispute over privacy is subject to this Notice and our Conditions of Use, including limitations on damages, arbitration of disputes, and application of the law of the state of Washington. If you have any concern about privacy at Amazon.com, please send us a thorough description to terms@amazon.com, and we will try to resolve it. Our business changes constantly. This Notice and the Conditions of Use will change also, and use of information that we gather now is subject to the Privacy Notice in effect at the time of use. We may e-mail periodic reminders of our notices and conditions, unless you have instructed us not to, but you should check our Web site frequently to see recent changes."

The next time I can't sleep, I'm going back there.

Anyway, cPulse said it found that customer satisfaction was also clearly influenced by the ability to bypass electronic solicitation. Almost 60 percent of all participants were "extremely likely" to return to sites that allowed them to decline receiving e-mail advertisements and nearly half felt "extremely satisfied" with a site's privacy based on this option.

Makes sense to me. I don't know how many eCRM databases I'm in, but it seems like hundreds -- more than I have the energy to try to track down and get myself out of. Poor me, I just delete them.

"Customer anxiety on the Web remains a real issue," said Eric Rudich, a research analyst at cPulse. "Our research indicates commerce sites need to communicate more clearly to customers that they offer a secure environment and have such precautions as firewalls."

According to cPulse analysts, site approval programs and privacy seals (things like Verisign and TRUSTe) have a significant impact on how customers feel about a site's privacy and security.

"Web commerce sites that are looking for ways to boost their brand and their sales should revisit approval programs and seals," said cPulse executive vice president Jody Dodson. "Building consumer confidence via visible and de

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