Online safety is critical when you’re serving e-commerce customers. If proper protocols aren’t followed, e-commerce sites can easily fall prey to cybersecurity breaches, which may expose private customer information.
These security breaches can cost your company both in money and in customer loyalty, so it’s essential to prioritize shoppers’ online safety. To help you secure your consumers’ shopping experience, nine members of Young Entrepreneur Council outline the key security steps companies should take with their e-commerce sites.
1. Always Use A Payment Provider
Never store credit cards yourself. Always use a payment provider like Stripe that will take the liability away from you. People can live with losing their email address, although they don't like it; what people won't forgive you for is if you lose their credit card information. Even if you're not selling products, but rather recurring subscriptions, there are payment providers that will store this information and manage all of it for you. Taking this step is especially important as an early-stage startup before you have the resources in place to get proper security software and internal IT security personnel. - Andy Karuza, Base64.ai
2. Create Best Practices
It's all about data privacy. Even people who know about data privacy don't fully understand how valuable it is. Find standard best practices for making sure your customers’ data is secure on your website. Be transparent about your policy with it. This doesn't just protect your consumers—it protects you as well. - Tyler Bray, TK Trailer Parts
3. Enable Multi-Factor Authentication
One of the best ways to keep your customers safe online is to enable multi-factor authentication for returning visitors. We always ask our customers to register with their phone number or email address so we can confirm their identity before they make a purchase from our site. This tip helps us track who is accessing our site and from where. I believe being mindful of how users log in can dramatically improve e-commerce safety and security for shoppers around the globe. - Chris Christoff, MonsterInsights
4. Use Fraud Prevention Tools
You need to make the most of fraud-checking and virus protection software. When you're dealing with other people's money, you need to take every step you possibly can to ensure that all transactions are completed as safely as possible. Nothing will ruin trust in a company faster than a data breach, and nothing will lose you money faster than having to compensate burned customers. If you predominantly sell online, you need to stay on top of cybersecurity. Hackers, sadly, are only getting more sophisticated with their tactics, so you need to do the same. Fraud prevention tools in particular can protect both you and your clients from falling victim, so it's a beneficial investment for everybody involved. - Nick Venditti, StitchGolf
5. Look Beyond Native Security
Most companies need to take the time to look beyond the native security of the platform they are using. The website-building sites like Squarespace or WordPress and popular store-building sites like WooCommerce or Shopify make it easy to set up an e-commerce store, but the security they come packaged with leaves a lot to be desired. While some of these sites (like Shopify) are a bit better about native security than others, they all have security plug-ins or third-party security features that you can add. The farther away you can get from a generic security setup, the less likely you or your customers are to be victimized. - Salvador Ordorica, The Spanish Group LLC
6. Install An SSL Certificate
Having an e-commerce site automatically comes with the responsibility to keep your customers safe from intrusive hackers. One security step companies should take is keeping private information secure by installing an SSL certificate. This is a tool that encrypts data that's in transit from the customer's browser to the server of the payment processing site. In other words, it's preventing a customer's personal information from getting stolen. For example, my company accepts payment through third-party processors like Shopify Pay. An SSL certificate prevents hackers from stealing payment information in the process of them making a purchase. - Emily Stallings, Casely, Inc.
7. Educate Your Customers
As business owners, it's our duty to protect our customers’ information online—but you need to understand that your customers might not know how to do it. So, educating them about cybersecurity is extremely important. Remind them to change their password and access credentials from time to time, back up their data regularly, install authorized software, etc. You can also send them relevant newsletters that help them learn more about keeping their data safe online. - Thomas Griffin, OptinMonster
8. Keep Everything Up To Date
There are quite a number of things an e-commerce store needs to do to keep its customers safe and feeling safe. That includes being safe as a business because if you get hacked as an e-commerce site especially, it'll be hard to convince your customers that they'll be safe buying from your website even if they themselves weren't affected personally. I'll say that you, your staff and your customers should be security conscious. Build your site on trusted and tested internet infrastructure. And when you do, keep the place up to date. Hackers are crawling the net looking for opportunities to destroy businesses. And they've learned to target small ones that think hacks happen to big corporations only. Small businesses are easy targets. - Samuel Thimothy, OneIMS
9. Invest In A Quality Hosting Provider
An e-commerce site's safety depends heavily on the hosting provider they use. New business owners may think that it's a good idea to use cheap shared hosting, but this option becomes expensive in the long run. You also want to use a good hosting provider that can upgrade your usage and solve technical issues fast. Such providers are proactive when it comes to monitoring threats and security issues. Start by investing in a reliable hosting platform or make the switch to a good one fast. It'll reflect in the speed of your website and will help protect your site and customers from data breaches. - Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner
Image: Courtesy of The Individual Members
We have entered an era of media overload. At every turn, consumers are met with the newest influencer, advertisement or article, and there are only so many things you can do to stand out from the crowd.
Livecasting has been on the rise for years, and now it is more important than ever for businesses to leverage it in their marketing plans. But why? Let’s dive into what livecasting can really do for you and your business.
Build Trust And Community
When the Covid-19 pandemic swept the world, people’s values began to shift. One of the biggest shifts was in how much people value the ability to speak and communicate face-to-face.
This is what livecasting can offer your consumers: the chance to see and connect with the real people behind a business. Not only does this foster the kind of trust between business and consumer that is essential to any brand, but it creates a feeling of social support for everyone who joins your livecast.
Livecasting provides the opportunity for real-time engagement, and whether it is simply through attendance or comments, it's more likely attendees will feel like they are a part of a community, and creating a community can make your brand more recognizable and successful.
Broaden Your Audience
Prior to the pandemic, most events hosted by businesses were exclusive to those with the resources to attend. With the growth of platforms like Zoom and Facebook Live, though, this no longer has to be the case.
Online, anyone who is interested can join your livecast, and it stands to reason that viewers are more likely to share brand videos they’ve watched or participated in with friends and family. This is the kind of reach an in-person event simply doesn’t allow for.
Plus, you can pull the reports on not just who came to your livecast but on how long they stayed. This data allows you to see which of your livecasts were the most and least successful and use that information to improve with every future livecast.
Increase Your Bottom Line
This is really what it boils down to: Livecasting is economically advantageous to your business. There is no venue to rent, pamphlets to print or refreshments to buy. The cost of a livecast is significantly lower than the cost of any in-person event because, aside from perhaps camera equipment, what is there to pay for?
But here are the real economic benefits: According to one survey, 87% of video marketers report that video gives them a positive ROI. According to that same survey, consumers are watching almost double the amount of online content compared to 2018. Those numbers sound pretty good.
But why make it livecast? Why not just pre-record a video? Because live videos hold viewers’ attention for 10 to 20 times longer (paywall) than any pre-recorded content, and the more time your viewer invests at the moment, the more they’re willing to invest in your company in the future. And once the livecast is over, you have a recorded video ready to optimize for use on your social media or website.
So, how can you leverage livecasting to ensure that you make the most of these benefits?
Use Your Brand
Livecasting isn’t about making an advertisement for your company — it’s about connecting with your viewers and showing them who you are. The best way to do this is to keep your brand’s values and mission statement at the forefront of your mind when planning your livecast.
If the point of your livecast is to promote or launch a product, it shouldn’t feel like just another ad or TV commercial. Show the faces behind the product. Show your viewers why you are excited about it and what it can do for them. Make your livecast feel as human and authentic as possible.
Getting your audience involved helps them feel like they are part of a community, so get creative with it. Put out polls, host a Q&A, incorporate games. Audience members can participate through comments, likes, reactions and shares, and you want to do whatever possible to ensure that they do. To keep that feeling of inclusivity and community going, invite them to engage after the livecast is over through things like newsletter signups, giveaways or feedback surveys.
No matter how genius your livecast is, it won’t matter if no one is interested enough to attend. You need to know what audience you are trying to appeal to and you need to promote to them in an eye-catching way.
Come up with a catchy title and description for social media. Make a flashy graphic or release teasers. Make sure your consumers know about your livecast and get them excited!
The benefits to your business are always important to consider when embarking on a new marketing strategy. Knowing how to optimize those benefits is just as important.
But here is one last thing to consider. Don’t think of livecasting as just one more chore to add to your list. A study revealed that 80% of online consumers would rather watch a live video from a brand than read their blog.
Livecasting isn’t an addition to your plan. It’s a substitute for some of the work you’re currently doing, and it’s a substitute that will benefit you in the long run.
Image Credit: Photo by Ivan Samkov
When the Covid-19 pandemic struck in 2020, it put many professionals out of work. Others faced cutbacks on hours or began working remotely, which allowed more time for pursuing multiple income streams. These factors led to a major uptick in startup and small business launches, many of which are still thriving as we enter 2022.
With this fact in mind, a panel of 11 Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) experts answered the following question:
“The pandemic saw a major uptick in startup and small business launches. What’s one trend you’re excited about seeing in this sector in 2022, and why?”
Here’s what they think will impact small businesses this year.
1. People-First Attitudes and Values
“The pandemic has helped people reassess what they value the most. People are now opting to spend more time with their family and friends, so they don’t want to choose jobs that offer no work-life balance. The 2022 trend for business owners will be to create stronger workplace values with a people-first attitude. Not doing that might mean losing your best employees.” ~ Thomas Griffin, OptinMonster
2. Avid Online Community Support
“Small businesses are agile and connect with their audiences better than big businesses can. I’m excited to see the formation of avid online communities around small businesses. Such businesses and communities can collaborate better to create more personalized offerings. This phenomenon also makes way for small business-driven social change.” ~ Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner
3. The Balance of Voice Search and SEO
“I’m curious to see how small businesses will balance voice search and traditional SEO. More people are using voice-activated devices than ever before. At the same time, this technology has advanced considerably in recent years. I can’t wait to see how new business owners use these advancements in voice search to grow their brands in 2022.” ~ John Brackett, Smash Balloon LLC
4. Increased Hiring of Freelancers
“One exciting trend that I want to see grow is the increased hiring of freelancers and greater flexibility for workers. We’re seeing power go back to the workforce, which means a better work-life balance for all, as well as a better quality of life.” ~ Blair Williams, MemberPress
5. Skyrocketing Use of Marketing Automation
“In 2022, we’ll continue to see marketing automation skyrocket with startups and small businesses. Automation is a crucial part of a growing business’s success, so it’s important to learn how to use these tools for the best results.” ~ Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms
6. Easier Access to Virtual Promotional Tools
“The use of virtual tools to promote products and services will continue to innovate the way consumers shop and conduct business on a daily basis. More free or inexpensive augmented reality selling tools will be available to startups and small businesses that in the past would have required custom development.” ~ Jordan Edelson, Appetizer Mobile LLC
7. Hybrid Online-Offline Business Models
“One trend that looks like it’s going to continue well into the future is the hybrid online-offline business model. In 2020, even retail businesses were forced to sell more online. I think consumers like being able to move freely between online and offline shopping. For example, many customers like to do thorough online research before going to a store, auto dealership or other business.” ~ Kalin Kassabov, ProTexting
8. Cryptocurrency and NFTs Going Mainstream
“I am excited about the mainstreaming of cryptocurrency and NFTs. This revolutionary monetary system is fascinating, and so many people are engaging in the creation of NFTs. At Art Basel in Miami where we are headquartered, AI and NFTs were celebrated, and it really got me excited for the possibilities for small businesses and businesses launched utilizing these technologies and currencies.” ~ Matthew Capala, Alphametic
9. The Democratization of E-Commerce Tech
“One trend in the startup and small business sector that I’m most excited about for 2022 is e-commerce growth. With e-commerce website creation platforms like Shopify becoming ever more robust, it’s never been easier for entrepreneurs to get started on their next big product launch. This democratization of e-commerce tech is helping fuel more product innovation than we’ve ever seen before.” ~ Richard Fong, PageKits.com
10. Remote-First Job Opportunities
“I am excited to see more remote-first businesses and more democratized access to jobs enabled by technology. The remote trend has a chance to shake up the workforce by providing flexibility and access to a diverse but largely untapped pool of candidates.” ~ Daria Gonzalez, Wunderdogs
11. Unique Perspectives on Long-Standing Issues
“I’m worried that many of the new businesses and startups created during the lockdowns will be short-lived as people return to their normal lives. However, I’m excited for the possibility that some of these new startups will be able to provide unique perspectives on long-standing issues, not the least of which being the creation of a new work culture that emphasizes equity and inclusion.” ~ Bryce Welker, Real Estate Schooler
In early December, Cogito published some new research designed to capture consumers’ understanding of artificial intelligence (AI), their overall perception and utilization of it, and any apprehensions they had with their utilization of it related to data privacy and regulation.
While the study found that most consumers don’t think that AI is a threat to jobs and can help make the lives of employees easier, they expressed a lingering mistrust surrounding brands’ use of their data, privacy and the overall use of AI.
In fact, of the consumers surveyed, 72% said that they had concerns about data privacy and what AI-enabled tools are tracking.
That number represents a significant trust gap.
But, what should companies be doing in the face of that level of concern?
Well, additional findings from Cogito’s research offers up some clues.
Their research found that:
On the first data point, I think there is little doubt that regulation of the use of AI will happen at some point.
But that will take time.
By way of comparison, the EU’s GDPR legislation came about after more than four years of discussions and negotiations.
But, customers concerns about data, privacy and the use of artificial intelligence are real, present and should not be ignored.
Brands would do well to leverage the insight offered by the second and third data points: produce and live by a clear customer code of practice and be more explicit about how they use AI, what data they collect and how it is used.
The value of adopting a customer code is something I highlighted in Punk XL, where I told the story of Hubspot who following a period of explosive growth where they went from zero to nearly $700 million in sales per year, and over 3,000 employees and 114,000 customers in over 120 different countries in 15 years, they realized that their growth rate had gotten in the way of them delivering the experience their customers deserve.
To remedy that situation in 2018, they created what they call their Customer Code. It is made up of 10 tenets that act as both a set of guidelines for their conduct and a bunch of promises to their customers:
In 2018, they gave themselves a score of 7.1 out of 10 across all of the tenets, with numbers 2, 3 and 8 being the areas that they identified as those that require the most improvement.
They also said they were committed to living by these tenets and promised to repeat the exercise and publish the results every year.
Unfortunately, they don’t seem to have followed through on that promise.
That’s a shame because, amid rising demand for personalization and empathy from customers and concerns about data, privacy and security, as well as ethical and bias concerns with the use of AI technology, a customer code looks increasingly helpful and powerful.
Josh Feast, cofounder and CEO at Cogito, agrees and says “A customer code of practice effectively communicates an organization's values, as well as the standards they hold themselves to and the expectations consumers can have as a result. This also poses a good opportunity for these organizations to better educate consumers around AI to minimize any fear or concerns they may have around its use. However, as concerns for data privacy and the use of AI continue to be top of mind for consumers, it’s pertinent that establishing a customer code of practice is a top priority for business leaders in the space.”
Some brands will say that they already have such a thing in place.
They’d be wrong. The number of examples of brands that are being explicit, in a customer-friendly way, about how they approach customer data, privacy and the use of artificial intelligence is low.
However, these concerns are not going away, and it’s becoming increasingly likely that transparency and accountability could become a competitive differentiator for many brands in the coming years.
Membership is open to businesses and organizations interested in increasing visibility and brand awareness in Westchester County and surrounding areas.