Local searchers more worried about ID theft

The fear of being defrauded or becoming a victim of an online scam has prevented more than 90 percent of online consumers from completing a virtual transaction this year, according to a recent survey from KikScore.

Consumers are becoming more concerned about the safety, trustworthiness and creditability of online small businesses found through local search, such as contractors, lawyers, plumbers and landscapers.

Searchers won't just blindly hire a service because they're local or near the top of Google's search rankings anymore, they seek more information about reputation, track record of sales and things of that nature.

Specifically, 51 percent of survey respondents stated they were worried about providing personal information to local websites, while 48 percent felt sites required more information than necessary for a transaction.

Furthermore, the greater the amount of information provided about a company, the more comfortable visitors feel and the more trustworthy the site becomes. For example, more than 60 percent of respondents stated they were increasingly likely to purchase from a small business website if it posted information and details about its management and owners.

What's more, 87 percent said they felt safer buying from sites that actually featured information about business processes and offered a financial track record.

A trust seal, awarded to companies as a way to boost customer confidence, was cited as another sign of legitimacy, as 85 percent of customers said they'd be more willing to hire a service provider if it featured a seal with reputation information.

While identity theft remains a paramount concern, feedback from other customers can also act as a deterrent - or a catalyst - for future purchases.

Researchers found that 83 percent of holiday shoppers were influenced by customer reviews from sites such as Yelp this year. Visitors can view past comments about a business on the site and gain a greater understanding of how well it operates.

Transparency - and of course, a multitude of positive reviews - can do wonders to gain customer trust. But it's important that the feedback is monitored, AllBusiness notes.

The news source notes that 66 percent of reviewers give four-or-five star reviews, which can instill confidence in a prospective customer. However, if one complaint arises on a recurring basis, it can lead to one- or two-star reviews rising to the top of the feedback chain, leading most consumers to look elsewhere.

Once the problem is corrected, however, older negative reviews will eventually drop to the bottom.