Online Shoppers Not Swayed by Hacker Attacks

Despite the recent barrage of hacker attacks on high profile e-commerce sites, online shoppers have continued to buy products and services — albeit more cautiously — over the Internet.

For those e-tailers that experienced a denial-of-service (DoS) attack, it may have been fortuitous that Valentine’s Day was just around the corner. Many U.S. consumers do not prepare for Valentine’s Day as they would for other major holidays, and last minute shopping on the Web has been vigorous.

As reported earlier this month in the E-Commerce Times, an Ernst & Young study showed that 11.3 million Americans, or nearly 30 percent of online shoppers, are expected to make a Valentine’s Day purchase online this year.

As a result, Yahoo! reported that orders actually picked up due to the pre-Valentine’s Day rush on the day it was attacked.

Silicon Valley Residents Hang Tough

In Silicon Valley, which has long been considered the main lab for the great e-commerce experiment, shoppers are relatively unfazed by the recent attacks. It may be because technology is not as foreign to some of them as it still is to much of middle America, or it may be that they are keeping it all in perspective.

A poll of 400 Santa Clara, California adults indicates that although 70 percent of respondents have concerns about future attacks, 63 percent will not allow the temporary inconvenience of last week’s incidents to affect their future use of the Internet for online purchases.

However, 34 percent of wired respondents did say that they plan to change their shopping habits somewhat due to the attacks, according to the report conducted by opinion research firm McGuire Research Services. Of those, 17 percent said they will cut back on online transactions, nine percent said they will not do business on the Internet until they are convinced it is more secure, and seven percent said they will change their online habits, but they have not decided how.

The biggest effect may have been on those residents who are not yet wired. Of those, 68 percent said they were not confident about the Internet as a place of business. Of those who are wired, 30 percent expressed concern about hackers gaining access to their financial transactions, and 33 percent said they are very concerned that they will be somehow inconvenienced by a shutdown of sites they had used.

What About the Morning After?

The greatest unknown is how the recent shutdowns will affect future online business. Research already indicates that the recent crises could discourage some shoppers, especially women.

As reported last month in the E-Commerce Times, women as a consumer group are already a tough sell for online merchants, and security is the number one reason.

According to research from Cyber Dialogue, 90 percent of online women say that guaranteed transaction security influences their repeat visits to online shopping sites. Whether last week’s multiple security lapses will reinforce that hesitation among women remains to be seen.

For the moment, e-commerce is still alive and well. However, if any future attacks result in theft or significantly compromise the privacy of shoppers’ personal information, consumer confidence in shopping online could falter.

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