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Company Says Safety Seal Boosts Conversions

Web site security auditor ScanAlert claims that in recent tests, sites displaying its certification seal experienced 10 percent to 33 percent increases in conversion-to-sale rates.

For $149 per server monthly, ScanAlert, Napa, CA, says it runs daily security tests of Web sites and offers third-party certification for those it deems safe from hacker break-ins. Sites that pass display the ScanAlert Hacker Safe logo. The 12-person company debuted the service in October.

“The perception of security risk is much greater when people are online,” said Ken Leonard, vice president of marketing at ScanAlert. “You've got a situation where more than half of users of the Internet still absolutely refuse to use their credit cards, and it's largely because of perceived risk.”

One in 20 online shoppers have experienced credit card fraud, and about 1 percent have experienced identity theft, according to Gartner Inc.

ScanAlert claims that 80 percent of Web sites' customer data is vulnerable to hackers, and that 99.9 percent of hacker break-ins are easily preventable.

It also says its seal is on more than 50,000 sites.

“Our service does have teeth,” Leonard said. “They have to pass daily security audits. If they don't, the image disappears. A credible independent certification is what consumers take our mark to be.”

To demonstrate the effects of its seal, ScanAlert claims it tested 283,780 visitors at 10 Web sites between October and April.

Half the visitors were assigned a “yes” cookie (tracking technology), and half were assigned a “no” cookie. Those who received a “yes” cookie saw the Hacker Safe certification logo on the first visit and all subsequent visits in the test period, ScanAlert said. Visitors who got a “no” cookie did not see the logo. Visitors who had their cookies turned off weren't counted.

Binoculars.com, a $6 million company, sampled 25,000 visitors and saw a 32 percent rise in conversion rates for shoppers who were greeted with a home page displaying the Hacker Safe logo. BooksonTape.com sampled 40,760 visitors and got a 10.5 percent increase in conversion rates by visitors greeted with the logo.

High-end furniture merchant ClubFurniture.com sampled 52,648 visitors and experienced a 33 percent boost in conversion rates.

“All the bad press [concerning Web site security and data privacy] is still having a negative effect on e-commerce,” said Jeffrey King, vice president of marketing, ClubFurniture.com. “I think seeing the logo assured our customers that we've taken safeguards to hold back hackers.”

Merchants know that security issues affect their business, but most are unaware of how profound the effect is, Leonard said.

“The biggest single problem consumers face online is a feeling of safety, and if you address that, it will pay off,” he said. “We all underestimated the impact this [test] would have on their businesses.”

However, fewer than 2 percent of those greeted with the Hacker Safe logo clicked on it to see what is behind it.

“By and large, they are reacting to the fact that the merchant is addressing their primary concern,” Leonard said. “The first rule of business is 'address your customers' concerns.' E-commerce Web sites have missed this entirely because they don't know how to address it.”

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