Going online shopping with caution
BIZLINKS - Rey Gamboa (The Philippine Star) - December 13, 2018 - 12:00am

The 11.11 and 12.12 online sales have ended, but the Christmas season still has more than 10 days left. While brick-and-mortar stores continue to retain value and loyalty from many customers, online gift hunting is definitely on the upswing.

Not only do we have more online shops like Lazada, Zalora, and Shopee fighting tooth-and-nail to grab customer attention, the big guns of business are also moving to ensure that they are able to corner a portion of the online trade.

There’s been a flurry of share acquisitions, not only with buying-and-selling platforms, but also with carriers that are needed to deliver goods bought via the online channels. Partnerships with known retail outlets like SM (through SM Investments Corp.) and e-commerce start-ups are likewise a trend.

These, plus the perennial traffic congestion in urban areas in the Philippines, especially where malls are located and during the long Christmas season, are pushing more Filipinos to use online commerce sites to purchase not only gifts, but even everyday needs.

Alibaba connection

If Alibaba’s success can be used as an input to how successful online shopping in the Philippines can be, we should see the customer levels go sky high in a few years.

Alibaba, which is China’s biggest online retailer, owns a controlling stake in Lazada. The adoption of the now increasingly popular 11.11 sale, and followed up by 12.12, is partly due to Alibaba, which popularized 11.11 in China in 2009 with a Single’s Day shopping bonanza.

(In China, the date 11.11 is read as one-one-one-one, and emphasizes the single digit. It became an anti-Valentine’s Day celebration in the ’90s among students, and Alibaba saw the commercial opportunity in this when it launched its Single’s Day sale.)

Alibaba’s Single’s Day sale has surpassed the US’s Cyber Monday sale for online purchases made within 24 hours for many years now, largely because of the high 37 percent of Chinese shoppers that purchase goods using their smartphones.

In the Philippines, online shopping is not as vibrant as China’s or even immediate neighbors like Indonesia and Thailand, but the prospects are bright. Research firm Statista puts revenues from e-commerce in the Philippines this year at $840 million, and steadily growing by an average of 10. 5 percent annually until 2023.

The country also has a high percentage of Filipinos that connect to the internet, now at 60 percent, despite the poverty, inability of telecommunication companies to service far-flung areas, and the low access to fixed broadband services.

Beware of cybercrimes

If you’re into online shopping, there’s that practical side of you where you can catch a lot of bargain purchases without necessarily stepping out of your house. Still, be warned that there’s a lot of cybercrime that revolves around online shopping.

Here are a few reminders to ensure that you get your money’s worth and at the same time enjoy what you bought with your hard-earned money.

First would be to transact your online purchases using a secured Wi-Fi, like a virtual private network (VPN). If you’re using your home Wi-Fi, make sure that the password is secure against possible malicious free-loaders.

There are many ways to check if someone other than those in your household are using your line, or worse, trying to pry into your private accounts. Use them regularly to check just how secure your network is.

If you need to use a public Wi-Fi, choose one from a reputable store. These establishments usually have their own security protocols to protect customers who use their network.

Never use a public Wi-Fi like those in malls to make an online purchase. The risk is just too great. It’s best to turn on your mobile data instead. By using a public hotspot, you may have saved a few pesos, but in the end may lose more if some cybercriminal gets hold of your credit card details.

Avoid using computers of cyber cafes. These public places may have prying eyes that watch out for people who take out their credit cards to pay for online purchases. If you must, make sure that there’s no one at your back who may be spying on the numbers you are typing in.

Secure passwords

Having a strong password that is difficult to crack is always a good measure when doing online purchases. This helps beat the usual practice of online shoppers to keep their passwords unchanged for months, even years. Read up on tips on how to create strong, secure passwords.

You can also choose to have a password manager that can create a series of letters and numbers that are secure enough to be hack proof. The password manager will even keep track and remember your password, removing your worry that you might forget the new password you created.

Use a money wallet on your phone. Several apps allow you to load your virtual wallet from convenient terminals. Using your phone to pay for purchases has become much more secure these days than having your credit card details skimmed by card readers.

Visa debit cards also allow relatively secure online purchases. The new chips in debit cards keep your purchases safe by sending out randomized card numbers whenever used. Avail of message alerts from your bank to inform you if any purchases are made on your card.

You may also opt to set aside a debit card where purchases are capped to limit damage by fraudulent transactions. There are other reminders, such as trusting secure sites only. Be prudent whenever you make an online purchase, and never give information more than is needed.

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We are actively using two social networking websites to reach out more often and even interact with and engage our readers, friends and colleagues in the various areas of interest that I tackle in my column. Please like us on www.facebook.com/ReyGamboa and follow us on www.twitter.com/ReyGamboa.

Should you wish to share any insights, write me at Link Edge, 25th Floor, 139 Corporate Center, Valero Street, Salcedo Village, 1227 Makati City. Or e-mail me at reydgamboa@yahoo.com. For a compilation of previous articles, visit www.BizlinksPhilippines.net.

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