Uh-oh. Just when you thought e-commerce might survive these dreary days, a new report comes along that says online merchants didn’t do nearly as well last year as they could have done. Why, you ask? Because online shopping is just too scary for some people.

According to research results released mid-March by Javelin Strategy and Research (working with eBillMe and First Data), consumers’ fear of identity theft, and of Internet shopping in general, caused retailers to miss out on $21 billion in online sales in 2008. Ouch.

Some stats: Of those surveyed, 39% believe that online stores will sell their information; 50% believe they will receive junk mail and spam if they shop online. And 12% of fraud victims report they no longer shop online at all, while 25% say that the frequency of their online purchases has decreased.

So what’s a kind and gentle marketer to do? Multichannel Merchant reports that, according to the survey results, the top-five motivating factors that would convince consumers to shop more frequently are:

  • Assurance that information is secure (83%).
  • Offering zero liability against identity theft (81%).
  • Stronger security at the store Web site (80%).
  • A guarantee that the purchase will match the quality expectations of consumers (80%).
  • A guarantee for the best price online (79%).

It’s time to reach out and touch your fearful customers. Be as upfront as possible about your privacy policy, and offer satisfaction and security guarantees to help them feel safer in these uncertain times.

Source: Multichannel Merchant.