Last update: 18/11/2021

More and more people choose to buy and sell things online; but what should we bear in mind and which are the safest methods of payment? Find the answers to the most frequently asked questions about e-commerce here. 

It’s your mother’s birthday in three days and you haven’t bought her a present. In dire straits, you start to browse the Internet for something to surprise her. You check out one website after another until you finally buy her the perfect gift. Do you realize you’ve just used e-commerce? 

What is e-commerce?

E-commerce is the buying and selling of goods and services on websites, mobile apps and even social networks

According to some estimates, more than 75% of Internet users aged 16 to 64 have made purchases online. Indonesia leads the e-commerce ranking, followed by the UK and Thailand. 

Right now, over 90% of Internet users worldwide have visited an online store; almost 70% of them have done it using an app on their phone or tablet.

Still, e-commerce and real commerce often cross paths. Some companies sell exclusively via online platforms that showcase their products and disclose their sales policies; but many others still market their products and services in stores.

Learn about e-commerce trends and facts in the “E-commerce white book” in this article (in Spanish) on Finanzas para Mortales (Finance for Mortals)

Why is e-commerce important?

Online stores are part of many consumers’ day-to-day. More and more of us are visiting them at such a staggering rate that it’s displacing store purchases. Some of e-commerce’s advantages are:  

  • It’s easy: It saves us time and money we’d spend going to the store for goods and services. 
  • It’s always open: The Internet lets us visit online stores anytime, anywhere. All we need to do is connect our mobile, computer, tablet or any smart device
  • It’s immediate: we can see the store’s stock of a T-shirt, electric toothbrush or whatever we want to buy in real time. E-commerce also makes it easy to find out products’ features, with size calculators based on our height and weight and other tools.

Is e-commerce safe?

With e-commerce, it’s “safety first”. Even though companies work hard to ensure customers feel safe, it’s important to be mindful of online security. Here are some simple tips: 

  • Check the online store’s URL or website: If you see “https” or a lock icon at the beginning, it means the website encrypts (“puts in code”) our data. You should directly enter the website in your browser’s address bar instead of using shared links.
  • Watch out for malware: If you don’t recognize the email address contacting you, haven't asked for information or don’t have an account, do not download anything or click on any links. Sometimes, an email can look like a popular brand or company but actually be a ruse to steal your password and secret information. We call this phishing. When in doubt, confirm the email from the sender on a trusted channel and never follow the information on it.
  • Choose secure passwords: Many websites require you to create a password to make purchases. You should create a new password on each one. We recommend it be a “passphrase” (or a code based on more than three words), which is both hard to crack and easy to remember.  
  • Report suspicious activity: Report any odd situation or behaviour (e.g. a profile you think is fake or a potentially infected website) to the company or the authorities on the appropriate channels. Early notification will allow experts to activate a contingency plan quickly and help protect others.

Download and share this practical infographic with some simple steps to make your online purchases more secure.

Find out more about e-commerce safety in this article (in Spanish) on the Openbank blog

What's the most common payment method for e-commerce?

In countries like Spain, the most common payment method is a credit or debit card. Still, companies usually offer other ways to pay, including:

  • PayPal: it’s one of the most popular e-commerce companies. Its secure service conceals consumers’ information from whoever will receive payment, even if their account is linked to a credit or debit card, PayPal balance or bank account. It also provides protection insurance for unreceived purchases, items that don’t match the seller's description and other things. 
  • Transfer: it’s when a bank sends funds to a recipient (beneficiary) at the request of its customer (issuer). Transfers can be regular (taking more than a day); urgent (performed on the day they're ordered); or immediate. 
  • Cash on delivery: the owed amount is paid when the order is received. Consumers only use merchants’ online platform to make, manage or return an order without providing such banking details as an account number or credit card. 
  • Bizum (in Spain only): This payment method is gaining popularity with merchants in Spain because it’s so easy to use. Users only need to give the merchant’s authorized telephone number. Bizum does not give our bank account or details about financial products we own. 

Learn more about these and other safe, online payment methods in this article (in Spanish) on Tu Futuro Próximo, the blog of Santander Consumer España

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