Internet commerce is exploding and predicted to continue growing at a rapid rate for several more years. Online businesses that have a desire to tap into this Internet commerce explosion are seeking ways to convince online browsers to become online purchasers. To achieve this goal, businesses need to find ways to alleviate consumers' fears and concerns about making online purchases. This paper reports on a series of three studies focused on (1) determining the fears and concerns that online consumers have, (2) examining whether the leading brands of web assurance seals (Verisign®, TRUSTe, Good House Keeping, and CPA WebTrust) can help alleviate those fears and concerns, and (3) gaining insights into the process by which web assurance seals can influence consumers' online purchase decisions.

This study identified seven distinct concerns that consumers had with purchasing goods/services online. Factor analysis revealed that these concerns were along two dimensions: concerns about the firm and concerns about technology. It was found that the leading brands of web assurance seals addressed only a few of the online purchasers' fears and concerns, and there was a big gap between consumers' needs for assurance and what they felt was being offered by the web seals. Further, it was also found that the process by which web assurance seals influenced consumers' online purchase behavior involved recognition of and familiarity with a particular web assurance seal, and possibly the number of associations consumers made with a particular web assurance seal.

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