Despite these healthy growth figures, around 20 million people, or 55% of the UK adult population, have yet to experience online shopping. Concern among consumers over the security of their personal details, together with fear of technology, are thought to be the main factors inhibiting take-up. In a recent poll carried out by e-payment specialist WorldPay, some 30% of the 250 firms polled said they felt the greatest barriers to trading online are issues of shopper trust.

This has become something of a burning issue for smaller online retailers. Big-brand retailers that have started online operations do not generally have a problem establishing their credibility and commanding the trust of consumers; the brand does that for them. Smaller retailers, lacking this brand value, need some other method of credibly establishing their trustworthiness.

This is where independent merchant verification programmes can help. There has been much debate recently about the need for consumers to validate their identity when buying online – why should the same principles not apply to retailers?

Credibility boost to online retailers

Over the past three years, various organisations have launched accreditation schemes aimed at independently verifying the identity and integrity of online retailers. These schemes ultimately enable shoppers to buy online with more confidence, positively influencing the amount of business done online. Despite best intentions, not all the schemes have been successful.

The 'Which? Webtrader' and Securicor 'Safedoor' schemes, for example, have closed down and the Euro-Label scheme, backed by the European Commission, doesn't appear to have made much of an impression.

However, experts at the Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG), the industry body for e-retailing, have created a more effective system – the Internet Shopping is Safe (ISIS) campaign and its associated Safe Shops List.

With the help of WorldPay, the Safe Shops List has recently been redeveloped in a more extensive form; it now lists over 400 online retailers by type, from major household names (Argos, Boots, Marks and Spencer, amongst others) to small traders, each of whom have been vetted by IMRG and have signed up to a written Code of Practice governing their business activities.

There are benefits to both retailers and consumers alike. Listed retailers can display the ISIS logo on their website, which reassures shoppers that they are shopping on a site that takes its obligations to them seriously. Shoppers can use the List to quickly locate trustworthy merchants supplying appropriate goods.

WorldPay's Managing Director, Ron Kalifa, explained ISIS thus: “I believe the key to unlocking the success of the initiative and giving it momentum is that it is essentially an industry initiative that, with backing from WorldPay, can quickly gain the scale needed to be noticed and to make a difference, across potentially thousands of merchants.”

How to be included on the Safe Shops List

Businesses that are trading online can sign up to be included on the ISIS Safe Shops List at: http://isis.imrg.org/screens/MerchantRegistrationTermsAndConditions.asp. The cost of a year's listing is £125 plus VAT and retailers are required to submit information about their business, which will be verified as a condition of sign-up. WorldPay merchants benefit from special pricing terms, as the company is a primary supporter of ISIS. For more information on ISIS and the Safe Shops List, visit www.imrg.org/isis