Amongst the multitude of priorities that small businesses face in these tough economic times, a customer's online experience is arguably at the top of the agenda. Volumes of card payments have increased exponentially in recent years as has consumer usage of the internet for e-commerce and banking. As a result, SMEs need to ensure they have the facilities in place to not only build a fully functioning store that can process payments and card transactions but also to support the growing trend for m-commerce from the same store front. Underpinning this is the need to counteract fraudsters who are constantly challenging these platforms with increasingly sophisticated scams. In order to do this online retailers are increasingly using platforms, such as On4, which offer a one-stop shop in addressing these challenges.

With consumers not only swayed by price but also convenience the online shopping channel needs to be as slick and straightforward as possible in order to encourage purchases and loyalty. However, with internet fraud on the rise consumers continue to fear inputting their credit and debit card details online. This is not surprising given that in April 2010 the Home Office reported that credit card fraud is now the most common type of fraud. It actually grew 40% from 2008 to 2009 with 4.7% of card holders falling victim to fraud in 2009. Predictably, the report pointed out the correlation between the surge in card fraud and the uptake of e-commerce.

Keeping up with the latest phishing scam, computer virus, fraudster or identity thief is no easy feat and as a result the online industry as a whole is struggling. In order to protect their business, SMEs, especially those at the smaller end of the scale, need to recognise that online security is one of the biggest issues facing customers and should be considered a top priority. A fraudulent online payment not only has a significant impact on bottom line but can also heavily affect reputation and loyalty. As a result, small companies need to ensure that their online payment facilities are as up to date and effective as possible in order to guarantee security for both their customers and themselves.

While initiatives such as MasterCard SecureCode and Verified by Visa have positively impacted fraud figures, they require consumers to remember passwords and log in details, which are widely considered a cumbersome burden. Additionally, security company Trusteer recently warned of a new variant of the Zeus malware trojan that mimics the Verified by Visa and MasterCard SecureCode enrolment screen to rip sensitive data and passwords from PC users. The information gathered is then used by fraudsters to commit 'card not present' transactions with retailers that employ Verified by Visa and MasterCard SecureCode protection.

With this in mind it is no surprise that forward thinking SMEs are looking to offer alternative ways for their customer base to authorise transactions in a bid to fight fraudsters, reinstate confidence and differentiate themselves in the market. One such option that is coming to the fore is biometric technology, one of the most advanced methods of identity verification and authorisation.

PCurrently three times as many people own a mobile phone as use theinternet, which makes the mobile channel a huge opportunity for SMEs

Rather than increasing passwords and hardware the beauty of voice biometrics is in its simplicity. For consumers, an account such as VoicePay® allows authorisation of financial transactions and identity confirmation via mobile phone using a unique pre-stored Voice SignatureTM. VoicePay® account holders simply click on the VoicePay® icon on a retailer's website, which triggers a call to their mobile phone where they can authorise the transaction using their own unique Voice SignatureTM, avoiding the need to disclose credit, debit and PIN details online.

By allowing customers to authorise transactions through a biometric account such as VoicePay®, retailers are able to address key customer concerns. For example, as customers no longer need to enter their credit or debit card details when paying online, they have no need to worry about the site's safety and thus a primary obstacle standing in the way of a purchase is removed. Not only is the customer experience enhanced but the chances of the merchant receiving a fraudulent payment or an unauthorised payment - for example, from a child using a parent's card - become virtually non-existent. To back this up, VoicePay® guarantees to reimburse any of its merchant customers who fall victim to a fraudulent attack when VoicePay® was used.

As well as addressing the security issues associated with e-commerce, voice biometric technology negates the risk associated with m-commerce. Today there are over four billion mobile phones in use worldwide - meaning that over 70% of the world's population carries one. Moving quickly from calls and text messages through to seven megapixel cameras and high speed internet access, consumers now have the means to buy products, check bank accounts and make payments, all from a device that fits into the palm of their hands.

According to Ovum, the value of goods bought by UK shoppers using mobile devices is going to more than double over the next three years. Such a prediction, along with the latest Gartner research, which estimates a 54% rise in UK mobile payments from 2009 to 2010, serves to illustrate that the trend of increasing mobile usage shows no signs of stopping. As a result SMEs can also use On4 to support all their m-commerce activities. The platform's inbuilt m-commerce capabilities allow advertising and the promotion of products and services through traditional media, mobile marketing and click to buy capabilities within social media or search engine websites.

Currently three times as many people own a mobile phone as use the internet, which makes the mobile channel a huge opportunity for SMEs. On4 helps them capitalise on this, starting at an online store level and then providing an m-commerce consumer solution through VoicePay, which makes the environment easier and safer to purchase within.

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