How to research a company that exists solely online

You wouldn’t marry a complete stranger (unless you are on some kind of tasteless reality TV show), and you wouldn’t spend the week in a log cabin with a bunch of random people you’ve never met.

So why would you do business with a company that you know nothing about?

The internet has given us many gifts, but aside from price comparison websites and the tap-dancing cat videos, there’s also thousands of new businesses emerging as solely online enterprises. And that can make it very difficult to build trust in them when they don’t have a ‘physical’ presence.

Take the world of online trading, be it stocks, foreign currency or something else – there are investors who are handing over considerable sums of money to businesses that they know nothing about.That alone reveals how much trust we place in firms whose backgrounds can be difficult to trace.

And this leads us nicely to our first point: doing your research is absolutely key. By reading reviews and doing your homework, you can compile a list of safe online brokers that you can use.

This is just one sector, of course, but the basic tenets of finding out about companies that exist only online remain the same across the board.

 Doing the hard yards

There’s the old cliché that ‘talk is cheap’.

What that basically means is that anybody can say anything they want, and that is particularly true online. A business can give themselves a sparkling write-up, making bold claims about their customer service and the quality of the products/services they provide.

So we should be seeking independent verification, and that’s where review websites come in so handy. We really should be seeking out the opinions of those who have already been in our shoes – what was their experience with the company in question?

When we can access a large number of reviews, we gain an even greater insight into the firm. Do they consistently review well? Has the nature of the reviews about them changed over time…be it for better or worse? After all, not even the biggest of companies always get it right.

It’s true that online reviews should be taken with a pinch of salt at times but, as a general guide, this is a fantastic way to learn more about a business that exists solely online.

 Put a face to the name

Another way we can learn more about an online business is to find out who runs the company and their prior history in the particular industry.

All businesses have to declare who their directors are, and this information isn’t too difficult to find. LinkedIn is an excellent starting point, and you can often find out who the management team are behind a company in this way.

Social media is another useful tool to find out more about company owners, and not only can you learn their identities but you can also discover their views and opinions on a wide range of topics – that may help you to decide whether you want to do business with them or not.

 Read all about it

Search engines are a fantastic tool to find out more about a company.

Type the business’s name into Google or another search engine – or that of the managing directors – and you can take a quick scan through their news history…good, bad or otherwise.

News stories of this kind can run the full gamut – from charitable donations and mergers/acquisitions to press that the company would rather you didn’t find out about – it’s important to take the time to find out more, either way.

It won’t take too long to get an idea about a business, and you might be thankful that you did.

 Terms and conditions

An interesting tactic you can deploy to find out more about a business is to read their terms and conditions, privacy policies and other relevant documentation on their website.

This data will reveal how the business processes refunds and complaints, whether or not you have recourse on a purchase and whether there are contract cancellation policies in place that let you walk away without charge.

The privacy policy may also detail how they use your personal data. Will they sell your phone number or email address to third parties and/or marketing companies? Will your information be stored safely, and destroyed after a specific period of time?

By following all of the steps listed above, you will put ‘meat on the bones’ of a company that exists solely online and learn plenty about them. Ultimately, that information may determine whether you do business with them or not.


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