Embroker Team April 8, 2024 10 min read

Ecommerce Businesses Insurance: Unique Risks and Needs for Online Businesses

Woman in workplace researching ecommerce business insurance on a computer

If you run an online business, you definitely need ecommerce business insurance. No one can deny that the arrival of ecommerce has had a huge impact on our society, making it easier than ever for people to buy and sell all imaginable products and services without having to do so at a particular physical location. And as is the case with anything new and revolutionary, the invention often brings with it new perils and risks that may not have existed before its invention.

Ecommerce sellers can reach a worldwide audience and aren’t restricted by geography – as they were in the world of brick-and-mortar retail – but being able to cast that net wider than ever increases the business’s liability. Ecommerce is a unique industry, so it’s no surprise that the risk profile of this industry is equally unique and nuanced.

The fact that the ecommerce industry is growing at an incredibly fast rate is yet another reason for e-retailers to make sure that they are well prepared for the many risks that can arise from such rapid growth. According to recent studies, retail ecommerce sales will increase to $4.058 trillion in 2020 and will make up more than 14% of total worldwide spending.

One of the main reasons behind the industry’s fast growth is that e-commerce is incredibly easy for a businessperson to enter. Even if you don’t want to put together your own e-commerce site, third-parties such as Amazon, Alibaba, and Etsy provide a platform for selling your products.

With so many new, somewhat unexplored business models being created from the rapid growth of ecommerce, it’s easy to understand how joining such an industry as a business owner comes with a set of specific business risks that you might not have encountered earlier, especially if you’re coming from a traditional retail background.

The Unique Risks of Ecommerce: Why Ecommerce Businesses Need Insurance

Computer next to files outlining ecommerce business insurance

Certainly, not everything is completely different when comparing ecommerce and traditional stores. There are risks that both business models share, and there are some that can be avoided by going online, such as the risk of customers slipping and injuring themselves in your physical store.

However, the introduction of the Internet as the bridge between sellers and buyers and the new risks associated with this infrastructure cannot be downplayed.

Cyber Risks

When it comes to cyber attacks, ecommerce is one of the most besieged industries, with 32.4% of all cyber attacks targeting this industry. Ecommerce websites are a goldmine for sensitive information, especially buyers’ credit card information. Data breaches in which this sensitive, personal information is leaked, stolen, or used are one of the greatest risks that businesses face. Another common risk is a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack in which hackers will flood an ecommerce website using botnets to crash the store, leading to downtime, loss of revenue, and unhappy customers.

Believe it or not, causing damage to third-party computer software, networks, or data is also a real risk. For example, if a virus somehow infiltrated the company’s online store or email client and, as a result, a customer’s computer suffered damages, there could be grounds for a lawsuit against the ecommerce business.

Product Liability Issues

Much like regular retailers, ecommerce businesses also need to worry about product liability issues because any product or service sold can malfunction and result in some type of injury whether you’re selling toys or software.

The most common product liability claims result from defectively manufactured or designed products or a failure to provide adequate warnings or instructions for the product. It should be noted that these issues can affect your ecommerce business even if you are selling products and services that were created by others. As long as you are in that chain of distribution, claims can be filed against you if there’s something wrong with the product.

Professional Liability Concerns

Since most e-commerce transactions and deals are made online, contracts are usually entered into and promises are made before the transaction occurs. So, if your e-commerce business made a mistake or delivered products or services that were not up to specifications in terms of how they worked or when they arrived, you can be sued if your actions resulted in your customer losing money.

Privacy Issues

Something ecommerce businesses need to do is gather information about their clients, customers, and visitors. If you are not doing that in a way that is clearly stated and transparent, you run the risk of liability for infringement, invasion, or interference with rights of privacy. The arrival of GDPR regulations in Europe, in addition to existing US Federal and State laws that protect the privacy rights of all online citizens, has made it incredibly important for all websites to be very transparent and upfront about what type of information they are taking from visitors, even those who have no intention of buying anything from the store.

Intellectual Property Infringement

Intellectual property is another area in which the complex business models of ecommerce can result in risk you might not even consider. Even if you are insured properly against the risk of infringement of patent, trademark, copyright, right of publicity, and so on, there are gaps that arise from the nature of ecommerce advertising. For example, an ecommerce store could face liability related to a third party’s advertisement that is found on its website. If the advertisement infringes on some other party’s intellectual property and you are allowing that advertisement to be featured on your website, it could also be your problem.

Woman pointing at person holding laptop displaying security protection shield to demonstrate an online business with ecommerce business insurance coverage

Having discussed some of the more unique risks related to ecommerce, it’s also important to know that online businesses still need to address more common risk factors that they share with just about every other type of business.

Here’s a list of some of the most important ecommerce business insurance coverages all online businesses should secure in order to cover both everyday, common risks and those specific to the industry.

General Liability Insurance: Usually considered the foundation of any risk management program, general liability insurance covers third-party bodily injury and property damage claims. If you plan on leasing an office, you’re going to need general liability coverage. If anyone visits your office and suffers an injury, this will cover your legal obligations and other potential expenses. However, if you are initially operating out of your home, do not presume your Homeowners policy will protect you. Homeowners insurance policies have restrictions and exclusions regarding business activities. The best option is securing a separate policy for your commercial venture to assure the business is properly insured.

Product Liability Insurance: As stated earlier, product liability insurance is essential coverage for ecommerce businesses because the products are at the center of your operations. Any product that you sell creates a potential for a lawsuit if a customer is injured while using that product. Manufacturing defects, design flaws or improper/inaccurate instructions or warnings can generate severe liabilities for any ecommerce business, regardless of your role in the distribution chain. Consequently, purchasing product liability insurance as part of the general liability policy is a prudent business decision that should not be taken lightly. Also, it is important to note that product liability insurance is not included under a Homeowners policy.

Your insurance broker needs to understand your business process to give the insurance company an accurate picture of the risks associated with your product.

In this regard, make sure that your suppliers are properly insured, providing you a certificate of insurance that includes your interest as an Additional Insured before any business is conducted. Making certain that your suppliers are properly insured gives you an extra layer of protection should issues arise concerning your product. Your ultimate insurance cost will be directly impacted by the amount of risk you clearly transfer back to your suppliers.

Cyber Insurance: Ecommerce and other online-first businesses are the most vulnerable to risks that the proper cyber insurance policy can protect against. Since all ecommerce businesses process transactions and collect a great deal of personal information from customers, they are a prime target for hackers and cybercriminals. If you collect any personal information from your clients or partners, if you require people to log in to your website to make purchases, or if you integrate with other systems and share client information with them, you need cyber liability insurance.

Since all ecommerce businesses process transactions and collect a lot of personal information from customers, they are a prime target for hackers and cybercriminals. All potential lawsuits, fines, penalties, settlements, and discovery and investigation expenses arising from a cyber attack or data breach will be covered by a comprehensive cyber insurance policy.

Technology Errors & Omissions Insurance: Product liability, cyber, and tech E&O can be considered the holy trinity of coverages for ecommerce businesses. The combination of the products liability and cyber address situations involving physical injuries caused by your product, and the unauthorized disclosure of proprietary information, respectively.

Breakdown Rounding this out, technology errors and omissions insures against claims arising from the failure of your product to perform its intended purpose or any errors related to the services you offer in conjunction with your product. No matter where the issue originates and whether it’s directly related to your operations or indirectly to the technology involved in the process, you are at risk from claims. Consequently, the need for technology errors and omissions to complete your insurance program is critical.

Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI): Protects your company against claims related to workplace harassment, discrimination, wrongful termination, and similar issues if you have employees.

Commercial Crime Insurance: Commercial crime insurance protects your company from potential crimes committed by your employees and third parties. In ecommerce, most of these crimes are related to embezzlement, fraudulent transactions and robberies involving your inventory while in storage or transit, for example.

Directors & Officers Insurance: All startups, regardless of industry, should have D&O insurance to protect company leaders against lawsuits alleging a breach of fiduciary duty or mismanagement. It allows them to run the company aggressively and confidently without the fear of personal financial loss. Having D&O insurance will also assist in the recruitment process for strong leaders, assuring them they will not be at risk while serving your company. In addition, maintaining this coverage can enhance the opportunity for you to attract venture capital to expand your growth potential.

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Workers Compensation Insurance: State regulations require you to purchase workers compensation coverage if you have any employees. This policy will pay for all medical costs and lost wages resulting from an employee’s work-related injury. Usually, the cost of coverage for ecommerce businesses tends to be relatively low, since most online businesses tend to be minimum hazards. However, if you manage a warehouse where employees carry large boxes and work with heavy machinery such as forklifts, then your workers’ compensation insurance costs will be greater.

Cargo Insurance: If you own a warehouse, rely upon a third party to store your goods, or ship your products directly to your customers and other distributors, then cargo insurance is definitely coverage you will need. This coverage protects you from physical loss of inventory, while in storage or being transported.

What does Ecommerce Business Insurance Cost?

So, how much does the package of policies for e-commerce business insurance cost? And how does an underwriter arrive at a premium suitable for the risks associated with your online business?

Your ecommerce business insurance premiums depend on various factors. Such as the number of employees you have in your online business, your projected revenue over the next year, the risk associated with the services you offer, and your claims history.

Highly-Publicized Examples of Insurance at Work for Ecommerce Retailers

  • Art.com allegedly accessed Gotham City’s servers illegally and changed the security passwords and ownership credentials to prevent Gotham City employees from accessing email or company files. The lawsuit alleges that Art.com copied and altered Gotham City files, including files containing information about consumers who shop at Gotham City and stole computer code and other intellectual property. See: Art.com sued for allegedly stealing information from ecommerce retailer

If you are ready to look into purchasing the right insurance policies for your business, you can get your instant Ecommerce business insurance quote with Embroker in just a few minutes by signing up to our risk-free platform

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