In my previous article ‘Go multichannel and compare!’, I looked at how shoppers hunt for the best bargain, the companies which cater to those needs, and the impact this has on retail in general. This month, I would like to discuss consumer trust in online retail stores – what lengths are retailers going to build and maintain customer trust online, and why it is important.
Online shopping is quite different to traditional shopping in the sense that you cannot touch, smell or use the product you wish to buy until it’s delivered to your door. Instead, purchasing decisions are based solely on the customer’s online shopping experience and the confidence they build through that experience. A quick response, industry product knowledge, other customer reviews, rich content and a strong policy are critical for building trust, and having happy customers come back. Lose your customers’ trust at any point in the relationship, and you’ll not only lose their custom, but you are likely to attract bad publicity which will have a long-term impact on your business.
While the last few years have done a lot to make consumers more comfortable with the idea of internet shopping, more needs to be done to convince people to buy online. Making a purchase online especially a substantial one, can be a nerve-wracking process for a consumer. And it’s especially true for retailers that are selling high-ticket items and also when consumers are buying something they might consider a luxury. Take a holiday; it’s a major purchase for most of us not just because it’s expensive, but because it’s the one purchase we look forward to all year.
So how do online-only retailers instil trust in their brand?
A big part of building trust with your customers is your presentation; therefore, it’s vital that you have a website which turns visitors into paying customers. The very fact that they’re browsing your online store is a good indicator that they’re prepared to consider buying. What you do to convince them, and the effectiveness of your efforts, may be the deciding factor in a possible sale. A familiar, easy-to-navigate interface can go a long way toward establishing the trust you’re after.
Retailers must also provide honest and transparent information on their site, to reassure customers that they are genuine. This is imperative when it comes to pricing as online shoppers want to research and compare prices with other retailers to be assured that they are getting the best deal. In addition, customers expect a clear information trail, from the moment they make a purchase through to delivery. Indeed, keeping customers up-to-date with product and order information is essential when building trust.
Online-only retailers need to get their customer service just right. Of course, it’s important for high-street retailers – you can’t win and keep customers without it – but for online retailers, customer service is the only way to connect with shoppers. Making sure your online shop assistants meet the needs of e-shoppers who are often extremely sophisticated, demanding instant information, multiple communications channels and personalised interactive service, is key. Because of the internet, people expect trusted brands to move with the times and be available online. Thankfully, social media has made that easy to do.
Your customers will perceive you as being more accessible if you are seen as being in all the same social media places as they are. Being everywhere instils a sense of trust in your customer’s mind - they see you offering great advice about a product or service, and they want to be closer to that. If they can get in touch with you directly, they are more likely to trust what you are saying.
ASOS, the UK’s largest online-only fashion and beauty store, is a great example of this. The retailer leads the way in many respects to online, running a part of its customer service online with its very own ASOS Here to Help (@ASOS_HeretoHelp) feed on Twitter. The page enables shoppers to tweet ASOS’s customer service team with a query, and receive almost instant feedback online. ASOS demonstrates to its customers that it sees the social media platform as more than just a promotional tool, but as a way to become more engaged with their online communities. The service is strengthened with a transparent returns policy, which enables shoppers to return any item within 28 days of receipt for a refund.
The most successful retailers on social platforms are the ones that seek customers to not only start conversations, but to join conversations already taking place. Kiddicare, the UK’s largest online retailer of baby products, has set itself apart from competitors by developing a site which provides a fully integrated shopping experience. The site uses rich media to explain technical products online, including video ‘How to” guides, which provide step-by-step product demonstrations. The innovative ‘Kiddicare Community’ enables shoppers to interact with one another online, as well as receive instant one-to-one feedback from the customer service department. The community means that customers become Kiddicare’s biggest advocates, providing feedback on products online. Shoppers can read product reviews, and see how the company interacts with its customers online – helping to instil trust through open and honest communication.
Building customer trust online is vital to the success of online-only retailers, especially in a competitive market place. Online shoppers have high expectations of e-retailers, including a customer-focussed website with detailed product information, and a strong customer service with a no quibble returns policy. For too long, e-retail has been seen as a method of self-service that allows brands to cut customer service to the bone. Retailers that realise modern shoppers want stores to go above and beyond to meet their needs will thrive.