I enjoyed reading Ventureburn’s recent article on trust in eCommerce and felt intrigued by this notion of trust and how to build it.
As the writer of the article correctly puts it, the real purpose (I call it opportunity) is “to see eCommerce as the enhancer of B&M retail and not the replacement.”
I am not convinced that consumers are losing trust in bricks and mortar shopping just because of recent robberies, shoppers are harder than that, but I do think this notion of building trust is an important ingredient in creating a meaningful and loyal relationship.
Whether in-store or online – and for certain the checkout is critical in eCommerce – the opportunity to build trust (or worse destroy trust) is not limited to the checkout process and is in fact scattered across the customer journey from the initial desire to buy, all the way through to the checkout page, actual delivery, the return and again in a kind of trust roller coaster ride.
I also don’t agree that you can build trust purely through technology, for some customers indeed the desire for human interaction or at least the knowledge that there are humans to default to, when the tech fails, is more important. Indeed, I would say that there is a huge difference in the cues that make the customer feel that you can be trusted, and actually being trusted.
Trust, in shopping, requires integrity on the part of the retailer by that I mean, delivering on your promise, consistently. Earning trust is about meeting or exceeding expectations. One cannot hope to build trust without actually closing the sale and the resulting experience that leaves the customer saying “oh, ok…so I gave them my money first, and then they delivered as promised. In B&M retail, customers give money and got goods simultaneously, gaining their trust in this instance is easier.
Inherently then, the online shopper is not necessarily more trusting than others, perhaps they are just less risk averse.
The Ventureburn article went on to say that 3 or more times the propensity for repeat purchase increases – lets assume then that all 3 of these experience have been positive ones. I, for one, am very forgiving if the experience is below par, but trust me after 3 strikes, you’re out! I believe that to be true in-store too.
I would like to expand on the key areas that were mentioned as “trust generators” – the article had them as the check out and online marketing – here are a few more critical touch points.
Create a positive eCommerce experience
The experience largely depends on the business category – buying music, tickets for instance requires less visceral experiences than fashion, groceries or for sake of a better description “tangible product”.
Beyond the checkout, design, merchandising, the delivery and the return cannot be overlooked in terms of their ability to earn trust.
Design – as in bricks and mortar, the store front, its windows, the general layout of the store play a crucial role in establishing, a feeling of trust. In digital, the homepage, the layout, ease of navigation, access to information, clarity of messaging are the corresponding visual cues that make the customer feel like you know what you are doing. Too often we find this part to be washed over and ignored. You are not building anything, if the customer does not want to buy.
Product Shots and information – ah yes, ye olde masterdata problem. How do you turn back the clocks and recapture (possibly even reshoot) every item you stock! In bricks and mortar, the shelf and the product packaging did that job. Great photography, multiple views or 360 views, detailed and well-written product descriptions are the silent salesman every eCommerce store needs in place. When there are no sales assistants on the floors to apply their silky (we hope) skills, an eCommerce store must have these aspects nailed down. Again if I cant trust you to help me, why would I trust you to deliver?
The Delivery – who cares about that? The customer has made the purchase, we got the money banked, just send it in an old cheap box. Did it arrive? Did the customer like it? Are they happy? Meh! Post purchase is the moment of truth that builds trust – it is, in some cases the first time in the journey that you meet the customer. This is where the relationship galvanizes. Do your delivery right, watch them share it with their friends as customers transform into Advocates.
The same goes for the Return Policy – it should be as easy as it is in the store – well, in some stores. My recent experience with a local online fashion outlet, made the process of returns into a series of small hoops that I had to jump through – they had sent me the wrong size, and I now it felt like I was doing all the hard work to get it back. Print this, stick that, one note in the box, the other on it – to be fair they were being really, really thorough, all I really wanted is easy.
In the end I didn’t get my jacket, neither did they get my money.
Finally I believe Social media, is another good place to earn valuable trust points. In terms of customer service and customer experience management ensuring that your social channels are constantly monitored, regularly updated and all enquiries are getting answered presents a positive foundation on which a new customer can measure your integrity. Complaints and the meaningful response to them is way to repair any loss of trust (bad experience) and in the public eye shows an appropriate level of willingness to meet expectations = trust.
There is no doubt that the actual opportunity presented to eCommerce does not lie in product or price or promotion or the technology. It lies in experience – the point at which the soft and gooey stuff can be applied in thick, warm layers. Its how you say “thanks, for trusting us.”
eCommerce that tries to completely streamline the process by relying only on the tech will eventually strip out the humanity of the process and miss out on being able to add any real flavor to the touch points – the end result is that you create something better than trust – you create meaning and value.
And value, perceived or real, to the customer is more important – curiously personal, absolutely individual and when realized, social beyond measure.
Earn trust, build value. And then go for the ride again.