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Building Trust in the Age of Pervasive Commerce

Trust is a critical factor in every relationship, whether it is with a loved one or a beloved brand. And it’s not featuring as prominently as it should in the online buyer-seller relationship yet. If consumers are abandoning shopping carts, browsing but not buying, there is something amiss.

shutterstock_105668660Why is trust important in the online commerce process? Commerce is no longer destination-based. A consumer doesn’t visit a single physical store or e-commerce website anymore. Businesses are striving to operate in an omni-channel fashion. So it’s not like a consumer visits the same physical store where they have a trusting relationship with a sales associate. Businesses now need to establish trust and nurture a relationship with consumers across infinite channels – brick and mortar store, website, mobile app, catalog, social media channels, wearable devices, etc. And this is not an easy task.

Easy it may not be, but it is certainly indispensable in this rapidly changing world of commerce. People are constantly being exposed to messages from different brands all the time in different ways. You need to stand out in this world where there are so many choices. And traditional marketing strategies don’t cut it anymore. People can switch websites within seconds, so you don’t really have the luxury of time to establish a connection.

One of the most volatile factors that affects the process of trust in online commerce is the explosion of user-generated content. Businesses have less control on what is being said about them. Whether it’s their social media pages or product reviews, brands cannot tailor any of it. Consumers trust this kind of unbiased content. Almost a third of online consumers trust strangers (reviews, blog posts) over what a brand says.

While a brand cannot presumably put out an unbiased message, they can build relationships by engaging with influencers and advocates on social media and other avenues. In a previous blog post, we talked about how brands can nurture their advocates. The more positive experiences people have, the more they are going to talk about it. Shoppers crave for and trust this human connection. As a brand, you can leverage that.

Another important factor for businesses to keep in mind is that of transparency. Increased and continuous connectivity ensures that no news can be swept under the carpet anymore. Consumers know a lot and it is important to acknowledge and honor that fact. If there is a negative sentiment floating around about you, don’t stay silent. Address it, own it, and you will be appreciated more for the effort. Consumers will remember whether you handled a negative situation gracefully or not, and that will impact their trust in you.

The third thing that businesses should look out for is consistency and accuracy in the presentation of product offers across various channels. This refers to dynamic factors like price, promotions, availability, etc. You don’t want a consumer to walk into a store and find out that a product they want is sold for a different price online. That consumer will buy the product for a cheaper price and may never return to your store. Consistency also requires that post-purchase service is personalized and prompt. If a consumer reports a problem, fix it immediately.

This new age of commerce is all about being accurate, consistent, authentic, nurturing, and doing all this in as close to real-time as possible. As the world is becoming increasingly digital, businesses cannot afford to forget the fact the online experience still needs to be personified. If that can be managed, then businesses can truly stand out, build word-of-mouth traction, and sustain themselves in the long run. Remember, you are no longer just talking at the customer; you are conversing with them.

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