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Shifting to digital: How to gain customer trust online

With an oversaturated market, it’s important for businesses to differentiate themselves and compel consumers to shop with them. One key player in gaining a customer’s (continued) business is through establishing a line of trust and loyalty between the buyer and seller. Whether the item in question is a consumer electronic, medical device, shoes, or food, trust is one of the top underlying factors driving purchase decisions. Despite this, many companies today fail to recognize the importance of customer loyalty and trust, and put at least $180 billion in revenue at risk by doing so. 

Trust is a traditional, familiar concept in brick-and-mortar retail establishments, where consumers can touch and feel products for themselves, try items on, select the best-looking items, assess top competitors located adjacent to the products, and ask salespeople questions in real-time. 

How can this foundational collection of actions be replicated online? In many ways, it can’t. Learning how to gain customer trust online requires a different toolset, which includes defining positively associated values of quality, price, customer service, and societal care. 

Since the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, many businesses have had to shift the majority of their businesses online, resulting in a need to establish trust digitally with a wider audience. Below, we’ll discuss the importance of consumer trust and how resources can be best allocated to achieve this crucial business goal.

How Important Is Consumer Trust? 

According to the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer report:

  • Trust is a key factor: 81% of consumers say they will only purchase from a brand if they can trust them to “do what is right,” citing quality, value, convenience, and ingredients as deciding factors in their purchasing decisions.
  • Trust impacts loyalty: 67% of customers say reputation may facilitate a first sale, but they will only continue to buy from a brand if they grow to trust the company.
  • Consumers are concerned: 36% of consumers worry about the pace of innovation and increasing reliance on products, and 28% say they “can’t afford” a wrong decision.
  • Shoppers are value-conscious: 72% of buyers say they want the companies they frequent to match their personal values. 
  • Buyers reward trustworthy brands: Customers are 28% more likely to buy trusted brands first, 33% more likely to remain loyal, 27% more likely to advocate for that brand, and 21% more likely to defend the brand against critics.
  • Online advertising is seen as a nuisance: 3 in 4 customers actively seek to avoid online advertising by using ad-blocking technology, paying for ad-free streaming services, opting out of communications, or changing media habits to see fewer ads.
  • Consumer attention must be earned: 76% of shoppers say they “pay attention” to the ads and communications of brands they’ve trusted for a long time. On the other hand, brands that haven’t earned full trust yet only garner 48% of shoppers’ attention. 
  • Consumer trust is not easily awarded: Only 1 in 3 people can say they trust most of the brands they buy or use. 

How To Gain Customer Trust Online

Almost three-quarters of all consumers say their trust in a brand depends upon the successful delivery of quality and customer service. Naturally, a brand’s ability to deliver on these promises is at the core of consumer trust. Yet, much consumer confidence hinges on the company’s ability to successfully convey their trustworthiness—particularly online, where more people are socializing, seeking information, and making their day-to-day purchases. 

Brands wondering how to gain customer trust online should incorporate these six valuable tips:

Solicit Consumer Reviews

Second to having high-quality products and service, 63% of U.S. consumers are looking not only for favorable reviews, but the quantity reviews. Trust in celebrities and influencers is declining (21% total confidence), compared to recommendations from friends and family (60% total confidence). 

To increase customer reviews, businesses can:

  • Showcase reviews in an easily-viewable position on their website.
  • Allow consumers to quickly leave reviews via a simple form or link. 
  • Send sales-triggered emails to all customers asking for feedback.
  • Reward reviews with an incentive like a discount, coupon code, free coffee, or gift card.
  • Watch for social mentions and encourage satisfied customers to publish a review.
  • Respond to every review—even negative ones—and share the exceptional ones on social media.
  • Incorporate customer surveys into part of a live event or promotion.
  • Run social hashtag contests, encouraging customers to post photos and reviews.

Charge Fair Market Value

More than half of U.S. customers say they trust a brand because it charges fair market value for its products and services. Each industry has a pricing “sweet spot.” Premium brands may be viewed as higher quality, but when priced too high, consumers feel ripped off. On the other hand, some shoppers will gravitate to the lowest-cost items, while others may avoid cheap goods under the guise they are made to inferior standards.

Businesses can win trust through the following pricing strategies:

  • Address pricing concerns directly and confidently, validating the reasons behind your pricing decisions.
  • Include detailed invoices that show the breakdown of all cost factors.
  • Show a price and feature comparison chart between you and competitors. 
  • Start with a 30% markup, offering discounts to loyal repeat customers.
  • Consider loyalty reward points, rather than continually discounting.
  • Tell a story from the employee’s or artisan’s perspective that demonstrates quality.

Treat Customers and Employees Well

Whether a consumer or an employee, buyers want brands to show they care: 46% of Americans say they trust brands that “have always treated the consumer well;” 35% trust brands that quickly address customer service issues; 23% trust brands that secure their personal information; and 22% only trust brands that treat their employees well.  

Businesses can demonstrate their care for customers and employees by:

  • Offering generous exchange and refund policies—no questions asked, if possible.
  • Allowing an extended window for returns. 
  • Providing options for returns, whether a prepaid shipping label or physical location.
  • Training customer service reps to uphold the customer interaction standards set by the company. 
  • Paying employees a fair living wage with benefits, including vacation and family leave policies.
  • Investing in workplace culture with morale-building activities and regular communications.
  • Creating a loyalty program that rewards customers for their spending and repeat business.

Collect Actionable Insights and Optimize Strategy

Actively listening to the customers’ insights and creating strategic changes that reflect those opinions is a key way to solidify lasting trust. Luckily, today’s technology automates much of this task. Marketing platforms like Google Analytics 360 provide valuable consumer-related insights, such as how consumers discovered the company, what their activity patterns are, and how they’re being influenced. Customer relationship management (CRM) through digital marketing platforms helps companies personalize communications and more effectively reach consumers throughout different stages in the buyer’s journey. 

Brands can use technology to help bridge the trust gap by:

  • Using CRM software to personalize and enhance the quality of customer service calls.
  • Providing customized recommendations based on past purchases or browsing history.
  • Employing marketing automation lead-nurturing campaigns.
  • Greeting customers by their first names or addressing any other unique identifiers in customer communications. 
  • Creating personalized videos that are unique to each customer. 

Invest in a Website 

A third of Millennials and a quarter of non-Millennials say they do not trust a company that lacks a website. Despite this, 40% of small businesses do not have a website. At the very least, companies need a social media presence, but brands with more robust, informative, user-friendly websites fare much better with consumers. With an investment of $10,000 or less, most small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) can build and maintain a sufficient web presence from the ground up.

A mobile consumer survey is one way how to gain customer trust online. In order to create a trustworthy website, businesses should:

  • Design the website for easy navigation, avoiding pop-ups, ads, and a complex layout.
  • Keep typography, colors, and imagery consistent across all channels.
  • Create landing pages that address pain points of different buyer personas.
  • Maintain a blog with 3-12 informative posts per month.
  • Include testimonials, rewards, certified seals, reviews, and case studies on the website.
  • Develop short, punchy videos that showcase products, services, and company culture in action.

Partner With a Trusted Shopping App

Consumers are typically selective when choosing who to spend their hard-earned money with.

The company needs to demonstrate a sense of security, integrity, and reputability. 

Shoppers flock to the Shopkick app to find trustworthy retail and brand partners to do business with, as the app offers rewards in exchange for their sustained attention and engagement. Shoppers earn reward points (“kicks”) every time they interact with a partner’s branded in-app content or products, whether it’s flipping through a curated lookbook, watching a branded video, scanning a product in-aisle, or making purchases on and offline. 

The Shopkick platform features well-known retail outlets like TJ Maxx, Best Buy, and Carter’s, as well as household brands like Kraft, Claritin, Purina, Barilla, and Kellogg’s. Becoming a partner is easy and affordable, and allows you access to millions of app users. Whether a company is looking to educate consumers about a newly launched product, gain market share during a competitive season, drive purchases without discounting, or earn consumer trust, Shopkick has the expertise, technology, and tools to make it happen.

Interested in learning how to gain customer trust online and boost eCommerce sales? Try partnering with Shopkick, a leading mobile shopping app! Read our success stories and contact us to become a trusted partner

Image courtesy of McLittle Stock
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