Trust is the cornerstone of a retailer’s success, writes Nigel Poole.

By 2020, companies that are digitally trustworthy will generate 20 per cent more online profit than those that are not, according to Gartner. Trust is essential to forming an intention to purchase. When trust is high, people are much more likely to take risks (such as sharing payment details) and purchase online.

In a traditional retail context, trust is formed between real people interacting in a physical space but in the online space, a customer must rely entirely on the digital experience. Retailers need to examine their website with fresh eyes. Looking again at how they can build customer trust in order to attract and retain customers. So how exactly can you build customer trust online?

View your website as a well-trained salesperson

At Matter we view a brand in the same way as we view people. People build relationships through authenticity and trust, and a relationship with a brand is built on the same foundations. If a brand is consistent and true to itself then customers build trust and want to know more.

With that in mind, it’s imperative your brand behaves consistently across all interactions with the customer. Branding is about so much more than visual identity; it’s what people think and feel when they interact with you and your products. It’s what you contribute to their own personal image. Your product is no longer just about its substance. It is about the meaning and personal value each person ascribes to it, and it builds and changes each time your customer interacts with you.

Your brand is key, so maintaining its consistency and adding value across your customers’ retail experience should be at the heart of your ecommerce platform, but how?

Your website can be more than functionality

Adjust the way you think about your website. It’s not just there to provide a transactional service. Functionality is important, but a slick website only goes so far when it comes to building trust amongst consumers. Seamless branding, coupled with other services such as customer experience tools, easily digestible information and online innovation, will help replicate the in-store experience and promote trust within an online environment. 

Start to think about how your brand strategy is creatively implemented across the touch points. If you want your brand to be known for exceptional customer service, then the customer experience needs to be exceptional online as well as in-store.

For example, there are certain scenarios where a customer may consider they would get better service in a bricks and mortar store than online. The most obvious is if you have a specialised or technical product and customers may want to leverage the expertise of a staff member and seek advice. But it is possible to replicate the experience customers get when they walk into a shop, on a website.

Highlight your expertise with novel solutions

Firewire Surfboards is a prime example of this in action. When customers buy a surfboard, they often need help to understand what board they should ride taking into account their weight and level of expertise. A shop assistant can be a valuable asset to provide advice and help provide customers with a shortlist of suitable boards to choose from, in order to trust their final purchasing decision.

Firewire developed an app for their e-commerce site that replicates the experience its customers get when they walk into a shop. The interactive element uses the same information a shop assistant would use, such as their body shape and way of surfing, to help customers understand what board they should ride and provide a shortlist of recommendations of suitable surfboards for the customer. Providing this additional service and expertise bridges the gap to shopping in store and gives customers enough trusted information to make a purchasing decision, rather than just browse for options.

Embrace an online/offline experience

Another example of using your online platform as more than just a transactional resource is providing information to drive customers in store. Retailers often want to keep their purchase only online, but using a combination of online and bricks and mortar can further build trust and create a more seamless and tailored brand experience. 

Click and Collect is a valuable tool in this scenario and not just as a delivery option. As well as providing a quick pick-up option for customers who may not want to wait for a home delivery, it also provides customers with better visibility of your store locations and stock. This means a customer can very quickly check stock levels in multiple stores in their vicinity and go directly to purchase in the closest store with the item in stock. Providing phone numbers also means the customer can call ahead to have the item put aside. Solely online retailers can also benefit from exploring other ways to reduce the delivery timeframe such as warehouse collections.

There is no doubt there are retail scenarios that lend themselves to delivering a better, more trusted customer experience offline. However, in the interests of your brand, it’s imperative you can deliver an excellent customer experience across all channels. By thinking creatively about your website as a way to go above and beyond, you can enable choice, empower your customers and build trust for your online customers. 

By Nigel Poole, founder at Matter Design.

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