I’m sure you can imagine that companies such as Amazon and many other mega online corps have multimillion advertising accounts to win your attention. It also seems that everyone has something for sell today and photoshopping the dream product to your front page doesn’t ensure the golden sells ticket either.
So what does? Now imagine a brand you truly love. A brand that has the second choice. A brand that you recommend to everyone you know. This brand has your trust, right?
Many years ago, most businesses built this trust with a respectable business address and going out of their way to appear large. This all drastically changed with the internet. Now building a sense of trust and maintaining it takes true commitment now more than ever. But if you’re establishing trust strictly online let’s face the facts, it’s slightly more difficult when compared to the brick-and-mortar businesses.
Customers that shop in stores are able to quickly distinguish trust factors such as; the storefront, employees, products and other people browsing and making purchases. While shopping online has the element of the unknown that makes the majority of us feel uncomfortable. People today prefer to do business with trustworthy people whose word actually means something.
The smart businesses that understand this are working hard to provide this level of personal service. So what does it take to build customer trust online?
Get Social and Build Relationships
I’m sure you maybe picturing the fast talking suit eagerly collecting as many business cards he or she can at every convention that will let them in. Or maybe the schmoozers and any other butt kissing champion you can think of at the moment. Luckily, building your network doesn’t have to be like that, unless of course you enjoy butt kissing more.
Building your network based off forming relationships, on the other hand, is a method of helping others first. To build a genuine relationship, you must be able first to see the world from another person’s perspective. Secondly, you must be able to both collaborate and help them without mention of what do I get in return.
Obviously the goal is to get something in return in the long run but first you must form the relationship. To get started just offer a friendly gesture to the person you wish to form the relationship with. If they accept the relationship starts and an alliance should start to form! Here’s the magic, these alliances are also building online credibility and customer trust with time. If you want more on the subject Dale Carnegie’s book on How to Win Friends and Influence People is an excellent read I highly recommend it.
Start Listening and Engaging
Do I have you full attention? In today’s online world, with millions of sites to choose from it’s really important that you stop listen and engage with your audience. Or someone else will! Customer engagements are no longer one-off experiences there ongoing. Surely you can remember a time when someone else wouldn’t stop talking.
I’m sure it was hard for you to stay engaged and maybe you had something you wanted to add to the conversation. Listening is a really simple two-way technique that will help balance and build community trust. In fact, your bottom line is now riding on your ability to deliver solid customer engagement; according to Bain & Company statistics customers spend 20% to 40% more money with this approach.
Do you know what keeps your customers up at night? Email feedback and surveys have been proven to be an effective method in some cases. Have a goal in mind, for example; whether it’s improving your products or increasing community loyalty. Work consistently towards your goal by taking the time to listen, communicate, consider opinions and understand unique perspectives.
People tend to favor those that can take the time to do this! And when it comes time to make a purchase, they’ll choose a product that they’ve come to trust through a series of positive reinforcements.
Establish Credibility with Transparency
In the online era of trust, credibility is everything. Sink or swim! You name it; personal credibility, brand credibility, business credibly and every single product you wish to offer to the public. Do you have a lot of money to buy your credibility? Good for you but it doesn’t work anymore! Nielsen found that 70 percent of global consumers trusted online reviews. If your product is bad they will review it to its death and socially slam it on every media outlet they can rant on.
But the good news is that the honest hard working credibility building hero finally has a semi-level playing field now and consumers love to give praise to the deserving. Online your website is the first impression! According to the Nielsen Norman Group people give sites around 10-20 seconds before they get comfortable or hit the net door.
Now this isn’t always about site design but a pretty site sure helps. It’s actually more about the kind of message your site is conveying about your business or brand. There’s also a catch-22, customers love online convenience but at the same time hate the risks of the unknown that’s associated with it. Our friends at Standford provided us with “10 Guidelines for Web Credibility” based on 3 years research that included over 4,500 people.
My 5 credibility B’s, be yourself, be honest, be personal, be available and certainly be credible. Now get out there be credible and add some transparency flavor!
Earn Deeper Customer Loyalty with Programs
Loyalty programs have in fact been around for more than 100 years! “Trading stamps of all kinds are often seen as the first alternative currency to be awarded to encourage repeat purchases,” Nunes notes. “They were initially awarded to customers who paid with cash instead of credit in the 1800s but evolved into something given out with purchases.
In this era according to Jupiter Research, more than 75% of consumers today have at least one loyalty card, and the number of people with two or more is estimated to be one-third of the shopping population.” Nielsen found that 76 percent of North American consumers are more likely to choose retailers that offer loyalty programs.
One that comes to mind that I’m happy with is Marriott rewards which offer three differentiated benefits levels; silver, gold and platinum. People love a great multi-level loyalty program, but online you’ll have to be little more creative. Focusing on improving your web site, faster shipping, implementing a return policy and addressing trust and security concerns are the first loyalty building blocks. When designing a loyalty program it needs to be differentiated based on consumer purchasing patterns.
There are many variables to choose from such as; memberships, coupons, exclusive offers, points, contests and free shipping. If the program is simply based on discounts or paying for patronage, over time it will not endure. For example: when I purchased the Genesis Pro Plus all-theme package it gave me all their current themes and any additional theme they make for life. I was already loyal to Genesis themes, but this offer ensured my loyalty for many years to come.
Build a Reputation with Guarantees
Build a reputation for standing behind your word even if it costs you. Your word is your bond “trust”. Then when your audience is ready to buy, reduce their risk. For example, offer a 30-day trial, or money back guarantee. Your sales will trust me. Have you concerns? Is your product virtual? People may take advantage of the guarantee!
Maybe pay for it, download it and then ask for a refund so they get it for free. Sound about right? I had the same thoughts before and it’s completely normal to think that offering a money-back guarantee on virtual products is simply setting you up for failure. Yes, its true people will indeed do this but the percentage is so small you will hardly even miss it.
It’s a fact that more people will buy when they know they can get their money back! The sells increase will offset the thieves. To most the web comes across as a seriously suspicious place and having a guarantee doesn’t make people automatically trust you, but sure helps. You can add additional trust by building your personal brand online.
It also indicates to people that you’re not only after their money and you actually want to provide them with real value. Plus money-back guarantees makes you stand out from the competition (not everyone offers them to my knowledge) and it also holds you accountable to deliver excellent products.