Let’s take a walk down memory lane. As a disclaimer, I can’t promise that no embarrassing memories will surface along the way. I kid, I kid. We’re taking a different, reminiscent route today. Cue the scene-setting!
Restaurants and stores were booming. There was no sight of “mask required for entry,” or “no mask, no entry” signs anywhere within a 100-mile radius. There were not even any masks, for that matter. You walked into your favorite clothing store and were greeted with a warm welcome and a smile. It was the kind of welcome that makes you want to shop around for a while.
As you amble around the store, employees offer you samples of their summer-in-California fragrance. You ask what they think about this shirt and the comfortability of those shoes. You pick up a few items along the way—some you know you want, some you might like, and some you know you’ll never wear, but want to try on anyway. You know what I’m talking about. A willing employee escorts you to a fitting room, places a tag on your door, and checks in diligently throughout your try-on process.
The whole experience feels like it’s tailored to you. Sure, you’ve been to the store a ton of times before, but you know what to expect each time. You know you can try things on, lean on the feedback of the employees, and even other patrons shopping. A real person assists you with your purchase and you leave the store with real, physical goods. It’s a tangible experience and all of that breeds trust.
With eCommerce, though, gaining that trust looks a little different and can be a lot harder to earn. It’s understandable. There’s no one to escort customers to their fitting room, offer solicited feedback on clothing items, or assist with the checkout process. The purchase experience isn’t quite the same, especially since you don’t get the in-person reassurance that’s so comforting.
When shopping online, customers may not know what a business’s reputation is or if/when they’ll receive the products they ordered. Because eCommerce shopping is a less tangible experience, it can be more difficult to both gain and maintain trust in a brand.
So, the big question that comes up here is, what can eCommerce businesses do to gain that trust?
1. It’s all about first impressions
While the overarching truth of this statement varies from context to context, it seems to check out when it comes to eCommerce. Since eCommerce businesses have their entire presence online, it’s a bet that first impressions matter. I would even go as far as to say that trust begins with making a good first impression.
Start by making sure that your website can be accessed and looks consistent across all devices. It should be fast and seamless to navigate with beautiful visuals and digestible content. Showcase your products in the same way that an in-person display would. Present your products transparently with images that show the customers multiple angles. Offer up clear product descriptions that answer any questions a customer might want to ask an in-store employee. Some information you might want to include is product care, delivery expectations, return processes, and more.
2. Bolster that good impression by using trust signals
When you’re shopping in a mall and you see a boutique you’ve never heard of, you can simply look through the glass to see what’s going on inside. You can pretty easily get a feel for whether or not the products are trustworthy without having to step foot inside. But what about an eCommerce business? If you’re not a brand that’s already well-known and trusted, customers can’t just peep through the glass as they can in person. So, they may have a fear of buying from less familiar brands.
To address this, try incorporating some clear trust signals, or elements that inspire trust in the mind of the consumer. Think customer reviews, recent press, website security details, free returns, well-written descriptions, and high-quality photos. Even doing something as simple as humanizing your ‘About Me’ or ‘About Us’ page with photos of you or your team can provide reassurance to your customers. If you invest in maintaining good first impressions with quality design and content, you’re letting your customers know that they’re shopping with a brand they can trust.
3. Humanize the user experience with empathy
When you pick something up in a brick-and-mortar store and want to figure out how it works, you can just turn to an employee for quick answers. When you see something on an eCommerce website that you’re intrigued by, but have no clue how to use, who do you turn to for answers?
Well, hopefully, you! Show customers the same empathy that they might receive in person at brick-and-mortars. How? Try anticipating their needs and offering easy-access product demo videos, tutorials, help materials, and customer service options beyond a contact form. Empathy can go a long way when it comes to building customer trust in the eCommerce space.
4. Make your eCommerce experience accessible
Let’s say you’re in your favorite clothing store like you were in my introduction. Everything that the store has to offer is, more or less, right in front of your eyes. Beyond the struggle of not being able to reach some shelves if you’re short like me, the experience is a rather predictable and accessible one. And honestly, there’s no reason why your eCommerce experience has to be any different.
Beyond making sure your product images and descriptions are front and center, there are a few other ways to bring more accessibility to your experience. You can simplify your checkout process, let customers create accounts for easy order placement in the future, send details about order tracking, and offer post-purchase customer service.
Trust isn’t the easiest thing to measure, nor is it something that happens overnight. Building trust in your brand takes patience and time, but establishing it is imperative. With good first impressions, trust signals, empathy, and accessibility, you can begin to make your eCommerce experience a little more tangible. You may not have a glass storefront, but you can always bring transparency to what your brand is all about.