Trust is vital in so many parts of business, but I canít think of any sector that so regularly tests consumer trust more than online retail and mail order.††
Every time a customer makes a purchase online he is trusting in some major assumptions: the goods will be delivered on time, in good condition and if there are any problems he will be able to return or exchange them. He is trusting that he will get value for money.†
We know that these assumptions set expectations and dictate consumer behaviour. The impact on this behaviour is even more significant when a company is attempting to attract cross-border business as the level of consumer mistrust is naturally higher.
What makes customers buy online?
Given the tight economic climate and the need for many retailers to increase their market reach, Trusted Shops commissioned some research into just what consumers look for before they trust in a retailer.†
More than 5,000 online consumers from the UK, Germany, France, Spain and Poland responded and their answers revealed some very interesting trends.
For instance, two-thirds of online shoppers say that a trustmark is important or very important for them if they are considering a purchase from a company that is based abroad. Only a handful said it was not important at all (three percent).
The research also revealed that security and data protection are highly important factors when it comes to choosing an online store, ranking second and fourth respectively.
Not surprisingly the other high-ranking factor is price, but we can see that this is clearly not all consumers care about. With other motivating factors including respectability of the offer (third), a money-back guarantee (fifth) and fast delivery (sixth).
Does the look and feel of a website encourage trust?
Interestingly the aesthetic appearance of an online shop was consistently ranked as the lowest concern for consumers, this means that the part of the website that we most often spend time thinking about is arguably one of the least important aspects.
Of course, itís worth noting that much of the appearance and feel of a site can have a strong subconscious and subtle effect on shoppers, which is one reason it could be rated surprisingly low.
The research also shone a light on how consumers are choosing shops in the first instance. The top three criteria for deciding upon an online store are: being familiar with the site already, finding it through a search engine and being recommended it via price comparison sites.
Social media was the given one of the lowest importance rankings.
When shopping online for a good deal, being able to consider products from other countries can bring huge savings, but the research shows shoppers often worry about what will happen if something goes wrong.
This is clearly a challenge that every online retailer faces. The issues can be compounded if the retailer is attempting to attract customers across international borders. The reason is that they are understandably sceptical of shops in countries they may not be familiar with.
So what does this all mean for UK retailers who are interested in expanding their business to attract customers throughout Europe and the rest of the world? Well the research certainly suggests that consumers look for trustmarks, or other third party endorsements of an online store. Of course, as an accreditation service for online shops, weíd advocate the use of a trustmark, but consider the benefits: users can have the peace-of-mind they need in order to shop with confidence, and retailers can reap the benefits of a much wider audience.
Trustmarks that support all parties in an online transaction, be that legal or monetary concerns, are one of the key initiatives that can support cross border selling. No matter where the consumer comes from, if he trusts you, he will buy.
Jean-Marc Noel is founder and managing director at Trusted Shops, a service provider for secure online shopping in Europe.
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