Four small firms share tips on how to build customer confidence in the world of online shopping.
Consumers will often second-guess clicking the “check out” button when shopping with a small business online. Being an unknown or unfamiliar face is part of that, but so too is the virtual nature of the transaction.
A recent survey of 1,000 UK shoppers by marketing agency, Push-ON, claimed that 68pc of people would be more inclined to spend more money online if retailers could reassure them that they would receive the same quality of service as they get in store.
So what can online businesses do to build trust with wary consumers and get them spending?
Provide clear descriptions and pictures
Without having the usual touch points of a physical retailer, it’s only natural for consumers to be more cautious with whom they shop, explains Andrew Lawson, founder of independent food marketplace, BoroughBox.
But one way to build trust in the products that you sell is to post full and high-quality pictures of them, he says. “Provide a clear description that matches the image, includes its weight, size, allergens and so on – all things that would be on a normal shelf product label. Get them online, because people often shop based on the picture alone.”
Paula Haunit, founder of online fashion business, Sheer Apparel, offers another tip. “We take photos of products on and off the model and, importantly, the images show an item’s colours as they look in real life,” she says, advising others not to over-edit or use too much exposure.
After adopting the approach for the launch of its autumn/winter line last year, the company saw a 15pc increase in sales in comparison to the previous year.
Offer secure payment and update
Not being sure about where their money is going can be a big reason why customers are put off from splurging online, so to build trust, small businesses must demonstrate the same characteristics of their larger, more reliable counterparts.
“Use trusted providers such as PayPal, Apple Pay or Google Wallet, because they’re recognisable and already have inbuilt security,” says Ms Haunit.
Once a customer has put in an order, it’s key to provide them with an immediate acknowledgement email, explains Alex Grace, managing director of online clothing company, Banana Moon Clothing. “It’s always a worry when you click that ‘pay’ button and don’t receive a confirmation email,” he says. “They’re easy to automate and vital for building trust.”
But don’t stop at a single email, he adds; keep the lines of communication open and update customers throughout. “We send a short informative email when orders move through each stage of the process; when there’s progress on an order, the customer is less inclined to worry.”
Make it easy to return items
When you’re dealing with thousands of products, errors can happen, such as the wrong size being delivered, so offer refund and exchange options, says Lee Reed, marketing manager of bathroom supplies etailer, Easy Bathrooms.
“Make processing a return as simple as possible,” he says. “We offer a customer service line and a live chat function, as well as a 365-day return period.”
It’s important that customers are not kept waiting long on live chat, so the company aims to answer all messages within two minutes and ensures that a dedicated member of the customer service team will reply.
“Offering such a comprehensive policy helps to build trust, because shoppers often see this as a guarantee, which reflects the confidence that we place in ourselves and the products that we sell,” says Mr Reed.
The business has noted a 33pc increase in average monthly sales since launching its 365-day exchange policy in April 2017, while average monthly basket abandonment has fallen by 20pc since the live chat function was introduced a month later.