When customers trust your business and recognize your brand they will often make repeat purchases, pay a slight premium for your products and tell others about your store. To encourage these sorts of trust-based customer relationships, online sellers should be authentic, have a singular focus on customers, act consistently, communicate useful information, and take care to listen to shoppers.
Earning a customer’s trust is a complex combination of relatively more tangible things like having an SSL certificate and protecting payment information — and intangibles like the way your customer service or site design makes a shopper feel.
What follows are five trust and brand building tips aimed at creating good customer experiences.
1. Be Authentic
“A brand should reflect the company’s business plan, its mission and values. It has to be authentic. Therefore, when you brand a company (or anything else for that matter), you’re trying to capture its core identity,” explained marketing consultant, Matt Hanses, in a recent article.
“You have to look past the clutter and opinion and distill its true essence. This is what you convey to consumers — your brand…. you’ve conveyed your company’s identity by first discovering yourself.”
What Hanses is describing is, perhaps, the humanization, if you will, of a brand, so that your ecommerce business is an authentic representation of who you are and how you want your customers to perceive you.
Once created, your authentic brand — and the people who make up your brand — is something that customers can actually connect with the way one might connect with a casual friend.
2. Have a Singular Focus on Customers
“When mythic stories circulate about your company’s awesome customer service, you know you’re doing something right,” wrote Paula Andruss in a 2012 article about the secrets of trusted brands.
Andruss was referring to Nordstorm, a retailer that reportedly once allowed a customer to return tires for a full refund even though the company has never sold tires.
While it is, perhaps, not a good idea for an online seller, particularly a relatively small one, to start accepting returns for products it never sold, it is a good idea to have a singular focus on customers and customer service.
When you care about your customers, they will care about your business.
In practice, this means that your store’s customer focus will impact not just its customer service or marketing but everything that you do. A truly customer-focused business even makes decisions about inventory or technology with service in mind.
3. Act Consistently
Consistency is an important part of trust. Once customers have come to know your brand and your store, they will begin to expect your business to act in a certain way, and they may even make purchases based on their experience with you.
Consider that in one sense a trustworthy brand is useful for a shopper. There is certainly no shortage of product information available to modern consumers, but researching products, prices, and shipping options isn’t really free since it can take a lot of time.
If your customers know that you consistently offer good products at reasonable prices and that you’ll both ship on time and take care of problems, if they occur, they might just order from you, even if that means paying a little more, since — thanks to your consistent performance — buying from you is just a lot easier.
Acting consistently might mean having a set of guidelines for customer service, new product selection, marketing voice, and even brand graphics.
4. Communicate Useful Information
Addressing the role of content marketing in business-to-business sales, George Vodin, president and CEO at Global Market Ventures, a consulting firm, said “There are five billion Google searches every day with people searching for information that they want and need. If you offering meaningful information that is truthful, unbiased, and serves their interests, they will ask you to tell them more. That leads to a conversation then rapport and finally trust.”
Vodin’s point is at the heart of all modern content marketing, and it is a vital to building a trustworthy brand.
Your ecommerce business needs to be useful to your customers not just in the products that you sell, but also in the content that you provide. You’re not just selling stuff, you’re helping people have a better life.
The most obvious application is to publish content related to the industry you serve that is specifically intended to be helpful.
For example, check out the Learn section on REI’s website. You will find expert advice, how-to and product videos, and even information about classes that REI offers.
5. Listen to Your Customers
“Trust starts with really listening to people and being in the present moment,” said Thuy N. Ton, CEO at 3tree Design Lab, an application and strategy firm.
Shoppers are not going to trust a business that won’t listen to their concerns or answer their questions. Consider making it a policy to be easy to get a hold of and quick to listen.
Many people think building a brand is about promotion and telling folks about your business, whereas this tip is suggesting that you let your customers tell you about your business.