return on trust

July 5, 2017

As is well known, trust needs to be earned. Trust can be ‘granted after reflexion’, ‘given according to how one feels’, or otherwise ‘built over time, stone by stone’. The term is used to describe a state, an action as well as a situation, to define a reflexive feeling, an interpersonal relationship, or the link to a system.

It is no coincidence if Bill Gates, in 2002, dedicated the entirety of his annual e-mail sent to Microsoft employees  to this notion of trust. He explained in particular that the most important part of the company’s job is to ensure that Microsoft products create trust. And he adds that without this, all efforts are in vain, including the improvements for the products.

Similarly, Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, firmly believes that ‘to revolutionise commerce on Internet, the establishment of trust with actual and potential customers must prevail over any other concern’.

This says it all. The trust of the consumer in ecommerce is a key element of its success.

But how to build trust when a consumer orders an expensive product online with an incredible discount and receives literally a brick when he opens the box?

consumer psyche: brand value and e-shopping experience

What are the pillars for building consumer trust in order to influence his purchasing act?

Brand value and e-shopping experience.

When a consumer is in the decision-making process, he does it in light of the trust he has in different sources of information. Indeed, if he does not give the same credit to [a particular] source, he will not give as much value to the information that emerges from it. In addition, a more irrational phenomenon comes into play: the ‘attractiveness’ which depends on the reputation and the sense of closeness felt.

In other words, the consumer will legitimately grant more credit to an institution that everyone agrees is honest and caring, and whose reference power extends far.

Brand value is a symbolic reference that acts as a guarantee of quality that is safe. To an initial function of product differentiation in the context of massification of the offer, the brand was added a range of additional functions, generally reinsuring and that can be assembled into five poles:

  • Practicality: recognition and memorization of past experiences
  • Guarantee: insurance of a performance standard, whatever the place of purchase
  • Personalization: double process of identification and projection
  • Lucidity: sensation of pleasure
  • Specificity: signature of a unique configuration of product attributes

The brand therefore gives a take on an optical of risk reduction, thus, of building trust, both from the rational and affective points of view.

The second pillar is e-shopping; in other words, the browsing experience.

This experience must first be a source of information for consumers and the trust it grants plays a key role in their purchasing behavior and in their decision to proceed with the act or not.

We are talking of ‘valency’ from the source of information, that is to say, the intrinsically pleasant or unpleasant quality of a stimulus or a situation; in this case, the information that the consumer will judge at the first glance.

A semiotic analysis conducted by Dr Kristina Karvoren, on websites inspiring more trust and less trust in internet users, has shown that websites in which consumers have the most trust have more text than images and especially no drawings. Consumers feel reassured when the pages of the site ‘breathe’ and enroll on a white background. Finally, setting separated and organized columns inspires seriousness as it has the appearance of the newspaper.

act on the consumer to build his/her trust

The founder of an ecommerce [firm] can act on different factors to build trust.

factors related to the e-commerce itself

The elements relating to the offer on the site may affect trust. Indeed, the fact of not being able to touch the product as well as the absence of a seller likely to answer questions only reinforce the fear of the consumer. The level of detail of information given on the website must therefore meet the expectations of regular consumers but also of those that are the most anxious.

To this quantity is added clarity so that the service can be easily identifiable. Similarly, a consumer will be more inclined to grant his trust to a website whose offer is rich and varied rather than one whose choice is limited. Finally, far from being trivial, the non-update of the offer can be a source of mistrust.

The element relating to the transaction and process of the order play a fundamental role in the consumer’s trust.

The security of the payment is a major imperative for the development of electronic transactions and explains why many are reluctant to purchase on a website. You must therefore use security protocols allowing data encryption in order to reassure the consumers.

The role of the ordering process too remains an important step. In general, the process should be simple, the order form should not be too long to fill up, and the number of lines to successfully place an order should be few.

Finally, the design and quality elements of browsing must not be set aside. Far from being mundane details, those aspects can affect the trust granted to an ecommerce.

factors related to third parties

For starters, the testimonies of internet users relating their experience can be a source of trust. Putting forward the views of satisfied customers can amplify the value the consumer may grant them, especially in the presence of inherent uncertainty of the online context.

Partners also participate in shaping trust in ecommerce. By partners, I mean the companies whose logos are usually displayed on the website’s home page. The reputation and trust capital they benefit from are therefore inferred to the website.

The impact of word of mouth is a recurrent speech that properly illustrates the importance consumers give to this type of information. Indeed, channels of interpersonal communication are an important source of trust in electronic exchanges. The experience of others has always been considered by consumers as an indicator of an ecommerce firm’s reliability.

Finally, let us not ignore the impact of certifications, labels, and other standards that institutional regulator organizations may give. A labelling strategy can reinforce the credibility of the website.

situational and individual factors

A major aspect of the notion of trust is manifested by the level of risk perceived as a situational variable. The first type of risk is related to the nature of the product bought and the second to the importance of financial issues.

In the absence of a seller who offers expert advice and guides the consumer, the complexity and technical nature of some products may handicap the act of purchase and cause concern.

Besides the nature of the product, the risk perceived in the purchasing situation also depends on the amount to be invested in the transaction. In all dimensions of perceived risk, it is clearly financial risk that is the first brake of internet shopping. Perceived risk can be considered as a moderator since it comes to increase even more the importance of trust.

Building consumers’ trust in your ecommerce increases the responsibility you have towards them. This responsibility requires courage because it places you at the very tip of the decision to act.