by Jennifer Lonoff Schiff

10 ways multichannel companies can build trust with customers

Jul 07, 2016
CRM SystemsE-commerce SoftwareIT Leadership

Experts in ecommerce, security, marketing and customer service discuss the best ways to foster trust with your consumers u2013 and build a loyal customer base.

One of the cornerstones of a successful business, especially a multichannel or online business, is trust. If consumers don’t trust you, they won’t buy from you or do business with you. So what can you do to show you are trustworthy, and make visitors comfortable shopping on your ecommerce? Here are 10 suggestions.

[ Related: 8 Ways to Create a Successful Multichannel Customer Experience ]

1. Use SSL encryption and post trust certificates/logos. “Privacy and security continue to be major concerns for online customers,” says Doug Beattie, vice president, GlobalSign. “Customers trust and will remain loyal to providers who can safely protect their identities, transactions and data.”

And one way to protect consumers shopping on your site is through encryption.

“Encryption is more important than ever and not just for login or payment screens, but for the entire length of a user’s website visit,” he says. “The good news is integrating SSL/TLS solutions into your services is now easier than ever and can instantly differentiate your offering. An added bonus is that secure HTTPS websites receive better search ranking results, which will also help build customer awareness.”

“While utilizing SSL certificates during the checkout process is fine, go above and beyond [and] utilize SSL for your entire website,” says Bart Mroz, cofounder & CEO, SUMO Heavy, a digital strategy firm. “This will demonstrate to your visitors that you take their entire online shopping experience seriously when it comes to security, which then helps them trust – and therefore shop – your brand.”

Another way “multichannel businesses can reinforce security and build trust online [is] by displaying logos of third-party authentication services on their homepages and providing information on how customer data may or may not be used,” says Mark Bergner, director of product strategy, Worldpay US. “More than 50 percent of shoppers report that seeing data usage information would encourage them to create an account. Presenting this security information in the early stages of the buying process can help brands further drive loyalty.”

“It’s no surprise that trust seals like the VeriSign trust seal can instill a sense of trust in your website visitors,” says Paige Weiners, corporate marketing specialist, Blue Fountain Media. “Adding this seal can make a truly significant difference—especially if placed on a landing page where users have to submit personal information, such as an email address or phone number.”

Similarly, if your company has received any awards, showcase them. Awards “serve as a trust factor for users and show that the achievements your brand has made are above average in your respective industry,” she says. They can also help with conversion.

2. Have a professional looking ecommerce or website. “The site design is the most crucial element in building trust,” says Rathna Sharad, founder, Runway2Street, an ecommerce platform for emerging luxury brands. “It needs to look professional and secure so there is no hesitation [to shop] on the part of customers. This is especially true for an international site with high end items.”

[ Related: Ecommerce predictions for 2016 ]

“You want your website to [look professional but also to] be simple and accessible—the focus should be on the products and how to easily get them in your customers’ hands,” adds Jesse Ness, CMO, Ecwid, a cloud-based ecommerce platform. “A clean design with a readable font is a must.” And “optimize your site for mobile phones.”

3. Have consistent messaging/branding across channels and devices. “Multichannel businesses must have a consistent look, feel and experience across all channels,” says Mroz. “If consumers see a difference in the visual branding and messaging of your products from retail store to website, they may sense the disconnect and hesitate to follow through on their purchase.”

“Building trust and loyalty with tech savvy shoppers means [also] creating a consistent brand experience regardless of device, operating system or screen size,” says Brian Rigney, CEO, Zmags, a provider of digital publishing software. “Consumers want visual, easy-to-browse experiences that provide an integrated route to purchase from any device. One way for online retailers to meet this demand is to embrace responsive Web design that tailors experiences for different devices automatically. [And] according to Aberdeen Group, responsive sites achieve 11 percent more conversions than non-responsive sites.”

4. Deliver products quickly – when you said you would. “Shipping speed is an often-overlooked aspect of customer relations,” says Michael Lucarelli, cofounder, “The faster goods arrive, the happier the customer will be. It tells customers that their transaction is valued by the company. No one likes to wait two weeks for their product to arrive,” he points out. “Processing [and shipping] orders swiftly, [and delivering them when promised,] makes customers more likely to order [again] in the future.”

5. Post customer reviews – the good and the bad – and testimonials. Testimonials and “recommendations from existing customers can go a long way in terms of instilling trust with potential customers,” says Weiners.

“Potential customers are going to seek reviews of your business, so display them clearly on your website,” says Ruben Mier, marketing director, HouseCall Pro, a SaaS platform for home service professionals. “Better yet, provide links to third-party review sites so that the legitimacy of your reviews never comes into question.”

And “don’t necessarily censor all bad reviews,” says Robert C. Johnson, CEO, TeamSupport, a provider of B2B customer support and help desk software. “Even though the review may be negative, it shows customers that your company is transparent and increases the credibility of your positive reviews.”  

6. Don’t email customers (existing and prospective ones) unless you have their permission to do so. “Only send marketing communications [materials or email] to people who have expressly asked to receive them,” says Geoff Alexander, president, iContact. “When someone signs up for your email list, they’re essentially starting a dialogue with your business. And the simplest way you can demonstrate that yours is a brand to trust is to provide clarity from the beginning on what content you’ll be sending them, and how often,” he explains. “But if you send a third-party email instead, [or give their information to a third-party marketer,] you [will] lose their trust.”

[ Related: 12 easy ways to lose your ecommerce customers ]

7. Engage customers on social media (by responding to questions/concerns there). To build trust with today’s consumers, especially millennial customers, companies “must have a strategy for responding to customers on social media,” says Nancy Collins, a group president within Xerox’s Commercial Business Group. “Invest in a strategy to monitor social channels – and respond almost immediately to requests, issues and positive (or negative) sentiments. This is a huge advantage in trust-building over those who haven’t yet embraced such strategies.”

[ Related: 10 Social Ecommerce Tools for Online Retailers ]

“Listening, engaging and acting upon [social media] posts helps to forge a strong relationship between a brand and consumer by showing that the business is actually invested in the consumers’ opinions,” adds Sara Spivey, CMO, Bazaarvoice.

8. Publish contact information (email address, phone number). “Peppering your site [not just your home page] with contact info for your service team shows customers you are there to help if they run into an issue,” says Angie Stocklin, cofounder & COO, One Click, an eyewear company.

Not publishing contact information, specifically a phone number and email address, makes prospective customers suspicious and question whether they can trust you.

9. Provide excellent customer service (across channels). “Go above and beyond in delivering excellent customer service,” says Hayden. “Our customers trust us to answer their questions and listen to their suggestions nearly instantaneously, because we offer live chat support. As a software provider, we staff engineers on our customer success team so that any glitches or issues can be solved immediately. Providing real solutions to problems along with friendly and helpful responses to inquiries delights our customers and becomes an aspect of our business that customers rave about in online reviews.”

And be sure to have knowledgeable people staffing your customer service phone lines, email address, live chat and social media channels – who will respond quickly to queries, comments and complaints.

10. Make the returns process simple/easy. “The return policy is a make or break for an ecommerce website,” says Lucarelli. “Offering a compelling [easy] return policy can give customers an extra feeling of comfort in making purchases. If a return is required, customers will appreciate avoiding the hassle of a difficult return policy. This turns the negative experience of making a return into a positive interaction with the company.  Customers will feel as if the company is looking out for them and not just trying to make a quick profit. This translates to higher customer lifetime value (CLV).”