Brands Must Increase Trust in Purchasing on the Internet

Providing emotion, stories and useful information will help.

ARNAB BHOWMIK
Vice President
Kantar, Firefly Practice
Arnab.Bhowmik@kantar.com

“Sir… you are asking me so many questions sitting right in my house. If I would not have trusted you, why would I have allowed you to spend so much time in my house. But if you were asking me so many personal questions over phone, I would have felt uncomfortable to share so many personal details.”

I was trying to understand barriers of online shopping. That sultry afternoon in a small one-bedroom apartment in Meerut taught me something important about human sentiment— Trust needs a face, just like most of other human sentiments do. My respondent, Sampat, is a 35-year-old man. In e-commerce language, he’s a “transactor”. Sampat books his train tickets online, but when it comes to online shopping, he is apprehensive.

The e-commerce industry is grappling with a trust deficit among Indian consumers. Brands can build trust in several ways: by being more human, telling meaningful stories about the brands, acting as a useful information provider, and offering positive reinforcement. Ultimately, e-commerce brands are on a journey to create an environment where customer feels comfortable and the brand becomes a hero in their lives. In Sampat’s words…

“It’s not about money alone. I don’t know what will be delivered. If it’s not the right product, who will get into the hassle of changing things? They just give a phone number. I don’t know when I shall get my money back. Do you know how many people have just got bricks when ordering mobile phones? I can’t trust online shopping. It’s easy to just go to the neighborhood store. At least I know who to get hold of if anything goes wrong.”

Sampat is the same guy who lines up for the first day, first show tickets for Salman Khan movies in one of the single-screen theatres that still survive in Meerut. Sampat “trusts” Khan completely when he single-handedly destroys an army of villains or gives away the last penny he has when his mother is on death-bed and needs urgent surgery. What makes Sampat believe all that?

“Khan is a hero. He never does any wrong. There are so many reports of him doing good for others. Yes, I know there would be some exaggeration in movies. But when everyone cheers for him, I feel I belong there… I am him.”

Ground rules for trust

The advent of technology has made everything available at our fingertips. But trust still seems to be available at a premium for most of the e-commerce players. The industry is at a threshold where it needs to devise newer ways to build trust, to grow the headroom with a large section of population who are yet to be tapped. So, are there any ground rules that can help them to address the trust deficit? Neelakshi, a college student from Madurai explained to me…

“When I wanted to buy a portable charger online, none of the sites gave me information beyond technical specs that were difficult to understand. But when I spoke to an electronics shopkeeper, I learned how could I chose the right product for my exact requirements. Wouldn’t it be easier if online sites could provide the same kind of useful information?”

Well, the online environment would always tend to work differently from offline channels. But there seem to be certain ways where technology and trust can be brought together by e-commerce brands:

1. Be a hero
Heroes don’t think about themselves, they think about others. Brands need to empower consumers in their decision making. We don’t necessarily need to be seen as experts, but we do need to facilitate expert decisions

2. Be useful
Everyone loves to make an informed decision. However, providing just the right amount of information is critical. Information overload is chaotic.

3. Be human
Brands need to build a human image with the help of multiple touch points. Can the delivery executives become solution partners, taking the role of human touch point? Some online furniture stores have effectively trained their installers to deliver excellent customer service along with products.

4. Be positive
Bad news spreads quickly. Online retailers need to build positive reinforcement to counter the widespread apprehension around delivery. Customers can help upbeat “opening the box” experience videos go viral.

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