In 2014 the world saw another record breaking year for the growth of e-commerce, which shows no signs of slowing. However, a series of high profile delivery problems in the run up to Christmas served as a timely reminder of the fragility of trust amongst some consumers, particularly those new to e-commerce.
The nature of e-commerce means it's much easier to lose customers to competitors - or to traditional brick and mortar businesses. If the isles of a real department store were littered with as many abandoned shopping baskets as its online equivalent, the store simply wouldn't function. Keeping a customer's attention when they're physically surrounded by your products and staff is much easier than when they're in the comfort of their own homes, and where they can vanish from your store with a single click. There's a lot of psychological factors at play, of course, but in the world of e-commerce the role of trust is paramount.
Trust is what enables a customer to pay up front to a store on the other side of the world for a product they've never physically touched or seen. That's why it's so essential for product descriptions and specifications to be accurate, honest and complete. Any mismatch between a customer's expectations and what they find when they open their package will diminish trust - regardless of the seller's intent. For low value items delivered by international parcel services, customers may not even take the trouble to return the item. However, the business will have lost any further sales. E-commerce relies on the customer's confidence that they'll receive the right product, in perfect condition, every time.
Customers also have to be able to trust and rely on the order fulfilment process, and once again information is key. Customers want to know when their goods will be delivered, and to be able to track their progress throughout the whole process. Even if an item is ultimately delivered safely, any uncertainty in this process can still erode trust.
As with any relationship, for trust to be established it has to work both ways. Getting customers to trust your business involves demonstrating your trust of them. A well-advertised, generous returns policy can be one of the best ways to achieve this.