You can buy just about anything on the Internet. Amazon has branched out from selling books to selling vacuums, shoes, TVs, bicycles, and everything in between. But perhaps more interesting is the rise of convenience products now bought online.
Tired moms and dads can order diapers and baby formula at a fraction of the retail price, and frazzled on-the-go professionals can subscribe to monthly shipments of healthy snacks, socks, and toiletries.
With all these everyday purchases (and potential for repeat purchases) up for grabs, online companies are trying to slash prices and increase the ease and convenience of their shopping experiences.
But for online-only companies, successfully competing with traditional brick-and-mortar powerhouses often hinges on one very simple but important factor: trust. Consistency, fast and reliable shipping, brand-name products, and customer service are all factors that contribute to growing that trust.
Retailers that can maintain high standards in these areas have the greatest chance of success because—aside from lower prices and the sheer convenience of ordering online—trust is what keeps customers coming back.
Fast, Reliable Shipping Helps Inspire Trust
Shipping in online retail has radically transformed the industry. Growth in same-day and overnight shipping, as well as negotiated freight rates, have tremendously increased the affordability and convenience of online shopping, broadening the scope of what we consider buying online.
Winning over consumers is easier if a retailer can offer the same quality brands as brick-and-mortar stores with the added bonus of convenient door-to-door shipping for no cost or a negligible fee.
That opportunity for retailers has also resulted in high shopper expectations. Consumers have been trained to expect fast, reliable shipping, and most people are not content to wait 7 to 10 business days for convenience products—especially for products with a limited shelf life.
One convenience retailer that has responded to this demand well is FreshDirect. FreshDirect is an online grocer that delivers supermarket goods directly to users' doors, either on the same day or the next day, around their customers' schedules. By creating buzz about its quality products and timely delivery, FreshDirect has gained consumer trust and continues to compete with traditional stores through positive community feedback.
Brand Names Matter
Offering recognizable products is second only to price in determining whether a consumer chooses to try an online retailer. For example, selling a brand like Bounty rather than a generic brand of paper towel is easier because consumers have inherent trust in brands they know, and that trust for the product reinforces consumers' trust in the retailer.
Soap.com, similar to FreshDirect, delivers everyday health and household goods. By establishing a consistent, same-day delivery system and offering recognizable, brand-name products, Soap.com has also been able to build strong consumer trust.
Three Traits of a Trusted Company
Low prices, fast delivery, and a wide range of brand-name products all help motivate the consumer to try a retailer, but to truly differentiate themselves and earn loyalty from their customers, online-only retailers must go the extra step to build trust.
Online companies must build trust by being...
Consistent. Failing to deliver on a promise even once destroys credibility. Online retailers must be consistent across the board, from product and packaging quality to reliable, on-time delivery.
Accessible. Even if customers can't see you, they still want to know you're there. A quality customer service team that effectively answers consumer inquiries provides the reassurance of dealing with a real person.
Rewarding. Long-term incentive programs work just as well online as they do offline. Points, loyalty bonuses, and rewards are great ways to get people coming back. Amazon Prime, for example, is a shipping incentive program that will ship any qualified item within 48 hours for only $79 per year. It draws an incredibly loyal shopper who not only wants to get the value of that investment but also grows accustomed to receiving products in less than 48 hours.
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Consumers are more price-conscious than ever, but better prices may only persuade consumers to take the initial risk of trying an online retailer. Real trust and loyalty are built through delivering hassle-free, consumer-oriented experiences over and over again.