How Can Online Businesses Build Trust With Potential Customers?

Online Businesses

Traditionally, business has mostly been conducted face to face. In-person contact means that your customers can look you in the eye to gauge for themselves whether they trust you or not. Being able to step into your shop or other place of business also means that they know where you work, and have somewhere to return to if there is a problem. 

With online businesses, none of this is true. You can be trading from your bedroom on the other side of the planet and the customer has little way of knowing. They also can’t come to see you, and unless you have the margins and resources to have phone calls with each customer, they won’t even get the opportunity to speak to you. 

This creates a challenge for business owners who want and need to build trust with their customers before they’ll be willing to hand over their cash and commit to a sale. 

Thankfully, there are plenty of ways that you can demonstrate your ability, reliability, and trustworthiness remotely.

Free Trials

Business owners have been using free trials to help demonstrate the value of their products for centuries. Today, you don’t have to look very hard before you’ll come across a company that offers new customers a time-limited period where they can try out their product or service without having to spend any money. 

There are several reasons behind it, but the main rationale is that a free trial allows the customer to try out the product and learn first-hand how good it is. Additionally, psychologists have suggested that free trials can trigger “loss aversion” responses among participants since they won’t want to “lose” the product they now have. 

You can find examples of free trials in almost every industry. Some well-known examples include Netflix, which offers a 30-day free trial in some markets, and Mail Chimp, which offers a free package with limited features. 

Most companies in the igaming industry also offer free spins with options provided by sites such as OddsChecker to let their customers try out the software and customer service before they make larger deposits. These free promotions are often necessary for them to compete in a very crowded market. 

Even sellers of physical products can benefit from free trials. For example, in the UK, several car dealerships offer “test drives” of cars that can last for several days. This gives the customer the opportunity to try out a new car in everyday situations rather than just for a short drive over a couple of minutes. 

Free trials don’t always work though, especially if your product or service is something that is not used regularly. For example, a free trial of a razor may work since it’s something that will need to be replaced regularly, whereas a free trial for a piece of furniture or a computer won’t be appropriate. 

Customer Reviews

Word of mouth has always been important for businesses. While you can shout about how great you are in your marketing, people will pay much more attention when someone else says positive things about you. 

The traditional word of mouth was literally that, people talking face to face giving recommendations to friends and colleagues. Today though, word of mouth marketing has moved online and it can help you to build trust with customers. 

According to Inc, 91% of consumers read online reviews before they make a decision on whether to buy or not. Almost as many people value an online review just as much as a personal recommendation from someone that they know personally. 

Therefore, there’s clear value in getting your existing customers to leave positive reviews.

There are several platforms you can use to collect them, and in most cases it helps to use a mix of a few together. Some of the most popular options used by businesses are Google, Facebook and Trustpilot.

Google is a key one because anyone searching for your business online will usually be presented with your star rating and other key information. 

The easiest way to collect reviews is to email customers and ask them; you can do this manually or have one automatically sent when a certain period of time has passed after their order.

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Case Studies

Sometimes, a review may not be enough. This is often the case if you sell expensive or complex products or services. This is particularly true if what you’re selling is designed to have a major effect on a business’s operations.

For example, an office chair or a desk may only need some product reviews to demonstrate their quality, durability and ease of construction, a cloud-based accounting application may benefit from case studies. 

Case studies delve much deeper than a simple review. They tell a story of a problem that your customer faced, how your product or service addressed that problem, and the benefits that the customer has realised after buying it. 

Accompanying them with quotes from the customer and photos of the product in use can help to demonstrate the value your product or service has. 

A great example of this is a case study produced by Adobe. When working with The Royal Bank of Scotland, they helped the company to promote the use of data in decision making within their company and improve communication. Their case study goes on to demonstrate a 20% increase in conversions among several other benefits. 

Make Communication Easy

No matter how many tools you use to demonstrate your legitimacy and competency, some customers will still need further reassurance. This is especially true if they’re going to be handing over a lot of cash. 

Therefore, you need to make it easy for potential customers to get in touch with you. This may be via email, a contact form, telephone, social media or live chat. The mediums you choose will depend on the type of customers you deal with. 

For example, consumers often prefer to use Facebook or Twitter to ask questions though queries about B2B transactions will likely be better dealt with over email. 

To Sum Up

In short, building trust with your customers over the internet requires communication and the verification of others who have been happy with your work in the past. The tools you use will depend on the type of product or service you sell and who you sell to.

Sometimes, your product will be able to do all the talking for you. In which case, a free trial may be most appropriate, while other times your customers will need a little more reassurance, so you’ll have to provide strong communication to answer their questions.  

By Michael Caine

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