Regaining the trust of shoppers
For many merchants, 2014 was an outstanding year in regard to their eCommerce efforts. More people are shopping online, but even more importantly, they are spending greater portions of their budgets at online stores as well. New reports from researchers continually predict eCommerce to account for a greater portion of spending, with one recent comScore study noting a 13 percent year-over-year increase of eCommerce spending in the third quarter of 2013, with more than $53 billion spent online by shoppers. The figures just keep growing – dating back to just Q3 2011, only $36 billion was spent online.
However, if 2014 saw retailers struggle in one particular area, it was definitely in regard to payment security. Numerous merchants found themselves falling victim to fraudsters and cybercriminals who used a variety of techniques to target brick-and-mortar and online merchants alike in order to steal sensitive information such as personal data and credit card numbers. It was not just small-time, mom-and-pop stores affected by these attacks either – merchants ranging from The Home Depot to Nieman Marcus were affected.
Regaining consumer confidence
It seemed like every month, new breaches were reported. For many customers, the frequency of these news stories led to people questioning the safety of making online purchases. Dealing with stolen information can be a frustrating, time-consuming experience, so some shoppers may even think twice when it comes to buying products online. In fact, one survey conducted by Bizrate found that security is a great concern for 60 percent of shoppers, Internet Retailer reported. Consumers want to shop online, but not at the risk of their personal information being jeopardized.
Fortunately, there are a few steps merchants can take to win back the confidence of retailers. This issue can be addressed by trust. While many shoppers will make purchases from retailers they are not familiar with, using brands that customers trust can improve their confidence.
For example, survey respondents said one of their most trusted retail stores was Amazon. If merchants want to encourage customers to make sales, they may want to capitalize on the trusted platform by directing prospective buyers to their Amazon marketplace storefront. This way, customers can feel free to make purchases via the channels they trust, while also allowing brands to build stronger relationships with them. Maybe the customer makes the purchase through Amazon this time, but in subsequent purchases, he or she opts to go directly to the retailer’s website instead.
Trust in payments
Another instance of where catering to trust may pay off is regarding payments. If customers are shopping with a new merchant, they may have big reservations entering credit card information and other personal data into its site. It is hard to blame them, with even trusted retailers such as Target losing millions of credit and debit card numbers to fraudsters and criminals. If even the big-name, multi-billion-dollar corporations cannot protect payment card information, why should customers trust retailers they have never even heard of?
This could very well be an issue that merchants encounter with first-time shoppers. One of the ways to address this concern is by simply being more flexible with the payment options allowed at the point-of-sale. If people don’t want to enter their credit card information, perhaps paying via PayPal would be more agreeable. The Bizrate study found that, after Amazon, PayPal was one of the most-trusted names by customers, so by using a payment solution that people have confidence in, merchants may be able to convert some sales they would have struggled to achieve otherwise.
“No retailers and no retail channels are immune to some fallout from the credit card and personal information thefts that have been reported over the past year,” Hyley Silver, vice president of Bizrate Insights, told Internet Retailer. “To reduce shopper concerns over security and reluctance to make new purchases, retailers need to proactively turn the conversation toward their embrace of consumer protections. PayPal seems to have effectively done this, with online buyers rating them the second most trusted for retail payment security.”
Of course, merchants should utilize the typical payment security trust symbols, such as TRUSTe and Better Business Bureau to reinforce the importance of security of the business to customers. This can only help in reducing reluctance to make purchases.
Crafting an experience that revolves around trust
Customers may have lost some faith in merchants after the rampant cyber attacks, but this is not the first time confidence and trust have been pivotal. Merchants should look to maintain the confidence of their shoppers throughout the purchase experience, whether that means launching consumer-friendly policies, providing adequate, knowledgeable customer service or taking other similar steps.
Trust is key to relationship building, and merchants should aim to create a trustworthy brand across the shopping experience.