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Building trust in e‑commerce, just like in our personal relationships, can be accomplished in many ways. It is also universally understood that trust can be lost much more easily than it can be gained. That is why it’s so important to keep an eye on every aspect of your business, particularly the ones that can impact your company’s reputation. In today’s article, we’ll look at the role fulfillment has in building trust for online businesses.
Before we dive into the topic of fulfillment, let’s review some of the biggest reasons trust is important in e‑commerce.
Trust is the cornerstone of any successful business. In e‑commerce, due to the lack of personal contact and the inability to see, smell, and touch products before buying, trust plays an even more important role. Hence, trust has a direct influence on various aspects of online shopping.
With steady (and downright impressive) growth over the last 20-30 years, there have been a few key players that have risen up to become household names in the world of online shopping. You’ve undoubtedly shopped on Amazon and eBay before. You’ve used Google search results to find a retailer offering the product you’re looking for. You’ve probably also used comparison websites as well.
Many of these businesses have relied on trust elements to drive conversions on their sites. Amazon was one of the first platforms to utilise product reviews on their product pages. eBay has had seller reviews for quite some time as well. Social proof has had a huge impact on the success of these companies as well as customer protections, such as guarantees or third-party certifications.
Even though marketplaces like this use many third-party sellers, increasing transparency (and therefore their own brand’s reputation) has helped them become incredibly popular places to begin product searches.
A brand's reputation is strongly tied to customer trust. Studies show that 81% of consumers need to trust a brand to buy from them. Another study shows that 59% of online retail shoppers who have had unsatisfactory experiences with a given merchant say they are “slightly” or “not at all likely” to trust that merchant, demonstrating how central trust is in building a reliable and strong brand image.
Building trust online presents unique challenges. Unlike brick-and-mortar businesses, e‑commerce lacks a physical presence. That can often make customers feel detached and uncertain. Additionally, online consumers have grown more sophisticated and aware, demanding transparency, reliability, and consistency from e‑commerce businesses.
E‑commerce brands, arguably more than other companies, face a lot of scepticism. In fact, 2 out of 3 online shoppers stopped mid-shopping because something aroused their suspicion.
Source: Shutterstock/ESB Professional
Another interesting fact from that research is, that the younger online shoppers are, the less they trust e‑commerce companies. In fact, 34% of Gen Z shoppers believe that the majority of online retailers are untrustworthy.
This scepticism is why many companies make a conscious effort to communicate their trustworthiness as much as possible. Whether it’s placing a phone number in the navigation, highlighting eco-friendly packaging, showcasing their reviews, or pointing out their next-day deliveries, a lot of things can be done to showcase trustworthiness.
It's clear that trust can have a huge impact on your brand’s reputation, sales, conversion rates, and many other key performance indicators (KPIs).
With that in mind, let’s look at the role fulfillment has in building trust for e‑commerce businesses.
Fulfillment is an important part of the customer journey, even if some elements aren’t experienced by the customer first-hand.
Whether your business works with a fulfillment company or it is handled onsite, having a smooth fulfillment process is going to improve the customer experience.
A good fulfillment process should make sure that:
This is an obvious point that will affect your brand reputation. Of course, if sending the wrong product only happens on rare occasions, it’s nothing to be alarmed about.
However, if you notice that a lot of your negative reviews mention receiving the wrong products, it’s surely something to investigate either internally or with your fulfillment provider.
Giving your customers the option of which logistics provider they want to use is always a good thing. Customers can be picky when it comes to this topic due to their personal experiences with any of the given delivery services.
The choice of carriers can significantly impact customer perception and trust. Reliable carriers ensure timely deliveries and fewer package mishandling, contributing to a better overall shopping experience.
In a survey from 2022, 31.3% of the 2,150 respondents stated that prolonged delivery windows was one of the most influential factors in “how certain problems affect customers’ trust and comfort with merchants”. If you only offer one or two options for delivery, make sure you use a reputable service.
Having said that, it’s important to follow through with the delivery provider that was requested. Using an undesirable logistics provider can lead to delays, which will hurt your company’s reputation.
These days, it’s a given that packages should be trackable. Most providers offer this service, so sharing the tracking number is par for the course.
For a better customer experience, make sure the communication of this tracking number is part of the customer journey. Setting up automated emails with links to the logistics site is a very common practice today.
Prompt and reliable shipping is a key element of the online shopping experience that can make or break customer trust. Fast shipping times increase conversion rates. Longer than expected shipping times will evoke negative emotions, often resulting in negative reviews.
No same-day shipping option (9.4%) and no expedited shipping options (12.1%) were among the top 15 harming factors for trust in an online brand too.
It’s important to remember that a lot of steps are involved in logistics. Delays in arrivals are usually due to poor warehouse management and/or a bad delivery provider.
Within the warehouse, inventory needs to be up to date. Products need to be organised so they can be easily found by warehouse workers. On top of that, a lot of this information needs to be accessible to other teams, such as customer service, in case of inquiries.
Much like the previous point, having a product arrive in good condition can depend a lot on what is happening in your warehouse, as well as your logistics partners.
Being able to pinpoint your pain points is crucial when it comes to improving your services and the customer experience.
Last, but not least, returns are an important part of the fulfillment process and therefore, an important part of a brand’s reputation as well.
The first part of the equation is having an easy and clear returns policy. This adds to customer confidence, demonstrating that the company stands behind its products and is committed to customer satisfaction. In the same study mentioned earlier (in the delivery provider section), 15.3% of respondents indicated that short return policy timeframes reduce trust and comfort.
If you have a generous returns policy, make sure that is highlighted throughout your website. Once again, a visible buyer protection could be used to build confidence in your business.
The other part of the equation is how a business actually handles those returns. Long processing times for returns can be an annoyance for consumers. In a study carried out by Statista, we can see that every age group is an agreement regarding an acceptable amount of time for dealing with returns: 3-5 days.
Obviously, there were varied responses among the respondents. Furthermore, the markets you operate in might have different expectations compared to U.S. and U.K. consumers (some of the most experienced online shoppers in the world). In any case, there is a clear cut-off after a week here. It is safe to assume most western nations hold similar standards.
If any of the above-mentioned elements go wrong, there’s a good chance customers will let you know about it, whether directly (i.e. contacting you) or indirectly (customer reviews). It’s the business’s job to keep an eye out for customer feedback in all its forms.
Although this might sound easy enough to meet these requirements, having a smoothly running fulfillment process is crucial in order to meet these expectations.
As we mentioned in the introduction, building trust can be difficult, while losing trust can be pretty easy. With this in mind, it can be challenging for businesses to build trust for a number of reasons. However, one of the most common reasons is simply that the business isn’t paying attention to what customers are saying about them.
It’s always important to remember that reviews serve more than one purpose...
Many shop owners look at customer reviews as a way to market their business and build trust with new site visitors. Of course, marketing is important. Having an impressive star-rating appear throughout Google and on your website will surely drive traffic to your site and boost conversions. This is all true - reviews are indeed an effective marketing tool.
However, ignoring the other big benefit that customer reviews bring to fulfillment would be a shame: improving your service.
Make sure you really “listen” to your reviews. Use them to identify areas of improvement, and take action to optimise your processes. This can have a bigger impact in the long run and it's something your online shop can and should be doing.
What if you don’t collect reviews?
If your business has been online for a significant amount of time, you can be sure it has a reputation online (even if you don’t actively collect reviews).
Being proactive about reputation management is very important. With an organised reviews provider as well as a bit of research (on search engines and social media), you can get an idea of what your customers are saying about you.
Refine your searches to include specific keywords, e.g. delivery, packaging, returns. Customers do this, so you should be doing the same. Make note of certain comments, particularly if they appear repeatedly.
Source: Futureshop review profile
You may discover that on Google, you have multiple shop profiles dedicated to customer experiences. Companies like Trusted Shops, Trustpilot, and Google itself collect customer reviews for online shops and display their average ratings at the top of the search results when consumers use search terms like “company name + reviews” or “company name + reputation”.
Over the years, many businesses have opened up online shops in order to reach a global audience (or even just a larger domestic audience). Competing with the established brands can be difficult, so in order to find success, many of them have relied on their previous customers to be their advocates (as well as a source for valuable feedback).
Think about your own online shopping experiences. Have you ever been on a new website, considering whether to buy from them or not? In such cases, many online shoppers will automatically look around the website for trust signals, whether it’s online reviews or some kind of third-party certification.
If none can be found directly on the site, a quick Google search can be done to investigate the company’s online reputation. If the company’s reputation is not satisfactory (or if nothing is found on Google at all), there’s a good chance the user will give up and find a more reputable shop to complete their purchase even if it means paying a bit more. Sometimes, consumers are willing to pay a bit more to buy from a reliable seller because it gives them peace of mind, and that in itself is worth a lot.
In fact, the reliability of reviews is so high, 46% of consumers feel that online business reviews are as trustworthy as personal recommendations and 98% of online shoppers read online reviews at some point.
Of course, there will be an occasional mishap here and there, but if your business handles things the right way, even returns can lead to positive outcomes. Check out the example below:
A 5-star review… for a returned item! Although this return may have led to a small loss for the company, at least they’ve inspired the customer to leave a 5 star review thanks to easy returns and amazing customer service. Moreover, the customer seemed more than willing to come back for another purchase in the future. In essence, this return led to a marketing benefit: promoting their awesome customer service.
Not only that, but they very well may have a new loyal customer, too!
Customer service and quick refunds can go a long way when it comes to how people perceive your brand. After all, potential customers want to know the good and the bad about your business. An important factor for many customers is knowing how it is to deal with the company when things go “wrong”. Although the customer service team has direct contact with the customer in many cases, the fulfillment team has their hand in these actions as well.
It’s important to note that asking for reviews is an extremely important part of being proactive in reputation management. The reason for this is that happy customers don’t tend to go out of their way to leave unsolicited reviews. It’s the unhappy customers that do this. That’s why your ratings on these shop profiles may be so varied. The “trick” is to send more reviews to those different platforms. The end result will be a much more accurate rating for your shop.
Learn how Trusted Shops can help you improve your online reputation throughout Google, including your Trustpilot and Google profiles:
If you do get the occasional negative review, it’s advisable to take some time and reply to them. It’s always important to reply to reviews, but particularly the negative ones. Many consumers search them out intentionally as part of the buying process. Keeping your cool and focusing on a solution is usually the best strategy here. Show your customer (and the potential ones reading the review) that you care about them and are willing to make things right.
There are so many aspects of an e‑commerce business that can affect the customer experience. Fulfillment can be considered one of the most important elements of that. After all, receiving products in good condition, on time, and if need be, having a smooth returns process are extremely important to consumers. With a good system in place, all of your needs (as well as your customers’) will be met and it is bound to positively influence your online reputation.
What is byrd?
As a modern, tech-driven, and innovative fulfilment company, byrd understands the importance of trust in the e‑commerce world. Operating a vast network of 25+ fulfilment centres across 7 European countries, we offer professional fulfilment solutions designed to foster trust and enhance the customer experience. byrd ensures that your e‑commerce business delivers a smooth and satisfying shopping experience, from purchase to delivery, and even returns, positioning your brand as reliable and trustworthy in the eyes of your customers.02/08/23