The last couple of years catapulted eCommerce growth into the future. With the industry hurdling projection after projection, led in large part by the pandemic contributing an estimated $218.53 billion to eCommerce’s bottom line, the only thing that seemed capable of slowing momentum was merchants’ ability to get products into their customers’ hands fast enough.

Today, things are a bit more complicated. A new backdrop of complexities has emerged in the form of persistent supply chain challenges, the inevitable death of third-party cookies, and a consumer that’s becoming more discerning with how they spend their money. 

As a result, merchants of all sizes are developing new playbooks to adapt to the rapid shifts taking place. 

Make no mistake—there's still a tremendous amount of opportunity ahead. But as businesses retool their strategies to capitalize on the potential, they must first understand the eCommerce currency that’s critical to getting customers to spend their money and ultimately paving a path towards success—trust.

Trust is More Important Than Ever Before  

From the days when deals were secured via in-person interactions and handshakes to today, where purchases are made from anywhere with the click of a button, trust has always been an important factor in business. That’s never changed.

What has changed, however, is how much the importance of trust has been ratcheted up in a landscape where consumers have an unlimited amount of choices when it comes to online business.

With price, product quality, and customer experience being relatively similar across modern eCommerce today, brands are competing on trust. In fact, a 2021 survey of 1,000 consumers concluded that more than 80% consider trust a deciding factor in their buying decisions.

Trust lies in the space between getting people to pay attention to your brand and the final transaction. Customers that make a first purchase are looking for markers of trust, and repeat purchasers are planting a flag of confidence that their trust was fulfilled the first time around.

But what is trust exactly?

The truth is, trust in eCommerce comes in many forms. From third-party badges that show a website is legitimate to always-on customer service strategies and transparency around the use of personal information, trust today is a complex patchwork of values and promises that form the basis of all successful customer relationships.

In an environment where more customers are seeking privacy, and rejecting technology like third-party tracking cookies used haphazardly under the guise of personalization, more and more are opting out of these relationships. Why? Because these methods feel like an inauthentic way to “be their friend”. 

To put it simply, if you can’t enter into a relationship on the basis of authenticity, all of the other ingredients of trust are rendered moot. So how do you get consumers to opt-in through authentic engagement?  

Well, you don’t. 

The community of engaged customers who already trust you do.

Cultivating Authenticity Through Customer Stories

As defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, authenticity is “worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to or based on fact.”

When we make a purchase today, what do we look for? Facts. Facts about the brand: is it local and family-owned? The product: do they use sustainable materials? The overall customer experience: what are their shipping and return policies? And many more. These facts help us make informed purchases and allow us to derisk our investment in the process. However, they can’t just come from the brand itself. In today’s landscape of pervasive distrust and consumer skepticism, consumers are far more likely to accept facts as truth when they come from other consumers. 

For this reason, online reviews have become an incredibly important piece of the buyer's journey. Numerous studies have shown that over 90% of consumers make the effort to read reviews before buying products. Further, research from McKinsey has shown that incremental improvements in ratings and reviews can drive explosive growth for products—upwards of 200% depending on the category. Reviews drive confidence. And confidence converts.

And as eCommerce has evolved, so too have reviews. Today’s innovation-forward reviews platforms such as Okendo allow brands to showcase customer experiences through ratings and reviews that include user-generated content (UGC) from real customers in the form of photos and videos. Not only is this a more cost-effective and low-lift way to market your product, but it’s also more authentic than highly polished photos and videos produced by a brand.

Of course, most modern sellers know that reviews are table stakes today. But only the savviest of merchants know that with the right technology and processes in place they can leverage reviews to harness a community of engaged customers to tell raw and authentic stories. Stories that attract new customers and keep existing ones coming back again and again.

Extracting Powerful Insights to Build Stronger Relationships

The best relationships aren’t built through magnanimous acts. They’re cultivated around an understanding. Think about it—our most trusted friends are those who remember the little things about us. They know those personal details that make us who we are—our favorite wine region, the fact that we don’t like sparkling water, or that we’re gluten intolerant. And these friends act on this understanding.

And although these types of relationships can be the most rewarding, they are also the most difficult to establish. They are built on two parties’ willingness to share intimate information about themselves with the other, as well as an expectation that this knowledge will be treated with the utmost respect and care.

It’s possible for brands to leverage this type of understanding of their customers to take their relationships to the next level. Savvy brands are capturing zero-party data knowingly offered up by customers through surveys, quizzes, and other sources to drive deeper connections through more individualized experiences. Zero-party data has been called ‘the new oil’ because of its huge potential for new kinds of personalization. As well as meeting consumers’ increasing need for privacy, this voluntarily supplied information enables brands to interact with their customers as who they really are—individuals with unique attributes, needs, and preferences.

Think of a D2C beverage brand that brews and sells a wide range of gourmet coffees and teas. In one review, a customer might describe her adoration for the brand’s light roast vanilla coffee, stating that she “has to start each and every day with a cup.” Meanwhile, another shopper says that he enjoyed his first purchase of the light roast vanilla coffee, even though he usually opts for original blends versus flavored and only drinks coffee on occasion. Not only is this context important data for customers to share among each other to ensure experiences are relevant, but it’s powerful data for the brand to create experiences that cater to each individual's unique needs and preferences.

Moreover, these insights can help brands generate long-lasting relationships with customers who in turn, become loyal brand advocates. In a world ruled by word-of-mouth marketing and reviews, it’s almost impossible to overstate the influence of these customers and therefore, the value of customer retention for brands. 

Setting the Table for Trust

Giving customers the space to feel confident enough to share and also the structure to share the right information is essential. However, as the trust gap between consumers and businesses widens, it only grows more challenging. Just as you wouldn't share personal details with someone you didn't trust, customers won’t share information with brands they don't trust. 

But with an understanding of how to cultivate authenticity, brands can establish trust, which combined with the right systems, can help facilitate customer stories that act as powerful drivers of revenue and retention.

Brands that leverage software (such as Okendo) that facilitate capturing and presenting this kind of data through relevant feedback have seen customers are four to five times more likely to make a purchase. And while having the right tools is necessary to see these kinds of results, it all starts with trust.

When your customers trust in your brand, they’re more likely to purchase—and come back again and again.

With Okendo, you’ll build trust with your shoppers through customer-collected reviews and UGC while creating a more personalized customer experience that drives conversions and repeat buyers.

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