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Report: To Build Online Trust, Let Shoppers Take Control

By Nora Macaluso
Nov 16, 2001 10:42 AM PT

To build trust and gain customer loyalty, online merchants and marketers need to let Web shoppers feel in control of the buying process, as well of the ways that personal information about them may be used, according to a report published Thursday by McKinsey & Co.

Report: To Build Online Trust, Let Shoppers Take Control

Just 4 percent of Internet users routinely register at Web sites, and those who make it a practice not to register say that lack of trust is one of the reasons, McKinsey said, citing a Georgia Institute of Technology survey.

According to McKinsey, the Web merchants that lead their industries are those that "embed" trust into the browsing and shopping process.

CDNow and (Nasdaq: AMZN), for example, get well over half of their sales from repeat customers, while repeat orders account for only about a quarter of sales at less successful sites, the report said.

In Security We Trust

"Building trust that leads to satisfied customers is complex -- but essential -- for marketing executives," McKinsey said. "Winning marketers move well beyond the basics with more subtle trust-builders that differentiate them from the also-rans."

Having state-of-the-art security -- and telling customers how that system works in plain language -- is one way of ensuring trust, McKinsey said.

The assurance that click-and-catalog retailer offers to e-shoppers ("You have no credit card risk. Period.") is a good example, the report said.

Jockey for Position

McKinsey said Web surfers will become buyers "only when marketers overcome the lack of trust that paralyzes many would-be Net shoppers." And smaller e-tailers are not left out of the game, because they can gain trust by carrying brand-name merchandise or securing a spot on a well-known site.

Telephone service provider Tel-Save, for example, increased its sales more than 47 percent when it landed a good position on America Online, the report said.

"Low-risk trials and creative offers" can also help lure customers, who may sign up for more services if they like what they see, McKinsey suggested.

Easy Does It

Making it easy to order and filling orders correctly are obviously important, McKinsey said, citing Amazon's 1-Click ordering process as an example. The 1-Click feature remembers a customer's address and credit-card information so that placing orders is speedier after the first transaction.

A mistake, however, "can be an opportunity for a company to show its best face and build trust with its clientele," McKinsey said. An apology and a free T-shirt can go a long way, according to the report's authors, Sandeep Dayal, Helene Landesberg and Michael Zeisser.

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