Report: To Build Online Trust, Let Shoppers Take Control

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

Just 4 percent of Internet users routinely register at Web sites, and thosewho 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 arethose that “embed” trust into the browsing and shopping process.

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

In Security We Trust

“Building trust that leads to satisfied customers is complex — butessential — for marketing executives,” McKinsey said. “Winning marketersmove well beyond the basics with more subtle trust-builders thatdifferentiate them from the also-rans.”

Having state-of-the-art security — and telling customers how that systemworks 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 trustthat 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 orsecuring a spot on a well-known site.

Telephone service provider Tel-Save, for example, increasedits 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 orderscorrectly 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 bestface 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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