Four things you absolutely must know when buying online

Who can you trust when buying products or services online?

Sorry to sound cynical but there’s a reason:

As a buyer or consumer these days even off-line you have to be ultra careful. For example, take your credit card or ATM card. You have to watch out that no one sees your three-digit number at the back of your credit card or your pin code. In the wrong hands, you can lose a lot of money. So many people get caught.

Sellers and their sales staff can load your invoice with additional items you didn’t buy, sell you faulty products or worse still they can debit your bank account with an unauthorised debit order. Realtors tuck into consumers’ trust funds and financial advisors raid investment monies.

If that’s the case off-line with real bricks and mortar businesses, what about online merchants?

I recently searched the Internet for websites that sold overseas subscriptions. Quite frankly I couldn’t find any websites I had any confidence in. The websites were so dodgy — there was no information about the website and its business owners, no idea of how long it was running, nothing about guarantees or refunds — that I had to give up my search and forget about buying the magazine.

It’s one thing buying from well established sites such as the well known big name book sellers and reputable expert companies. But it’s quite another when it comes to start-ups who haven’t been around for a long time and from categories where you haven’t made on-line purchases before.

Perhaps I’m too sceptical but what works for me when planning a purchase is to follow the online business (perhaps even subscribe to their e-mails or newsletter) for a while and also see if they are recommended by other online businesses to see if they have a strong reputation and credibility. If I can’t find proof for their claims – competitive prices, quality, service – I move on.

Trust is such an important thing in business but many online businesses don’t seem to recognize this. Or, they deliberately hide behind smoke and mirrors trying to snare unsuspecting customers.

The wary buyer needs to careful when searching among the sharks, con artists and fraudsters. Look for these four leading indicators of credibility:

  1. How long has the business been in operation?
  2. Does it have reasonable guarantees or none at all?
  3. Is it well thought of by other businesses?
  4. Does it have genuine looking customer testimonials?
  5. If you answer “no” to any one of these questions, look elsewhere.

How do online businesses and marketers to build a bridge of confidence and trust in their products and services? Take a look at your existing offer on your website and see if you would have confidence and trust in buying from your own company. Get prospective customers to check out your website and tell you what they really think.

Without trust in your business, especially new online businesses, you will be dead in the water and will have little chance of success.

Let us know your thoughts and experience by emailing chesney@ideaaccelerator.co.za or or leave a comment below.

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