How can small online retailers build trust?

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Jack Ma, Founder of Alibaba Group
Jack Ma, Founder of Alibaba Group (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I wanted to buy a product online recently, found a local online retailer who had the product available at a reasonable price but didn’t place in order because the small business did not create a feeling of trust and credibility.

What put me off and changed my mind was that there was no physical address. This for me is a big red flag because you don’t know where the people behind the online retail store are operating. They could be plying their trade in a dingy basement or broken down house in a residential suburb, running some kind of boiler room operation. I think I’ve seen too many horror stories on television and film.

The first time I visited the site there was an online chat tool and I used it but still there is no way of knowing whether these online retailers will deliver. I don’t know if you’ve seen one of these boiler room telesales operations in downtown Johannesburg. A while back I was able to observe one of these telesales operations with banks of desktop computers and telephones with youngsters reading out from prepared scripts. These are the people that call you on your cellphone with dubious offers like cash-free loans and cellphone specials. This is the sleazy side of selling. Although I wouldn’t call it “selling”, rather it’s pushing and manipulation.

When you purchase from the larger online retailers like eBay and Amazon quite often you are buying from one of the small on-line retailers that are using the eBay or Amazon platform. But when you buy from these smaller online retailers on these platforms you have some sort of assurance because you know that they will be scratched off and lose they selling status on eBay or Amazon on if they do anything funny. You’ve also got a counter that gives you precisely the number of satisfied customers with that particular online retailer.

Small online retailers need to better understand the trepidation of their customers if they wish to grow their business. At very least they could start by including their physical address in their contact information section. Another good thing to do is to provide some sort of testimonials from satisfied customers. Although these aren’t always believable, they do give you a sense that the online retailer is trying to increase the credibility. You’ve also got a watch out with some online retailers like the one I mentioned who put customer testimonials up but then those testimonials come from another website on Amazon. There are other ways to show credibility such as maybe large companies that have used your retail service for promotional specials, giving back 100% refunds if customers are not fully satisfied and perhaps even having a contact number where a real, live person can answer queries.

Online retailing for small business holds much potential. Just look at what Jack Ma has done with Alibaba. But local online retailers need to jack up their act and increase their credibility because the way they are operating now, they are losing many sales.

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