The success of any eCommerce business is dependent on its ability to deliver on the promises it makes to its customers. Aside from the legal component, if a business can’t honour the price a customer has paid, or deliver the product in a timely manner they won’t have a business for very long.

In a marketplace as competitive as eCommerce customers can afford to be both picky and unforgiving. The businesses themselves have to get it right every single time. Failure is not an option and will not be tolerated.

Stiff competition isn’t the only reason customers will abandon eCommerce businesses without a second thought. Faceless nature of eCommerce makes it harder for businesses to create a personal connection with their customers.

Or to put it another way – they don’t trust you. Rather, they don’t trust you enough to forgive a problem, a price increase or a delay in delivery. Even if the delay isn’t your fault.

Aside from getting the basics right, the most effective way of building trust and retaining your customers is effective communication.

Nailing the Basics

The best relationships between customers and businesses are two way. Although heavily biassed towards the customer doing the talking and the business doing the listening.

However, before you get to that stage of the relationship you need to get the basics right. That means perfecting the communications you have and understanding your audience.

A lot of businesses get bogged down in personas – essentially the demographic archetypes who visit their site.

While personas are useful, they are based largely on assumptions or wishful thinking. If you’ve been trading for a while then you should know roughly what your core audience looks like.

Age, gender, average order value and your most popular products will all be readily available. That’s great but that won’t help you scale.

To really engage with your audience you need to know specifically what they’re buying and what interests them. That information is out there providing you’re willing to find it.

Your ability to ingest and analyse that information will dictate your ability to form a meaningful relationship with your customers. 

However, taking the time and making the effort to create a steady inward flow of data makes it easier for you to communicate.

Having this data in one place means you can begin to personalise your communications. The more personalised the communications the more likely your customers are to engage with them.

This in turn gives you more information to work from and the two way flow can begin.

Be Honest about Data Usage

The elephant in the room is, of course, the use of data. Most customers know that there is a trade off to be had between handing over data and personalisation.

However, never take that tacit agreement by your customers for granted. Be open and up front with how you use customer data.

Equally important is to highlight the benefits of customers allowing you to use their data. Customers generally aren’t opposed to being sold to providing there’s a fair value exchange.

And what they’re being offered is relevant. If your customers understand that using their data helps to improve the relevance of the offers you send them then they’re more likely to be okay with it.

They’re also more likely to engage with them. Almost 60% of consumers want more personalised communications from the businesses they shop with. More communication. 

The assumption has always been that customers hate hearing from the retailers but they keep emailing them because there’s no alternative. 

The reality is they just want to hear from you when it’s relevant. So rather than interrupting their day with a generic sale email, send them one that’s tailored to their purchase history. 

In this context your customers are happy to share their data with you. Because there’s a benefit in doing so.

The other crucial element to the trust and transparency mix is how you store and manage their data. Obviously there are laws protecting the use of data but clearly stating you won’t share or sell customer data (and sticking to it) is pretty important.

Building Trust

In eCommerce the most effective way to build trust is to make sure the communications you have with your customers add value.

Your customer data allows you to create omni-channel campaigns hyper-personalised to your customers’ interests. So no matter how your customers interact with you, they’re receiving a unique experience.

This is crucial because it changes the dynamic of the relationship. Rather than driving sales for your business, you’re delivering relevance and value to your customers.

Showing your customers products or content that will be of interest helps them to feel understood and valued by you. 

That they are more than a revenue source and, basically, you care.

This is due to a quirk of psychology. On an emotional level humans can’t make a distinction between a person and a business. This is why customers get so irritated by generic, scattergun emails. It’s also why they get so upset when they discover a brand they identify with hasn’t paid their taxes.

They hold businesses they identify with to the same standards as a friend or family member.

In other words, if you get your communications right, they will very quickly trust you and become loyal.

The ability to grow a loyal customer base, almost by accident, will give you a major competitive edge. While research shows on average customers are signed up to 18 loyalty programmes, they only engage with nine. 

Moreover, the same research shows that customers hate it when businesses try to win their loyalty. This is no surprise considering the psychology above. Loyalty is earned via the accumulation of trust.

So getting one, earns the other. Loyal customers spend more frequently and around 70% more than new customers so there are real gains to be had.

Listen to and Act on the Feedback

Once your communications are working well it’s time to start asking for feedback. There are a couple of approaches to this that can help you to strengthen your customer relationships.

Firstly, there are product reviews. Customer reviews of products reassure other customers that the product is worth the money. Or that it’ll do the job they want. 

Reviews are proven to boost customer confidence and increase conversions. The only problem is that reviews are time consuming and it’s usually only the customers who feel really strongly (one way or the other) who write them.

Generally this isn’t too big an issue. Customers will trust a product or business that has a four or four and a half star score over five stars because it seems more authentic.

However, it’s much better to have a high number of four or four and a half star reviews rather than a polarising pool of one and five star reviews.

Incentivising customers to review products is a reasonably robust approach. It’s up to you how you do this but be careful you don’t give away too much. A credit system works reasonably well so customers can accrue money off over time rather than offering a discount for each review. That approach can get very expensive very quickly.

Alternatively a level or tier system is a great way to encourage reviews that unlocks exclusive content or offers. There’s also value in providing your more prolific reviewers with free items, providing they write reviews.

All this activity strengthens the relationship and makes it less about spending money and more about the exchange of ideas. It brings the customer behind the velvet curtain which makes them feel special and like they have a voice.

Customer Surveys

Along with user generated product reviews, customer surveys give you an unvarnished view of how your customer perceives your offering.

Something as simple as a Net Promoter Score survey is a good place to start. A baseline score out of ten with an opportunity to provide specific feedback.

If you want a deeper dive, then you can create a more detailed survey to dig into your shipping, customer service and product offering.

The two important things to consider:

Firstly, if you’re asking for feedback you need to be prepared for the honest truth. And you need to be prepared to act on it. Ignoring customer feedback is a great way to drive your customers away.

It’s also important to close the loop. If your customers have taken the time to fill out a survey, take the time to respond. Anyone with complaints or have highlighted problems with your site or offering should get a personal response.

Incentives help to increase uptake but start by canvassing your most loyal customers first. They are significantly more likely to respond because they’ll want to contribute to your long term success.

Marshall your Data

All of this is achievable providing you can consolidate your data into a single place. A customer engagement platform with in-built CDP technology gives you the tools and the means to build those relationships.

The ability to ingest, analyse and segment your customer data quickly helps you to nurture your customer relationships quickly and effectively. 

To learn more about how a customer data platform with customer engagement functionality can help you to drive your business and help you retain your most profitable customers, get in touch to request a demo.

Click to download our guide to increasing eCommerce conversions and retention.