A challenge for online retailers is compensating for the lack of in-person interaction inherent in having a brick-and-mortar business. With a brick-and-mortar business, potential customers can interact with you and develop the trust necessary for them to do business with you. With an online business, the customer must put forth additional effort to find out about a product for sale. Making this task easier can make all the difference in closing a sale.
An online retailer should strive to answer these customer questions ahead of time to reduce purchase anxiety:
- Quality of the product
- Quality and reliability of your customer service
- Is it easy to contact you? Do you provide phone number and email address?
- A mailing address is also advisable as it helps increase the customer’s comfort level. Also, for businesses that do any email marketing, this is a requirement on all email communications as per the FTC’s CAN-SPAM Act
- Will the item arrive on time?
- Will the product be as described or as appears on screen? Is it the right color or size?
- Will it fit? Is this item true to size?
- What if the product needs to be returned?
- Is this site secure (privacy, credit card information)?
- Is this really the best price?
Two prime consumer motivations are gathering information and customer support. Consumers want as much information as possible and they want to know the online vendor will be there for them if something goes wrong.
This isn’t unusual human behavior. According to the Uncertainty Reduction Theory, humans follow a predictable pattern of information gathering when they encounter a stranger. Uncertainty about the stranger causes anxiety and distrust, and so seeking out information is a natural way of decreasing uncertainty and anxiety, and of building trust.
Online businesses need to build trust by making sure information is readily available and that it is easy to communicate with the business. Without both of these, the customer isn’t going to risk doing business.