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3 Moments in the Online-Shopping Journey Where Your Business Is Losing Customers These pain points can drive potential customers away to competitors.

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"To engage with customers and satisfy their need for speed, businesses must re-engineer their approach. Today, it's about giving the customer what they want, when they want it and how they want it, or they'll go someplace else." — Judith E. Glaser, best-selling business author and creator of Conversational Intelligence® (1946-2018)

We are all shoppers. We all participate in what is known by consumer marketers as "The Buyer's Journey." We become aware of products. Consider and compare them. Decide and then purchase them.

Many of us need to see a product live, hold it, perceive it. We don't necessarily trust what we can't see in person. This journey does not end at the purchase. We consume the product and form impressions based on the entire experience to advise future decisions.

Enter Covid-19. The novel virus influenced people to stay safe at home, driving unprecedented online-shopping growth. As it stands today, about a quarter of the planet shops online. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that ecommerce sales totaled $791.7 billion in 2020, an increase of 32.4% from 2019.

Additionally, a recent report by the Mastercard Economics Institute predicts that 20-30% of pandemic related shifts to digital buying will be permanent. What does this mean for online retailers?

Related: Covid-19 Aftermath: Online Retail Shopping Becoming the New Normal

New opportunities

We are still living in what Qualtrics described as the "era of immediacy" over seven years ago. Shoppers operate in real time, round the clock. Yet, distanced from the immediacy of any human touch during the sales process, online interactions become more automated and impersonal. Customers accept a great deal of uncertainty, risk and ambiguity when taking their business online.

Concerns around perceived trust, privacy and security become deal-makers and deal-breakers in the digital marketplace. If trust is established, shoppers are more willing to take financial risks. But an initial misstep in the game of trust leaves an unfavorable first impression that becomes difficult to reverse.

A customer's POV

When prospective shoppers decide on who to trust, and who not to, how they see uncertainty, risk and ambiguity can determine the payoff. By limiting the levels of mitigating factors that affect buying, online retailers can foster trust with shoppers, raise their willingness to buy, create loyalty and thus stand the best chance of success.

There are three key pain points that can lead to customer migration. Problems with product uncertainty, potential loss and credibility can be solved with trust-based solutions. Here's how online retailers can positively influence shoppers and establish their brand as a trusted one.

1. Online shoppers begin their journey in a state of uncertainty

One immediate concern in ecommerce is product fulfillment. The delayed gratification between purchase and arrival of the product triggers uncertainty. This leaves the customer wondering if the product will arrive damaged, on time or even meet the quality promised by the seller.

Retailers can ease this form of fulfillment uncertainty with policies on return and quality assurance, alongside customer-service support. Satisfaction is a core factor in retention. It is maintained through a dialogue between shoppers and vendors. Quality service sets a benchmark for trust and gives deeper insight into the user's experience. Shopify, a multinational ecommerce company, identifies this "conversational commerce" as an increasingly important step in driving
genuine connection between customers and sales.

Related: 14 Tips for Safe Online Shopping

2. Unnecessary risks are often the greatest enemy of sellers

Shoppers are already uncertain and weary about the state of the product. Further risks can jeopardize long-term customer commitment. One such risk is called "dark nudging," where the site's interface acts in a way that misleads users or acts against their best interests. For example, a hidden cost strategy that hikes up the initial price of a product during purchase can lower future purchase intention and recommendations. Not only does this strategy violate the shopper's trust, it is also a leading cause (49%) of cart abandonment.

Transparency is the first step towards building trust online. Price guarantees and one-click purchasing can reduce these unnecessary risks. If the seller decides to introduce costs to the purchase process, they must be upfront and clear about them. To design a site that nudges in the right direction, the seller should follow economist Richard Thaler's three principles: Be transparent and never mislead, provide easy opt outs and always act in the best interest of those being nudged.

3. Privacy and security concerns can erode customer trust

When it comes to known concerns versus the unknown, sometimes the devil you know is better than the one you don't. Shoppers fear misuse of personal information, security breaches and a lack of visible security features at checkout. The unknown potential for loss of privacy and security, coupled with a lack of influence on the outcome, can lead to untrustworthy interfaces.

Shoppers want to conduct business on a site that is reliable and credible. A 2021 survey on cart abandonment found that 17% of online shoppers exit during checkout because they "didn't trust the site with their credit card information." SSL seals, such as Norton's, indicate technical security and encryption. Trust seals, like BBB Accredited, indicate legitimacy because a trusted third party has independently evaluated and tested a retailer's website. Additionally, internal assurance statements of the vendor's policy can act as another indicator of transparency. Jargon and industry-specific language lead to ambiguity that can be hard to interpret. When in doubt, opt on the users' side and protect their personal information.

Related: Instagram and Google Launch Interactive Online Shopping

The extraordinary growth and evolution of ecommerce is turning prospective shoppers into buyers worldwide. Web surfers are rapidly turning into web spenders. For retailers, establishing a well-built, reputable online presence is a benchmark for long-term success and a key differentiator in the marketplace. With an abundance of competition, it's all about giving customers what they
want, and trust is at the top of that list.

Nicklas Balboa and Richard D. Glaser are a dynamic writing duo who focus on how conversations shape work culture.

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