How to Create Trust for Your Marketplace
Trust is one of the key ingredients of the most successful and lasting relationships. It is what friendships and partnerships are mostly founded on. It has also been referred to as the most valuable business commodity because, without it, a business cannot expect to succeed, much less thrive. Online marketplaces are no different. If you look at the biggest online marketplaces today, you will definitely note that much of their success is founded on the fact that their customers or users trust them. Thus, that is one of the biggest challenges that marketplaces face: how to build trust.
In this article, we will start with 1) the role of trust in business and finish with 2) how to create trust for your marketplace.
THE ROLE OF TRUST IN BUSINESS
Trust plays a very important role in every aspect of business. Management of people within an organization requires trust. Dealing with other parties in the conduct of your business also demands that trust be present among them. Even the simplest sale transaction requires a measure of trust: the seller trusts the buyer to pay for the goods or services that he provides, and the buyer trusts the seller to deliver the exact product or service that he is paying for. Let’s face the facts here: people will not readily part with their hard-earned money to someone they do not trust.
In the words of innovator Rachel Botsman: “the currency of the new economy is trust”. Over the years, the concept of business has evolved from something that is impersonal to one that is highly personal, to the point of intimacy. What used to be an interaction between parties that involved an exchange of goods, services and money has become something richer and more profound. It now involves more than just physical exchanges, because loyalty is also coming into play. The parties involved are now seeking deeper and more meaningful connections. Networks have become characterized by tighter bonds. Indeed, what used to be “empty transactions” have now become “personal relationships”, and they are mainly what cemented the status of the top online marketplaces ahead of the pack.
Marketplaces, with the help of internet, now operate under the principle of collaborative consumption, where the parties involved have a willingness to work together towards a common goal. Humans are, by nature, social beings. They thrive on interactions and being connected, in one way or another. Thanks to technology, it is now becoming easier for marketplaces to make these connections and forge relationships that are based on trust.
HOW TO CREATE TRUST FOR YOUR MARKETPLACE
This is probably one of the most difficult tasks for marketplaces: to create trust. But if you have a clear objective in mind, and you have the commitment to see things through until you have achieved your business goals, then there is no reason why you cannot do it.
Know your market and all the people involved
Never lose sight of the fact that marketplaces are powered by people. First, there are the customers. Then there are the sellers. There are also the staff of the marketplace, including those who maintain the marketplace, and even those involved in providing customer support. Knowing all the players will give you a solid foundation on establishing the trustworthiness of your marketplace.
Focus on the needs of the customers.
The first thing that you should do is to engage your customers and know exactly what they want, need and expect. Listen to what they say. What is important to them? What are their expectations? This will put you in a better position to offer solutions later on, because you have a clear idea on what they need.
Customers purchasing from an online marketplace will feel more inclined to return once they see that the site has taken the effort to find out what they want. Amazon and other online marketplaces now have this feature where they make suggestions and personalized recommendations depending on the user’s previous purchasing history. They are also able to make suggestions based on the products or items that have been viewed previously by the customer. It is ingrained among humans to find it easier to trust someone that clearly took the time to get to know, and analyze, what they want.
Speak their language.
One of the advantages of online marketplaces that traditional marketplaces do not is their international reach. Simply by operating online, these marketplaces are able to reach out to customers from all over the world.
You will notice that the largest online marketplaces today have localized websites, where their marketplace is made available in the native language of the country they are serving. By going multilingual, effective communication is ensured, and it is a fact that people find it easier to trust something that they understand, and something that speaks the same language that they do.
Give your customers the power to decide.
No one wants to trust someone that takes away their power to make the final decision, or make them feel out of control. At the end of the day, it is the customer who should make the decisions, and the role of the online marketplace in this context is to present the options.
For instance, the customers should be able to choose the shipping method that they want to be used to get their orders to them. They would also want to be the one to decide the mode of payment. This is the reason why most marketplaces offer different payment options, such as credit cards, escrow, PayPal, and wire transfers.
Commit and Deliver
The most assured way of creating trust for your marketplace is to have the commitment to follow through with what you are supposed to do, and actually deliver on it. After all, a customer will definitely want nothing more to do with an online store that failed to fill his order or, even if it did, it failed to do so satisfactorily.
Make sure to let everyone know your expertise.
Consumers will not trust you if you cannot prove that you know what you are talking about, or that you have a certain degree of mastery or expertise on the subject matter at hand. Say, for example, that you are a company selling men and women’s clothing. The moment you start talking about consumer electronics products, no one will take you seriously. But when you focus on fashion and clothing-related topics, they will pay attention.
In line with this, you also have to make sure that you can actually offer a solution to their problems. There is no point in making suggestions that you cannot follow through or fulfill. What eBay does is develop valuable and relevant content, as seen in its buying guides, which are mostly focused on the products available on the site, and also focusing more specifically on the eBay customer. Thus, you have to create content that is engaging and, increasing your customer’s knowledge about the product will also keep them interested.
This is actually advantageous to niche marketplaces, or those that target narrow marketplaces. Etsy targets the handmade and antiques market, while Ruby Lane is for vintage items. They can use this “limitation” to their advantage, allowing them to simplify the choices available to users and enforce a high level of quality in their supply. If you ask a customer looking for vintage items, he or she is more likely to trust Ruby Lane than, say, eBay or Amazon.
Look ahead. As far ahead as you can.
This also entails establishing medium- to long-term relationships. You will notice that the leading marketplaces have mechanisms in place to convince buying customers to come back and buy from them again. This could be through notifications and reminders, and even offering discounts and special perks such as coupons or free items. They are not satisfied with having one-time customers, because they know that it is their loyal customers that will keep them running for a long time. And, in order to instill loyalty, they have to build trust.
Establish a Managed Environment
In every marketplace, there has to be a measure of control in order to provide assurance to users. By establishing a managed environment, users will have more confidence in staying in that marketplace and actually conducting transactions within it.
Open yourself up for evaluation and criticism.
Prepare to be judged and, trust me, you will be. Customers will not hesitate to point out your shortcomings, but they will also be equally forthcoming when they are satisfied with how your marketplace operates. By encouraging feedback about your service as a marketplace and acknowledging what users say, you are showing your willingness to own up to what you lack, and also present yourself better to customers. It adds a certain degree of human interaction, and customers tend to be more comfortable – and give their trust more easily – to something “human” over a machine or electronic system.
Set up credible rating systems.
Amazon has the star ratings. eBay has the power sellers. Other marketplaces make use of badges and hearts. Testimonials and product reviews are also used by many. Through these feedback mechanisms on the sellers and the products, you are establishing transparency, which is one of the elements that inspire trustworthiness.
The rating and reviews system should have a facility that filters out the low performers or poorly rated products. This is what Amazon does, so shoppers can easily distinguish the products that are rated poorly from the better performing ones, and narrow their options.
In the case of Uber, drivers have to maintain a rating of at least four stars. Once they fail to do so, they are no longer allowed to work with Uber. This rating system builds confidence among the riding public, since they know that the driver that will be assigned to them has a very satisfactory performance rating.
Curate content carefully.
To be more specific, you must curate your supply carefully and properly. It is not enough that you focus on how your marketing team promotes the marketplace. It is actually more important that you pay more attention on the quality of the supply or inventory in your marketplace. Keep in mind that good marketing will amount to nothing if the product being marketed does not come up to par with the consumers’ exacting standards.
Many online marketplaces, such as Bonanza, conduct a pre-screening of potential sellers and shops before they are allowed to sell anything on the site. Etsy has also set guidelines or standards when it comes to what products are allowed to be sold. That’s why it has formed its in-house team of experts to evaluate and assess the validity of antiques and fine art being sold on the site. In the case of Ruby Lane, It also has a team of professionals that continuously monitor whether the shops selling on its marketplace are complying with its standards of quality.
However, more than ensuring the quality of supply, you must first ascertain that you actually HAVE the supply. It is utterly off-putting for customers to find a product on your website but, the moment they place an order for it, they are notified that it is unavailable. Keep your marketplace updated as to the availability of stock in the inventory.
Make technology work for you
Businesses these days actually have it easier than the ones that started a long time ago, because they have technology at their disposal. Technology has proven to be an indispensable tool when it comes to trust creation. It has provided the means necessary to efficiently and quickly make connections and establish trust between and among parties.
Create a well-designed, simple, and easy to use interface for your marketplace.
Users find it easier to trust something that they can easily understand. They are also bound to stay longer in a website that they find easy to navigate. The moment they come across something they do not understand, or having a difficult time finding their way around, chances are high that they will leave that marketplace and look somewhere else instead.
Therefore, it is important to invest in an interface that every user – from the complete beginner to the tech-savvy – can grasp immediately.
Put an emphasis on security measures.
Consumers do not want to transact in a marketplace that do not have a security system in place. For starters, users are not keen on the idea of providing personal and financial information when the online store cannot give an assurance that their information will not be shared to others without their permission.
The same is true when it comes to the actual transaction process. Online marketplaces now offer secure payment options to ensure that buying customers can transfer money to sellers without unscrupulous parties intercepting the transaction or stealing any of their financial information.
Make your marketplace available in the language of your target audience.
This is connected to the language issue discussed earlier. The continuous development of technologies means that online marketplaces now have more tools available for their use. They now have access to automated and advanced translation platforms to address and bridge any language barrier that may hinder online marketplaces from fully communicating with their audiences.
Solidify your marketplace’s Customer Service
Communication serves as the road or the path to building trust and commanding the loyalty of customers to your marketplace. By communicating with your audience, you will be able to target them better and focus all your efforts into improving their customer experience and build their trust and confidence in you.
Turn your marketplace into a community.
More than just an online storefront, your marketplace should be a community where people converge to enter into transactions and share experiences. Adding an element of kinship among users will make them feel better, knowing they are not the only ones experiencing what they are going through when they shop in your marketplace.
Many marketplaces provide a space or a forum for users to communicate with each other. In many cases, sellers also get in touch with customers through these channels, further improving the shopping experience. For many customers, being able to connect with their sellers in ways other than submitting their orders and making payments will go a long way in boosting their confidence in transacting within the confines of the marketplace.
“Being social” has become one of the must-dos of many businesses, especially those that operate mainly through the internet. The entry of social platforms into the scene has certainly opened even more doors for businesses, giving them more tools to improve the overall customer experience of their users.
Some of the most commonly used communication channels, aside from social media networks, is through direct email and live chat with in-house customer support staff. Contact numbers are also often utilized for those that prefer a more personal way to communicate with customer support providers.
Setting up a blog is also a very good idea, as it is a way for the marketplace to connect with its sellers, customers, and the general public.
Brand creation, as a whole, means building the company’s or the marketplace’s reputation and, to do that, trust is very important. It is certainly one of the first steps that all businesses should do. As most things go, the first step is almost often the most difficult one; however, can be done and, once you are able to go past that hurdle, you have to maintain and nurture that trust, and you will be on your way towards achieving your business goals.