Retail analysis: Post Covid: Why Winning Brands Will Focus on Trust

In a guest article Derek O’Carroll, CEO, Brightpearl shares five strategies online retailers can deploy to build trust with their customers and why it’s vital to get this right to survive the post-Covid retail landscape.

Brightpearl is a digital operations platform for retailers and wholesalers with a clear mission to automate the back office so merchants can spend their time and money growing the business.

Since the onset of Covid-19 consumers appear to have re-assessed their priorities when they’re shopping online. Today, consumers are expecting higher levels of authenticity, seeking out brands they can trust will deliver on promises and that also align with their own values. In fact, 52% of respondents from a Lifestyle Survey in 2020 agreed that they only buy from brands that they completely trust.

And, in our own poll, 51% of shoppers say that trust is now their motivating factor when selecting whom to shop with. In fact, trust has become more important to them than brand names or even low prices.

However, today’s ecommerce market is fraught with fulfilment issues, with a third of shoppers experiencing problems with delivery since the pandemic, something that’s leading to greater levels of disappointment and mistrust in online shopping.

Engineering trust will be a key driver of both customer retention and acquisition in 2021, so it’s vital retailers are able to cultivate and strengthen the bond between brand and the consumer which can see them through these troubled waters. Here are five strategies online retailers can deploy to build trust with their customers in the post-Covid landscape:

Offer A Personalised Online Experience – Or, Something Unique
As retail adapts to social distancing and store closures, we can expect to see growth in the personal shopping experience, particularly at the premium end. This will be an opportunity for brands to connect with their customers on a deeper, personal level and understand customers’ needs, while the user benefits from having a great personalised experience that will see them wanting to revisit.

John Lewis has launched a free, virtual personal shopping service for customers to receive the product advice without leaving their home, while luxury brands Burberry and Gucci are betting on personalised video consultations spurring sales, launching their own video services.

Taking it a step further, Burberry also saw huge interest as it live streamed its catwalk show for the unveiling of its Spring/Summer collection, which offered a new unique, and exclusive experience that helped build greater connection – and trust – with its audience, while also making their online space a destination point, rather than just a store.

These approaches help replicate the exclusivity, excitement and individuality of the personalised service one receives in store and we expect it will become standardised in the online space.

Offer Convenient Delivery Options
Convenience is key to building trust, so as well as offering home delivery, aim to offer Buy Online Pick Up In Store (BOPIS) wherever possible. According to recent research, 79% say Click & Collect options are very important to them.

At Brightpearl, many companies we work with have added more delivery options to support customers’ increased preference for local shopping, and adoption of Click & Collect has gone through the roof, as a necessity of Covid enforced change, and in response to our data which suggests that 41% of shoppers plan to increase their Click & Collect use this year.

This strategy also appears to have helped some ecommerce businesses weather the Covid storm. US firm BJs Wholesale puts much of its year-on-year 300% digital growth down to allowing customers to pick up in store. By offering customers extra layers of convenience, they’re more likely to secure their trust and win their business in future.

It’s becoming apparent that retailers need to think out of the box when it comes to adopting new technology. By offering customers extra layers of convenience, they’re more likely to secure their trust and win their business in future.

Don’t Over Promise On Delivery Times – And Be Consistent
Promising what you can’t deliver is a sure-fire way to destroy your customers’ trust in your brand. So have realistic order fulfillment goals, and use them as a basis to improve your fulfillment service going forward.

Here’s a quick tip; implement automated forecasting features to help you gauge your shipping delivery capabilities. That way, you’ll avoid costly mistakes and unfulfilled orders. With an automated system, you can create fulfillment quotes in real-time – so they’re based on your actual inventory and warehouse capacity.

The key to building trust is consistency over time – creating engaging customer experiences that are done right every single time, across every single sales channel – which then help to build brand advocacy, create positive sentiment, and encourage brand loyalty. With a lot of brands out there selling the same or similar products, it’s no longer the product differentiation that gets you seen. It’s the experience differentiation.

Creating these outstanding experiences requires ownership of all ends of the buying journey – thinking about the feelings you want to create for customers every step along the way and removing any potential bottlenecks within the pre-and post purchase customer journey, from the website experience, to delivery and returns.

Start automating your workflows
As consumers move online, vendors must process increased demand of online orders more quickly – and that can lead to mistakes. Unfortunately, many ecommerce retailers have struggled to cope with the sometimes huge spikes in demand for online

Shopping, especially those brands simultaneously hit by reduced operational capacities. Companies without robust, automated back-end systems in place have faced an even bigger struggle, facing logistical nightmares that are damaging their reputation.

So, if you’re running out of stock or shipping to the wrong addresses on a regular basis, these mishaps are often down to ineffective workflows or human error. In a poll by Brightpearl, we found that 77% of all 1-star reviews were related to issues after the buy button, like delayed deliveries, or items being shipped to the wrong place.

The survey also shows these mistakes will not win you any favor with customers – it will quickly erode their trust in your brand and you can count out any repeat business. Post-Covid, maximising customer lifetime value is going to become even more essential. Recently, we’ve seen data supporting the value of retention vs. acquisition like improving customer retention 5% increases profits by 35% to 95%. With this in mind, companies simply can’t afford to utilise weak setups that lead to issues pre-or-post purchase. Automation should top the wishlist for those wanting to build trust with customers. The best online retailers are using automated solutions to oversee the creation of estimates, sales orders, shipping orders, and invoices. Thus avoiding human error, increasing the productivity of the operation, and ensuring customers are happy.

Ask For Feedback – And Engage With It
Customers want to feel that brands value their opinions, so asking for feedback will show you care. Send out surveys on a regular basis, have live chat or phone support available when they run into issues, and ask customers to share whether your products and service have lived up to their expectations. Use feedback as a basis to improve your end-to-end service – and then communicate that back to customers as a way to further connect with them.

You must engage with customer feedback, even if it’s not glowing, and use it as a way to reinforce your high standards of customer service. A Brightpearl poll revealed that forty-six per cent of respondents regularly check star ratings for online retailers before buying from them, and two in five consumers have been put off a brand or a retailer they might have shopped with – by a single unfavourable review. However, two-thirds of shoppers said that their concerns were alleviated if the brand responded quickly, and resolved the issue.

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