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How to be more Cook and less Zuckerberg: five ways to build trust through global e-commerce

By Gemma Spence | head of e-commerce

August 14, 2018 | 5 min read

A recent privacy survey in the U.S found that Apple ranks among the world’s most trusted technology companies. That’s good news for CEO Tim Cook, especially since brand trust has helped propel Apple to become the first ever publicly-owned American company to reach $1trn market capitalisation.

cook vs zuck

Tim Cook and Mark Zuckerberg - the differences between the pair and their companies

On the flip-side, 56% of the survey respondents judged Facebook to be the least trustworthy. This lack of brand trust has slowed user growth and recently resulted in Facebook shares taking a 19% nosedive, wiping $100bn off the company’s value (and losing CEO Mark Zuckerberg $15bn in personal wealth in a single day).

With trust playing such a pivotal role in growing a company's bottom line, what should digital retail brands be doing to ensure they're building trusted consumer relationships?


Trust is, essentially, what enables humans to relinquish control despite not knowing what will happen. In e-commerce, trust is the interaction with a digital platform despite an element of uncertainty. You can therefore grow the trust of your brand by humanising your digital retail strategies.

These human elements can include communicating with a distinct tone of voice to show that there are real people behind your organisation, growing your reputation through public endorsement and testimonials, and apologising and showing remorse when things go wrong. Tone of voice also inspires recognition value, which in turn grows familiarity and trust.

Reduce complexity

The more factors there are that impact a situation, the harder it is to predict the outcome. Consequently, the lengthier and more complex the e-commerce solution, the greater the level of customer distrust.

That’s why retail platforms like Amazon use ‘One-Click’ purchasing and have a user-curated, built-in Customer Questions & Answers section, so that product listings can simply focus on conveying the basic, important information.

Trust in e-commerce is convenience-led. Trust value is determined by the ease with which customers can make repeat purchases or refill their basket with preferred products.

Rate reviews

Users who read customer reviews are 105% more likely to make a purchase during page visits, according to Econsultancy data, and 61% of customers read online reviews prior to making their purchase decision. The contribution and transparency of customer reviews supports the development of trust.

Many retailers use third-party review platforms for raising customer service standards to avoid negative feedback. Argos, Tesco and others employ this strategy to construct reliable reviews on their product pages, with the intention that customers receive a good impression when browsing the products, and in turn trust builds between the costumer and the brand. Market research studies have validated this, stating that 63% of online customers purchase only from sites that post user reviews.

Use a reputable payment gateway

Reducing the risk of credit fraud or preventing payment details from being hacked are key elements of trust in digital retail, especially in an ecosystem that is seeing ever-increasing adoption of mobile wallet solutions and other forms of in-app payments.

However, security, or perceived lack thereof, is still the top reason why consumers – particularly older consumers – shy away from banking apps, mobile wallets and emerging technologies such as voice assistants.

High-level data breaches in credit and debit card companies haven’t helped ease consumer concerns, but the introduction of new technologies such as biometric authentication, encryption and tokenisation will form a key part of building future trust in this area of online payment.

Don’t forget about brand love

Part of humanising e-commerce strategies is maintaining likability or brand love. This is particularly important when competing against the likes of Amazon-owned brands.

Your brand needs to be front-of-mind in terms of relevance and appeal when users search digital retail marketplaces. Along with optimised listings and search, love still has a critical role to play in encouraging repeat purchases, customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.

Gemma Spence is the head of e-commerce for PHD

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