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Part 3: Building Credibility With Your E-Commerce Customers

Having a professional-looking, fully functional e-commerce web site is one way you build credibility with potential online shoppers. Just as in the bricks-and-mortar store, you must win your customers' trust before they'll shop online. You need to let your customers get to know you and your company as well as let them know about your product before they'll shop online.

4) The "traditional" retailer makes her store as attractive as possible, and displays the product to best advantage.

E-commerce merchants do a good job of this, for the most part. Most of them know that online shoppers need to see the product before they’ll purchase it; they use elements of e-commerce web site design such as online catalogues to accomplish this. Amateur e-commerce wanna-bes often make the mistake of loading many pictures onto too few pages and calling it an online catalogue, which results in a page that loads too slowly and doesn’t provide enough information.

A good online catalogue will use a lot of web pages; it will be organized into categories, searchable, use thumbnails to give faster load times, and provide detailed information on each product. An excellent catalogue also provides “in stock” information and makes it easy for the online shopper to purchase the product.

5) The retailer (or members of her staff) are physically present in the store to welcome, communicate with, and serve the customers that come into the store.

Too many e-commerce web sites are anonymous and provide very limited contact opportunities for the potential online shopper. If I’m thinking of buying your product, I want to know who you are. Successful e-commerce sites provide real names as contacts, not pseudonyms such as “webmaster” or worse, names that look like passwords, such as “King1724”. They supply information about their staff and their company that the online shopper can access easily if he or she wants to. Put a picture of yourself and/or your staff on your e-commerce site. Customers need to have the feeling that they know you, or at least that they know something about you, before they’ll do any online shopping. On this site, for instance, you’ll notice that my picture is on every page. (You can even read my biography if you want to find out more about me.)

Successful e-commerce web sites also provide information about customer service and contact information that is clear and accessible. Having to drill down through 50 pages to find an e-mail address printed in a tiny font on the bottom of a page somewhere will give your potential online shopper queasy feelings, not good feelings. Most won’t even bother to search. They’ll just assume that you’re not the sort of person they want to do business with.

Make your customer service information a prominent feature of your site. Put an “About Us” and a “Contact Us” or “Customer Service” link on your e-commerce web site’s navigation menu and make sure it’s on every page. And write those pages; if someone bothers to click on “Customer Service” and all they see is a single email address, they’re not going to be impressed. Online shoppers need to see a fully developed customer service policy to feel comfortable about online shopping. Many e-commerce sites use a FAQ which provides answers to common questions, such as how to order, shipping charges, and return policies.

And no matter how small your e-commerce web site is, you can now provide customer service in real time. HumanClick, and LiveHelper, for example, are both Internet based, customer-service applications, that let your e-commerce web site visitors get immediate, on-demand help. Now there’s a way to entice e-commerce customers!

Lastly, if you want to convert visitors to your e-commerce web site into online shoppers, you need to make it easy and safe for them to pay for their purchases online. Continue on to the next page to read more about e-commerce payment processing.

Susan Ward

         

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