Expert Speak

In Retail, Trust is Everything

While e-commerce is set to double in the next three years, some consumers are still wary of spending online. Rahul Duragkar, Managing Director of UAE-based online retailer Shopinc, enumerates 3 ways that online retailers can build – and keep – consumer trust

In business as in love, trust is everything. With consumers anticipating online companies to provide quality products beyond advertised timeframes, there is a greater need for quality products and discounts, which are applicable all year round to foster good and long consumer relationships. In a scenario where consumers are increasingly purchasing online, thanks to convenience, 24/7 storefronts and a wider product selection, trust assumes more importance than ever.

Over the next three years, e-commerce sales are likely to nearly double, with the Middle East e-commerce market projected to be worth AED 179 billion ($48.6 billion) in 2022, up from AED 98.8 ($26.9 billion) in 2018, according to a report by Fitch Solutions. Yet some consumers still aren’t comfortable making purchases over the internet. In a survey of 24,000 users in 24 countries by Ipsos and the Centre for International Governance Innovation, 22 percent of respondents said they never shop online, with half (49%) citing lack of trust as the reason. Retailers can win over those consumers by committing to some sound principles.

Keep Your Promises
How many of us haven’t heard of people who’ve ordered something online only for it to be a close imitation of the product advertised? One in five people are routinely disappointed by their online purchases, and are forced to return goods or switch to other retailers, a survey of 2,000 customers in the UAE found. But a business model built on one sale to a customer is doomed to failure sooner or later.

Ask for Recommendations
Communication underpins the success of any relationship, so why should retail be any different? Without being prompted, most customers will only bother to contact a retailer if they are disappointed, but those who’ve had a good experience will talk about it and post online if they feel they can help other shoppers. Encouraging feedback directly impacts the bottom line. Once a consumer has made a purchase, it’s important they be encouraged to share their experience – if they feel heard, they will come back again, and the positive reviews can spur purchases from new customers. Approximately 91% of 18-34-year-old consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, a 2018 survey on 1,000 UAE respondents found.

Get Personal
Chatbots are helping replicate the warmth of physical stores in the online space. These artificial intelligence programs are already used to answer customer questions based on the most common business inquiries. Having been around for some time now, the years of familiarity are starting to pay off for brands. A January Microsoft poll of 1,300 Middle East-based decision-makers shows that around 39% of the region’s organizations have already adopted AI solutions and more than one third (37%) are planning to adopt them in 2019.

The next step is improving chatbots’ interaction with consumers through personalization – an Accenture survey found that customers are 75 percent more likely to make a purchase when a retailer recognizes them by name, or makes suggestions based on past purchases – as in the case of the “frequently bought together” recommendations. Indeed, by 2035, Accenture predicts that AI will boost profitability by an average of 38%.

As they say, whatever you invest in pays rich dividends. Building and leveraging a one-to-one relationship of trust can indeed pay off for both retailer and consumer.

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Chris Fernando

Chris N. Fernando is an experienced media professional with over two decades of journalistic experience. He is the Editor of Arabian Reseller magazine, the authoritative guide to the regional IT industry. Follow him on Twitter (@chris508) and Instagram (@chris2508).

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