Building brand reputation and trust on online marketplaces

Nancy logs into a new online marketplace that popped up on her social media page. Some of the items on display intrigue her and she decides to try them out. But just before she keys in her details into the payment gateway she gets cold feet and backs out of the transaction. This is not an uncommon scenario even in this digital age where the world or most of it shops online. Both buyers and sellers are cautious about engaging with new marketplaces due to fears of financial loss, fraud and a lot more. A new marketplace must establish trust if it wants to gain market share. The story does not end there. Established marketplaces must keep customer trust at the centre of their value system to keep enjoying the patronage of their customers.

Fears that make you hit pause

Customers may hesitate to use a marketplace because of their concerns about:

1. Financial loss: Customers worry about financial loss while transacting with unknown sellers.
2. Bad quality of goods/services: They also worry about the authenticity and quality of the goods or services offered on the platform.
3. Security: Users are concerned about the safety of their private and financial information on marketplaces.

Sellers too have their own concerns when it comes to marketplaces.

1. Fake Reviews and Ratings: Fake or malicious reviews and ratings can impact a seller's reputation and credibility, leading to potential loss of business.
2. Seller Support: Quick and efficient seller support is essential for addressing any issues or questions that sellers may have.
3. Payment Processing and Disputes: Sellers may worry about timely payment processing and potential disputes that can arise with buyers regarding the quality or delivery of products.

So building trust is the cornerstone of any successful marketplace business. Building trust is vital for creating a secure environment where users feel confident in transacting with strangers online. To achieve this, marketplace owners need to address the factors that contribute to perceived risk and insecurity for users.

The story of an American couple who when on vacation in Costa Rica were charged a ridiculously high fare for their Uber ride is a prime example of why trust is so important. The error was caused by a simple currency conversion issue, resulting in the couple being charged approximately 29,994 US dollars rather than the expected 55 US dollars.

Uber responded to the client's inquiry, acknowledging that there was a mistake. It went downhill from there. Uber attributed the mistake to a bank error while Altura Credit Union said the mistake was not theirs. Four days of back and forth between Uber and Altura Credit resulted in the couple finally receiving the refund. The unacceptable mistake left the couple stranded in a foreign country with a negative bank balance. They highlighted their dissatisfaction with Uber's customer service, claiming that they would never use the app again because of the inadequate support they received.

The building blocks of trust

  1. Smooth Communication and Customer Support: Be responsive rather than reactive. Address customer queries promptly and offer excellent customer support. This creates a sense of reliability and responsiveness. Thereby fostering trust and loyalty among users.
  2. Transparent Refund and Return Policies: Clearly state refund and return policies in product descriptions. This can reassure customers that their concerns will be heard and addressed in case of dissatisfaction.
  3. User Reviews and Reputation System: Allow users to leave reviews and establish a reputation system. This then offers social proof and builds trust by showcasing positive experiences from other buyers and sellers.
  4. User Verification and Background Checks: Vet users through verification processes and background checks. This demonstrates a commitment to the safety and authenticity of the platform. This can be done on several levels ranging from mobile number authentication to photo identity verification depending on the kind of marketplace.
  5. Community and Support: A strong community among sellers can foster collaboration and problem-solving, increasing trust and loyalty among vendors. Provide support to sellers, regardless of their experience level. This will not only boost trust but also help in the growth of the seller community.
  6. Escrow and Insurance: Employ escrow services and provide insurance options to safeguard transactions and give users peace of mind.

Trust is the lifeline of online marketplaces. By prioritising transparent transactions, user reviews, customer support, and identity verification, platforms can foster a sense of security and reliability among their users. Building trust is not a one-time effort but a continuous process that requires dedication and commitment from marketplace operators. But it’s time and effort well spent. A marketplace built on trust can thrive and attract more users, creating a vibrant ecosystem of buyers and sellers.

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