In the business of building trust

2000. The millennium. Roger Federer is yet to grace the grass courts of Wimbledon. Wembley Stadium is due to host it’s final F.A Cup match before being rebuilt. Harry Potter is still a read-only experience. 9/11 is just a regular day in September. Feel old? It’s ok – me too. While momentous events were right around the corner, one significant moment occurred in my life at the turn of the century – I made my first online purchase. Small though it may seem, it was a watershed moment for me at a time when online shopping was still establishing itself in society. I bought a T-shirt from a store which I don’t think even exists today. I still remember anxiously typing my card details in to the web site and wondering whether it would actually work, and what I’d tell my folks if I’d foolishly lost money by giving my card details to a stranger on the internet. Well, it worked. One week later I held in my hands a brand new T-shirt. It was too big, but who cares?

The experience has matured a great deal in the last 18 years and these days I do more online shopping than offline. To tell the truth that has been the case for a long time. I even buy groceries online as a monthly subscription – an idea that 20 years ago would have seemed like a pipe dream to most. You might say that I’m an expert in online shopping, which is good, considering that a part of my job is improving the whole experience for consumers. I’m a designer for WooCommerce – the eCommerce platform for WordPress.

Back when I made that first purchase, if you wanted to buy something online you’d generally be browsing 2 or 3 vendors and choosing the one with the least sketchy-looking web site. Nowadays, not only can you buy anything online, but competition is fierce. Every time I leisurely browse the web I’m reminded, via advertisements, of my recent searches. Retailers are aggressively vying for my business across a wide variety of platforms. And they’re smart, they know what I want. So why is it, that after almost 20 years, I don’t think I’ve bought a single item online after seeing an ad, regardless of how smart it is?

Could it be my naturally cynical nature? Perhaps. But I think many of us are still a little cynical and insecure around the web. And that’s fine – a good thing even. There are malicious people out there, and who has the time to investigate every single vendor when all you want to do is purchase a refill of dishwasher tablets? Indeed, trust makes up a large part of my purchasing decision.

So in an age where you can buy so many day-to-day items online it’s no surprise that the retailers that offer the simplest, quickest and most consistent experiences are the ones building the necessary trust to thrive in such a competitive space. I think a perfect example of a single feature that encapsulates this is Amazon’s 1-click button. As an early mover in the world of eCommerce Amazon have been able to establish trust in their customer base through sheer endurance. But little features like the 1-click button have been vital in augmenting that trust. Amazon knew this, which is why they patented the idea back in 1999. As a consumer, I love that the process of finding and purchasing a product on Amazon can be completed in seconds. It’s so smooth that I often don’t even bother shopping around for cheaper deals. I don’t mind paying a few extra pence for time saved. The fact that I know my order will arrive the next day (thanks Prime) only sweetens the deal further.

It’s really quite incredible when you stop and think about it. The trust built by my repetition of that simple and consistent experience has made me happy to spend a little more for the same product. It highlights the value that the dynamic duo of trust & convenience represent. The anxiety I felt when I made my first online purchase is a very distant memory.

At WooCommerce It’s part of our job to make these trust-building experiences available to all store owners. While any single store may only be operating in a small niche right now, who knows what the future holds? Trust is a fragile but vitally important product, shipped with every single order that a store dispatches. And with each new order it hardens and strengthens until it transcends the physical aspect of the shopping experience. In a world where the physical nature of shopping is diminishing with increased velocity, trust becomes the most important product a store has in its inventory.

Photo by Ryan Hafey on Unsplash

By James Koster

Product Designer