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Minimize Consumer Risk, Maximize Profits

Posted on 1.29.2013

Online shopping is meant to be simple and suitable. Consumers unfamiliar with your brand are essentially taking a gamble on purchasing your products. They need an extra sense of comfort to convert and more from you to be a brand advocate (and a long-time buyer). Let's take a closer look at ways your businesses can make your guests comfortable by minimizing their perceived risk. 

1.) Free Exchanges: Online shoppers in the clothing industry may order the wrong size, the sizing chart on the retailer's website is wrong or the customer may receive the wrong item. It's nobody's fault, and a free exchange allows the shopper to exchange and correct the problem if needed. Knowing that a free fix is available will allow the consumer to shop comfortably, and the way your company handles that exchange (e.g. placing no blame, apologizing for any mix-up, etc.) will go a long way in providing a positive customer experience. 

2.) Free Returns: If a shopper is not comfortable with shopping online - and you've noticed this through cart abandonment, time-on-site, etc. - try offering free returns. Offering your "guests" a free return could perhaps result in first-time conversions and eventually long-term customers. Returns and exchanges, do come with fraud risks, however. The National Retail Federation predicts the industry will lose an estimated $8.9 billion to return fraud this year, but there are ways to reduce the sting, like number three on this list. 

3.) Sizing Chart: Shoppers want to touch and feel the items they are interested in buying. In fact, according to a study of 1,200 shoppers from the credit card comparison website CreditDonkey, 33 percent of those surveyed, viewed the inability to touch a product as a deterrent of buying a product online. Online retailers can combat this with one of the many product showcase platforms available. For example, virtual fitting rooms can lower return rates by nearly 30 percent. Every online retailer should, at least, provide a comprehensive sizing chart. This will allow shoppers to match up a particular item with their body type and keep returns down.

4.) Real Customer Service: Having a real customer service agent available can provide a quick fix to an online shopper's questions or concerns. Online companies can both provide telephone service and make good usage of social media as a form of customer service. Adding a personal touch to a customer's shopping experience (e.g. using their name, sending a thank-you note or email, etc.) are other ways to provide an extra sense of comfort. Retailers should also consider live-chat functionality. A recent study revealed that 57 percent of consumers believe that live help is among the most important features of a website. And according to 38 percent of consumers, live chat is a preferred customer service channel because it enables consumers to multitask while they wait for a response.

5.) Free Shipping and a Rewards Program: Shoppers are always looking for an extra incentive to buy a product. So much so, that according to a Comscore report from May 2011, 61 percent of consumers will abandon a purchase if free shipping isn’t offered. So consider throwing in free shipping, even if it's just on orders of $99 or more (to minimize loss on your part), or offer a rewards program with a point system. A rewards program where shoppers can purchase to earn points is always fun and builds brand loyalty. Remember, loyalty programs should focus on the user and the brand. 

These are just a few important ideas that online retailers can utilize in keeping their customers comfortable. Online companies can even take these examples a step further with their imagination and some third-party help (like developing gamification elements). In house, perhaps you should consider featuring a ‘Tell Us Your Story!’ section on your website. Customers can share their photos and thoughts here, which help in further engaging customers and building trust and loyalty. 

Logan Beam is the Director of Marketing and Communications at the All American Clothing Co. A graduate of Wittenberg University, Logan is passionate about starting a career that allows him to make a difference in the creation of U.S. jobs with the All American Clothing Co. As a writer his work has been featured on CBS Moneywatch, The Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, Fox Business and many other publications. 

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