The single greatest reason someone buys from you is whether they trust that you can deliver what they need or want. In a face-to-face interaction, it comes down to listening, reviewing what you have heard, and demonstrating your interest in helping them accomplish their objectives above your own. In the online world, the landscape changes a bit. Here are some examples of companies that do an incredible job building trust and loyalty.
Any List Must Start with Them
The stories about Zappos are legendary. They are the benchmark for service and loyalty. This is a company that proved everyone wrong by creating a brand that personifies a culture of service.
Zappos sells most of its items at full-retail price. Yet, they continue to thrive. People first told them that nobody would buy shoes online. Instead of accepting the status quo, they figured out how to make it work. Two of their keys are a) Free shipping BOTH WAYS; and b) always exceeding (not just meeting) customer expectations. Order something from Zappos using standard shipping. They tell customers you will receive the item in four to five business days. Send me an email if you do not get it within two.
Would you buy a diamond online?
One of the most personal and significant investments you can make is a diamond engagement ring. Though many companies have tried to make it work, one company actually invented technology to make it work. JamesAllen.com realized there was a gap in the industry. Specifically, someone buying a diamond online did not have a sense of what their EXACT diamond would look like. They could see photos of similar diamonds, but not their exact one. Of course, every other retailer offered the certification and specification sheet, but buyers were not interested in buying a document, they wanted a diamond.
JamesAllen.com solved the problem by developing their own imaging technology to show a 360 degree, 15x magnification of the exact diamond you are purchasing. The consumer gets a better sense of the diamond online than they could if they were in the store.
You would not want to take delivery of a mail-order bride by reading the specification sheet. Neither would you want to take delivery of her diamond engagement ring without seeing the diamond up close and personal. They added 60-day returns, 100 percent refund, and free shipping both ways on top of a lifetime warranty. In essence, they provide risk-free buying to their customers.
What can you learn?
Each of the above examples saw an obstacle that many others before them had seen. Rather than accepting defeat like their predecessors, they sought to overcome those objections to change the rules of the game. They looked at what would inhibit a buyer, and did everything in their power to overcome those obstacles.
When Zappos heard nobody would buy shoes online because they would not be sure of the sizing and would not want to pay for shipping, they simply allowed customers to order multiple pairs and return what they did not want. They even encourage customers to buy multiple sizes and "just return the one that is not the right size."
JameAllen.com made the online buying experience for diamonds actually better than the in-person experience. Would you prefer to buy a diamond via your tablet computer from your couch on your timeline, or would you prefer to be pressured by a salesperson in the mall? Their clients get a better, more comfortable experience online than in person... all while the company removes any perceived risk of purchasing online.
How can you put it to work for you?
Look beyond the details, and the biggest obstacle each vendor removed was uncertainty and risk. Instead of saying why something cannot be done, look at how you can simplify your client's buying decision. Free shipping and 360 degree diamond views were their keys. In your field, it could be that if everyone else charges by the hour, you might figure out a way to charge by the project. Just don't use the excuse "It's impossible in our field." What would have happened if Zappos and JamesAllen.com had made excuses instead of being innovative?