Why is transparency so important for e-commerce success

Why is transparency so important for e-commerce success

One of the defining trends in consumer spending over the last number of years — particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic — has been the steady shift to online shopping.

According to recent estimates produced in January 2023, digital commerce just passed the $1tn mark for a single calendar year for the first time ever. This is a truly staggering figure which reflects a trend that can be noted globally, with pretty much every major retail market witnessing similar trends.

According to this consumer spending report, the biggest categories of e-commerce spending in the US are groceries at around $219bn, with apparel and accessories coming in second place at $175bn. Perhaps unsurprisingly, mobile spending has been a key driver of this growth, which is growing at twice the rate of desktop e-commerce.

Other reports have estimated that if these trends continue, the global e-commerce sector will be worth a staggering $8.1tn dollars by 2026, with the United Kingdom, China and South Korea leading the charge with the highest percentage of retail sales taking place online.

Based on these trends and figures, it is clear that e-commerce is very much here to stay. The fact that the leading categories of e-commerce sales are basic goods such as groceries, pet supplies and baby food suggests that we are increasingly turning to digital stores for our most important daily purchases.

Although these trends are clearly presenting retailers with many opportunities, they are also presenting many challenges. As competition heats up for retailers hoping to carve out a market share in their respective product areas, these challenges will likely continue to grow.

One such challenge relates to transparency, which is one of the core attributes that shapes what customers will buy and where they will buy it from when shopping online.

But what is ‘transparency’ in the context of e-commerce? And why is it so important for success?

Pricing, promotions and transparency

One area where transparency is incredibly important, is in relation to pricing and promotions.

It is incredibly important to make it clear to customers how much a purchase will cost them, particularly as you might not necessarily have staff members on hand to respond to any questions they have. If customers don’t have transparency regarding pricing at all times, there is a risk that they will simply switch to another retailer by opening up a new tab!

As a retailer, you should ensure that customers know before adding items to their virtual cart how much a transaction will cost them. This includes making all information related to shipping fees readily available.

This is also true of promotions, which need to be clearly outlined to customers from the start. A customer should never feel surprised or as if they have been tricked into making a purchase on the basis of a false promise. Not only is this potentially in-breach of consumer protection law, it is also a nearly instant way to damage any long-term customer loyalty!

If you do have any promotions planned, make sure that any stipulations attached to that promotion are made clear to the customer. You should also provide a way for the customer to get in contact with you if they have any questions. This will allow you to address any potential issues before they occur.

Shipping, handling and delivery

Much like providing transparency when it comes to pricing and making the purchase, online retailers should also go to great lengths to ensure that there is as much transparency around shipping and delivery fees as possible.

This is particularly important as some studies have shown that unexpected or unclear shipping charges will often cause would-be customers to abandon their shopping carts completely!

In the interests of avoiding this, online retailers should ensure that their shipping processes are made as transparent as possible. This includes being clear about the price of shipping, as well as the length of time that orders will take to be processed and delivered.

Not only will this allow customers to factor shipping costs into their consideration of how much they want to spend. It will also help you avoid having to deal with any angry customer emails in the future if they feel their package has been unexpectedly delayed!

Making products available

Another aspect of the online shopping experience that should be as transparent as possible, is product availability.

One of the worst things that can happen for both a customer and a retailer is a customer attempting to check out their virtual cart, only to be met by a message telling them an item is out of stock. This is so damaging from a customer’s perspective that it will more than likely lead to them shopping with another retailer. After all, there is very little loyalty in a fully virtual space!

With this in mind, it is important that as a retailer you take it upon yourself to ensure all product stock levels are kept as up to date as possible. If items are out of stock, this should be clearly displayed on screen and accompanied by an offer to let the customer know when it will be restocked.

As a retailer, you should get into the habit of regularly updating your stock levels and you should make sure that your website is updated with this information once it is available.

Product information

In addition to making product availability readily known to customers, you should also make it as easy as possible for them to find out basic information about any product you are trying to sell them.

This could include everything from the physical dimensions of the product to descriptions of how it functions. Providing high-quality product photos is also important, as they help to give the customer a sense of what the product will look like in natural lighting.

Although it can be laborious to keep all this product information accurate and updated, it will not only help you to generate sales, but it will also help you to avoid dealing with returns from customers when the products don’t meet their expectations.

Processing and dealing with customer returns can be costly both financially and in terms of your time, so it is best to do as much as you can to avoid them.

Market transparently and authentically

If transparency is something that your business is committed to, this should also bleed over into any marketing campaigns or efforts you make.

Marketing ‘transparently’ means marketing in a way that matches your authentic brand-voice and what your company stands for. If you have a set of values that are at the core of everything you do as a business, be clear about this.

These values can easily be translated into a marketing strategy or slogan, so ensure that any plans you develop aligns with this. Although you don’t necessarily need to be able to write a book based on these values, you should be able to condense them into an advertisement friendly format.

Delivering marketing materials is a way to directly connect with your customers and to build a personal relationship with them. The foundation of any long-lasting relationship is transparency, openness and authenticity.

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