Building Trust Between Seller and Buyer

While free shipping and other incentives can entice shoppers, trust and positive experiences create customers.

Sellers need to prove to prospective buyers that they’re honest, dependable, and reliable in order to gain their trust and thus, win their business.
Trust goes a long way. Especially, in business.

Trust is a core component of any relationship because without it, there can be no relationship. This also rings true for the relationship between seller and buyer. Sellers need to prove to prospective buyers that they’re honest, dependable, and reliable in order to gain their trust and thus, win their business. Those most reputable are rewarded with continued success in the forms of increased transactions, higher ticket orders, and repeat customers while the least reputable are not long for the business world.

In a January 2023 survey conducted by Digital Commerce 360 and Bizrate Insights, 1,060 online shoppers were asked “Which attribute or conditions are most likely to lead you to place an order on a retail website or app when shopping online?” Free shipping (69% of respondents) and the right price (66%) were the two most popular answers but trust in the brand (46%) was not far behind. It’s worth noting that prior purchase–which can technically be included with the ‘trust’ aspect–and loyalty programs also made the list of top reasons at 43% and 28%, respectively.

Free shipping and competitive pricing were the two most popular reasons for shoppers to buy online during the 2022 holiday season.
SOURCE: Digital Commerce 360 and Bizrate Insights

These findings were not too dissimilar from an earlier September 2022 survey also conducted by Digital Commerce 360 and Bizrate Insights. Of the 1,108 participating shoppers, the top 5 most important factors in placing online orders were free shipping (76%), the right price (73%), in-stock products (54%), product selection (53%) and trust in the brand (53%).

Free shipping and competitive pricing were also popular last year.
From September 2022 (SOURCE: Digital Commerce 360 and Bizrate Insights)

Two Keys to Positive Customer Experiences

Gartner defines the customer experience as, “the customer’s perceptions and related feelings caused by the one-off and cumulative effect of interactions with a supplier’s employees, systems, channels or products.” The customer experience begins at the moment a shopper enters a storefront, whether it be a physical location or a retail website, and ends when they leave, with or without making a purchase.

36% of respondents cited prior positive experience(s) with the retailer among the top 5 reasons for shopping with a specific seller over the 2022 holiday season. It’s interesting to note that just outside the top 5 was loyalty/rewards program, reason #7 cited by 22% of survey respondents.

Free shipping and sufficient stock convinced buyers to complete online purchases during the 2022 holiday shopping season.
SOURCE: Digital Commerce 360 and Bizrate Insights

An October 2022 survey by Digital Commerce 360 and Bizrate Insights asked 1,107 shoppers to rate their online shopping experience, both the positive and negative aspects, and areas where they felt retailers could improve. The survey concluded that there is strong satisfaction across desktop, mobile, and app users; shoppers like fast and easy checkouts; frustrations were varied and not limited to a specific common reason; detail and transparency in presentation greatly influence the decision to buy online; and that shoppers appreciate world-class customer service and website tools such as personalization options.

World-Class Customer Service

Customer service plays an important role in building trust between buyer and seller, for it’s the most effective way to ensure customer satisfaction. It’s important for shoppers to feel like they’re important and they’re very likely to become repeat customers if they’re fully satisfied. While last October’s survey preferred live chat with a live human, January’s survey showed a slight shift in EMail communication versus instant person-to-person chat sessions.

Shoppers prefer customer service through EMail in 2023.
SOURCE: Digital Commerce 360 and Bizrate Insights

Our article, Top 10 eCommerce Trends for 2023, covers the topic of 24/7 chatbots. Chatbots made the list in January’s survey, but rated somewhat lower than EMail and live chat with a human being. The customer service expectations of today’s consumers are higher than ever, and they want 24/7 access to customer service just like they can shop online 24/7. Having live customer service agents around the clock throughout the year might be unrealistic for a business, but they should still make every effort to accommodate 24/7 availability to their customers. A chatbot can be really helpful here. Modern AI technology has made today’s chatbots far more advanced in communion than even the chatbots of just a few years ago. AI algorithms can produce more natural, humanlike responses which create the illusion of conversing with a live human on the other end.

Website Tools

In exchange for speed and convenience, the absence of live human interaction can make shopping online a rather cold and impersonal affair. That’s why online retailers need to minimize that impersonality to the best of their abilities. This can be achieved by having their websites offer interactive, inviting environments for shoppers that will engage them and persuade them to make purchases.

Personalized shopping experiences are a popular way to reduce the divide between store and shopper; a study by Epsilon reported that 80% of consumers are more likely to do business with companies that provide personalized shopping experiences. As covered in Digital Commerce 360’s Top 1000 database, 13.4% of the leading online retailers have incorporated interactive website tools to help shoppers make solid purchasing decisions. Profilers compile customer data that can be tailored to display appropriate product suggestions, thus cutting down the time it takes for shoppers to find a product which can sometimes have the adverse effect of turning shoppers away when they can’t find what it is that piques their interest or what it is they want to buy. These tools may not build instantaneous trust with shoppers but they have the potential to make it happen over time. 

Digital Commerce 360 asked 73 retailers what drives conversions in January 2023. In terms of improving conversion rates, 21% of respondents said interactive product-match tools education and profiling shoppers are critical.

The 5 most popular website tools are as follows:

  • Site Search: 47%
  • Upgrades to Key Pages (IE: Homepage, Product Pages, Shopping Cart): 44%
  • Better Product Information/Sizing Guides: 42%
  • Improved Mobile Site: 38%
  • More Sophisticated Product Imagery: 37%
Modern websites with the features and performance that shoppers expect will always outsell old, outdated websites.
SOURCE: Digital Commerce 360 and Bizrate Insights

What Prevented Shoppers from Placing Online Orders

When asked what prevented shoppers from placing an order with a store, the answers again were not too dissimilar between October 2022 and January 2023. In both instances, pricing issues and stock availability were high on the list of reasons.

In October’s survey, almost 86% of participants stated general frustration with retail websites but for 30% of them, no single common factor could be blamed.

In October’s survey, almost 86% of participants stated general frustration with retail websites but for 30% of them, no single common factor could be blamed.
From October 2022 (SOURCE: Digital Commerce 360 and Bizrate Insights)

This year, however, showed higher emphasis on the current state of the economy (including personal circumstances most likely attributed to money concerns) than last year’s website performance-based complaints. Half of the respondents said that they didn’t place orders because of higher prices. The absence of free shipping followed close behind with 34% of respondents citing it as a reason that prohibited them from completing an online order. Available stock was another major factor, no doubt intensified by economic and logistics concerns–both can be technically grouped together with pricing.

The economy played a big part in determining customer online purchases.
SOURCE: Digital Commerce 360 and Bizrate Insights

Areas of Improvement

Having the products in stock will give online shoppers more confidence. Over the holidays, 43% of surveyed consumers said they chose specific retailers because they had the products they wanted in stock. Meanwhile, when asked what improvements retailers could make in 2023 to drive more online purchases, 32% said more inventory in stock was the top answer, followed by faster delivery for 32%.

Areas of retail websites that need improvement, as chosen by shoppers.
SOURCE: Digital Commerce 360 and Bizrate Insights


As online shopping becomes more commonplace day-by-day, sellers that wish to remain part of this next evolution in commerce need to work on strengthening the trust between themselves and their buyers. eBay made seller ratings and feedback popular in 1996 and these have since become SOP for new shoppers; to research unfamiliar merchants before committing to make any purchases with them. This user-generated content has spread throughout Amazon, Google Shopping, Etsy, and other popular eCommerce marketplaces. Companies can spend millions upon millions in marketing but still, even today, one of the most powerful (and cost-effective) methods is through word-of-mouth advertising. Positive customer experiences create loyal, paying repeat customers. None of this would be possible without the trust between seller and buyer. Retailers that are in-tune with their consumer public’s requests and demands are far more likely to create trust with their shoppers and gain customer retention which, in turn, drives growth and continued success.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *