The UN expects that 3bn people will be online within the next two years. The growth potential – for those businesses that seize the opportunity and target these customers – is significant.
ASOS, Betfair and eBay are great examples of online success stories – companies that started small but scaled up and went international. The founders of these companies were quick to see the opportunity that the internet provides. Now businesses across all sectors of the economy deliver products and services to customers worldwide. But it is still important to communicate what makes you unique and different. Rarely has the often used business mantra ‘think global, act local’ been so apt.
But how do businesses retain the service and security of a local store when operating on a global scale? The key is to know your customer and personalise your service. Easier said than done you might think when your customer happens to be 10,000 miles away. It’s also difficult to understand your customer when they speak another language and live in a different country. In fact, you are unlikely to ever meet.
So how do you get to know your customer and provide them with a great e-commerce experience? You need to build trust. And the first major step to building trust is to establish and verify the identity of your customer. If you can verify a customer’s identity, contact details and address quickly and efficiently in real time, transactions can take place quickly and seamlessly. A secure, safe online environment gives the customer confidence that they will obtain a high quality service and that the risk of being defrauded won’t be lurking in the background – because everyone else will have been verified too. It also gives your business credibility as a professional and safe place to trade.
Verifying a customer’s identity and contact details has further benefits other than just preventing fraud. If your systems ensure that you have the correct address, it is likely that the delivery of your service will be more efficient. It also paves the way for you to segment you customers and target them with relevant new products, promotions and reward programmes. In this way, you can personalise your service to them and increase the likelihood that they will return. Consumers who experience a positive shopping experience can become your best marketers. Moreover, as any marketing professional will tell you, it is far easier to grow sales to existing customers than to new ones.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of providing a safe online environment for customers to conduct secure transactions is that of protecting reputation. If a company’s online shopping is seen as an easy target for hackers and fraudsters, the knock on reputational effect on a brand and sales is potentially catastrophic. This is particularly the case for a business that is predominantly online and therefore depends on the goodwill it has built up with customers online.
The internet, smartphones and new e-commerce technologies to provide has created an opportunity for small businesses to grow their international sales and capability like never before. But the ability to create good experiences for customers will remain a critical capability. Businesses that understand what their customers value most in the purchasing experience, and that build strong relationships with them online, will pull ahead of their rivals, protect their reputation and strengthen their customer loyalty.
Richard Law is CEO of GBGroup.
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