Consumers More Trusting, But Less Loyal on the Web, Versus 2007

Dr. Brent Coker of the University of Melbourne recently published findings indicating that web users tend to trust web sites 20% more today versus 2007, but are 30% less loyal to ecommerce sites versus 2007.
1. Why He Believes Trust Increased

Dr. Coker said the increase in online consumer trust is largely linked to the visual appeal of websites. “As aesthetically orientated humans, we’re psychologically hardwired to trust beautiful people, and the same goes for websites. With websites becoming increasingly attractive and including more trimmings, this creates a greater feeling of trustworthiness and professionalism in online consumers.”

Anyone interested in web credibility should also visit the Web Credibility Project at Stanford University.

2. Why He Believes Loyalty Decreased

“The biggest source of frustration is the inability to find relevant information on a website. The best way to stop defection to other websites, and increase loyalty, is to be interesting. Being pretty, but with nothing to say, is not enough.”

The research found that if a website has poor navigation or access to information, or is slow (i.e. more than two seconds to download), web surfers are more likely to opt against purchasing and navigate to an alternate website. (No surprises there.)

“Shopping offline is very different to shopping online. Offline we shop in a large room, with clear signage, and often a sales assistant. Online, however, what we want to buy is buried somewhere, and we’re left to find it on our own.”

3. Sharing Drives Us to Trust More and Share More

In the last five years, the frequency of referring others to websites has increased by 32%. Largely due to social utilities, such as Facebook and Twitter.

Overall, “… we are more trusting of attractive websites, less tolerant of websites that have irrelevant information, and more likely to introduce ourselves to websites that are new.” Dr. Coker says.

A Few Thoughts

First, consumer trust is harmed where brands blur advertising with authentic conversation. On the other hand, when brands engage in helpful and sincere dialog with consumers, trust and engagement grow.

Second, with more brands spending more money on social media, many brands simply fail to achieve meaningful engagement within their targeted communities due to poorly conceived and executed social campaigns that don’t respect the norms of social platforms and conversations they seek to engage.

For many brands, the poor conception and execution results from inadequate and inconsistent performance metrics — where performance feedback in inadequate, or teams are allowed to spend without accountability for business outcomes.

Dr. Coker’s Methodology

Dr. Coker developed a formula to track patterns and trends in online behaviors and purchasing, called Webreep (shown in the image below, which you can click to enlarge). The formula, called ‘Webreep’, creates a score for 130 industries based on seven dimensions of quality: visual appeal, trustworthiness, ease of use, search quality, information quality, information relevancy and load speed. Webreep started mapping the internet in 2007.
He will present his paper at the 2011 World Congress in Computer Science, Computer Engineering, and Applied Computing in Las Vegas.

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