Augmenting Trust in eCommerce

by Justin Scott

Humans’ strongest innovation is our ability to collaborate towards common goals. For us to be able to collaborate, we have to be able to trust. Since the first inception of the value exchange to modern business, trust has been at the center of every transaction. Whether we look back to barter economies, or today’s limitless options at our fingertips, buyers must develop trust in the seller when making purchases. What is different today versus the last few decades, is that more of our daily transactions are happening digitally. This removes the physical interaction with the product being purchased… and the humans selling the product.

Physical retail inherently lends itself to building trust, as shoppers can see, touch, and engage with a product that is in front of them. Human interaction during the shopping experience further drives the instinct to trust. A combination of factors engenders trust between buyer and seller: the ability to experience products in person, the recognition of accountability if things go poorly, and humans’ general tendency to trust their own judgement. Research has shown that, for better or worse, humans are biologically inclined to trust, and simple cues drive them to proceed with whatever action requires that trust, such as making a purchase.

So what happens when you remove those physical cues for accessibility and convenience? How do brands build trust when there is not a human connection or a physical touch to act as a catalyst? Digital retail is poised to account for nearly 20% of global retail in 2021, but while this growth is exciting, it changes the dynamic of many of a brand’s customer interactions. The requirement of trust is still imperative to successful business and transactional relationships; brands who are unable to build trust through digital channels will quickly fall behind their competitors who are able to do so.

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Trust In the Wisdom of the Crowd

Of the current options for building trust online, customer reviews are a primary contender for purchase validation. Shoppers put trust into people they have never met because they can assess trust based on the wisdom of the crowd. Our instincts inherently look for authentic stories of how a product or service was used. The key element being….is it as good as the claims? While this method has worked for now, consumers are demanding something more than 5 stars to evaluate products. While reviews offer comparisons for consumers, they often lack the context of the brand itself and the ability for the consumer to make a true connection. So what is next?

How Can AR Help Build Trust?

In the traditional hierarchy of senses, sight is ranked as humans’ most powerful sense, followed by touch. While digital tools cannot simulate physically touching a product, augmented reality can deliver a highly accurate visual representation of a product, allowing the user to evaluate how the item will actually appear when it arrives. This digital context allows the buyer to develop trust for the brand’s claims, while verifying the success of the product in the environment that it would be utilized.

In discussing the concept of digital trust, KPMG has outlined five key attributes through which businesses can build trust with consumers. Two of these five attributes, reliability and credibility, deal directly with the business’s ability to accurately portray its products. Reliability refers to a business delivering products and services that are consistent and available, while credibility addresses delivering products and services that appear as promised. The true purpose of the brand is to signal trust in the product’s value. We build trust on past experience and knowledge, which can be difficult when engaging brands for the first time.

One of the most common struggles for online shoppers is whether or not the product will actually look like the picture, and 22% of shoppers have made a return because what was delivered did not match the image online.

This is where the massive potential for augmented reality as a trust-building device lies. AR brings the product to life beyond the user’s screen and at full scale, allowing for a more confident buying experience. In the most recent State of the Connected Customer report, Salesforce found that 80% of consumers believe the buying experience is as or more important than the product itself. Why is the experience so important? It is because the buying experience is when the customer builds a relationship, and that sense of trust, with the brand.

Does AR Really Reduce eCommerce Returns?

This need for trust-building is especially true for products that allow shoppers to make design selections or customize the product. The website says “cherry red”, but does that cherry red match the cherry red that the shopper has previously purchased? Or is it more of an apple red?

Buyers rely on visuals to tell them what they are going to get, and traditional digital assets unfortunately fall short of customers’ expectations at a high frequency. Deploying high fidelity AR brings that confident shopping experience back to customers, particularly when it can show them customized configurations.

eCommerce is not the only application for AR in building trust, however. Organizations or brands looking to optimize product or industry education and training can leverage augmented reality for a hands-on experience that can be used and deployed anywhere in the world. Showing a user how something will work within the environment they will use it engenders more immersive and engaging learning.

AR’s value proposition is quickly becoming more recognized by marketing experts across verticals, but while many focus primarily on creating the wow factor on a website, the most successful applications will be seen from the organizations that recognize AR as a catalyst for trust, and a vehicle for a more confident consumer.

Justin Scott is CEO of ATLATL.

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