The Role of Mutual Trust in Building Member Loyalty

The C2C Business Model: The Role of Mutual Trust in Building Members' Loyalty

The Need for User Trust and Loyalty

Every online business transaction (eCommerce), especially on a customer-to-customer eCommerce level (C2C eCommerce), has an element of fear and anxiety in it, from both sides engaging in the deed. Sellers might be afraid that the customer will not see the payment through, and customers can be afraid that they will never receive the product they ordered. These are not the only sources of fear present during eCommerce, but nevertheless, majority of them has to do with mutual trust. Trust and loyalty from the one party to the other during C2C eCommerce is a necessity for a business to survive, grow, and thrive. This article will dig deeper on the elements of loyalty and trust, and how they can be developed during C2C eCommerce.

Clarity's eCommerce Marketplace platform has been used in such marketplaces for more than 10 years.

A C2C eCommerce platform without customers has no reason to exist. A C2C eCommerce platform with customers who are not loyal will not go very far. A C2C eCommerce platform with customers who cannot trust the sellers and vice versa, again, will not make it afloat across the “sea” of eCommerce platforms available today. eCommerce customer loyalty is a huge factor of success, affecting the success pathway of a business and carving its fate. We have all herd stories about issues with various companies, from product subtraction due to contaminants in specific batches, mistreatment of employees, minor or major issues with the products sold, unavailability for refunds, poor customer service, data security breaches, and so many others. Issues like that can harm the reputation of a business, not necessarily because the product or service sold is bad per se, but because the customers will stop trusting and company and buying its products or services. One could argue that if an eCommerce business, especially one using the C2C business model, manages to create a loyal customer base, then success is predetermined.

Well, a general benefit from having loyal customers who trust a C2C eCommerce platform, is “success” or “growth”. But what do they really mean, and how can they affect a business and their strategy? A big part of a company’s money is spent in marketing, trying to attract new customers and maintain the existing ones. If a company has a loyal customer base, then they might be able to cut back on their marketing strategy, and allocate those funds in other areas which might need it. Another benefit of having loyal customers, is the reassurance that if something goes wrong, then due to behavioral psychology, customers will be more inclined to keep trusting the company rather than immediately and fully lose their trust. Last but not least, a great benefit of having loyal customers, is that they can contribute to the promotion of the company dramatically, on a voluntarily or paid basis, through word of mouth. Word of mouth is a powerful tool, especially for C2C eCommerce platforms, where customers have plenty of options, and especially in today’s era, where social media have a great impact on eCommerce.


How to Build Marketplace Trust

Building trust is not easy. It takes a lot of effort for eCommerce consumer loyalty to be developed, and C2C customer loyalty can be even trickier. The abundance of choice makes trust and loyalty to be broken more easily than before, so platforms and businesses need to be ahead of their game. Some of the things C2C eCommerce platforms and sellers on them can do to start building that trust are the following:

  • A good first impression: First impressions last, and they can be “make or break” for customers. A badly designed interface, poor product description, poor quality of photos, or worse, of the actual product, inflexibility of payment options, grammatical errors, or absence of the “human” factor are big no-nos when a company is trying to make a good first impression to prospective customers. Having a design that flows elegantly, guiding customers to the next step effortlessly, describing the product in mouthwatering ways, making visitors wanting to convert, being open about policies and operations, putting customers in the center of attention, and leaving them thinking about their next transaction is definitely a great first step towards gaining loyal customers.
  • Making promises you can keep: If the C2C eCommerce platform is promising to customers speedy delivery, great customer care, elaborated selection on a specific type of product, extreme data security, or anything else above and beyond, then this promise needs to be kept. Failing to keep promises made to customers can compromise loyalty and the ability of customers to trust the eCommerce business. Especially when promises made are very important to the prospective customers (this can be identified from the values of the company and the market research), then if broken they can lead to complete collapse of the company.
  • Offering great customer service: Regardless of the time and effort business owners put into making the C2C eCommerce experience seamless and enjoyable, something can go wrong at any point during an eCommerce transaction. In such occasions, it is in the best interest of the business owner to offer great customer service, trying to resolve the issue, or offer compensation to customers who got affected one way or another. In this way, customers will feel valued and respected, and even pampered. Since choice on almost every product and service is nowadays abundant, customer service can make all the difference, making customers to stick with a particular company and develop trust and loyalty.
  • Giving something extra: Continuing from the previous point, the difference is in the details. Building loyalty and trust with your audience, means going the extra mile for your customers, especially given the possibility of customers finding similar or better options elsewhere. That “something extra” could be curated content showing how products work in detail, curated blogs focusing on specific customer categories or particular product specifications that might be difficult to highlight. Another type of “extra” that companies can offer and help trust development between them and their customers is an introduction of the company and its employees, including personalized details (such as hobbies, a favorite product or service the company offers…).
  • Owning up to mistakes: Unfortunately and unavoidably, mistakes happen, and regardless of how prepared a platform or business owner can be, there will be unforeseeable circumstances. There are several viral examples out there about companies which made mistakes and owned up to them or avoided commenting on them. In the first case, when a business owner owns up to a mistake, it makes them come across as transparent and trustworthy, whereas if they brush over the incident without formally addressing it they might end up compromising the future of their company as they will lose credibility.
Focusing on the possible risks of C2C eCommerce marketplace

Risk Minimization in C2C eCommerce Marketplace

There are risks in every aspect of our lives, from crossing the street, and cooking on open fire, to making an investment, or setting up a company. Focusing on the possible risks of C2C eCommerce marketplace, especially those regarding C2C eCommerce building customer loyalty, there are three main areas to focus the attention on: payment handling, data security, and partner choices. Let’s see them in a bit more detail.

Payment Handling

The main risk here from the seller’s point of view is securing the payment procedure and making it frictionless for customers. In C2C eCommerce the platform host is taking care of the payment handling rather than the individual sellers, in an effort to avoid multiple risk exposure. The payment stage is a very important stage during the development of eCommerce customer loyalty and trust, making it maybe the most important a value proposition of the platform. Every customer wants to be reassured that their sensitive data submitted during the payment process are handled with care, so ensuring collaboration with trusted payment service providers can really boost confidence in the company and improve trust and loyalty.

Data Handling

Similar to the previous point, customers need to feel reassured that their protected identifiable information is stored and handled securely, without the possibility of leakage or misuse. The policy followed by the C2C eCommerce platform can make all the difference to customer loyalty building. Offering transparency on data handling policies, immediate notification of attempted attacks, updates on the data safety systems in place, or any relevant update, can keep customers in the loop, making them feel respected not only as dimensionless customers, but as people.

Partner Choice

C2C eCommerce platforms rely on business partners for their success, them being payment handlers, data safety handlers, external parties used for specific offered services, distributors, or even the sellers chosen to be featured on the platform. Customers are being in touch knowingly or unknowingly with all of these entities, under the umbrella of the C2C eCommerce platform host. Hence, it is the platform’s responsibility to ensure that all the chosen partners are verified before engaging with the platform’s operations, operate in a legitimate manner, not compromising the safety or promised shopping experience level of the platform’s customers. Being on a C2C eCommerce platform that actively shows it cares for customer experience in every step of the way can help tremendously with eCommerce customer loyalty and trust building.


The Importance of Trust Between Users

In C2C eCommerce, customers can make or break a platform. The power customers hold nowadays through reviews, their social media presence, and word of mouth, combined with the vast availability of alternative option for almost anything, can build or tank a business in hours. Building trust between the users of a platform can be equally important for the development of trust and loyalty of customers to the platform. There are a few guidelines C2C eCommerce platforms can follow to build that eCommerce trust mechanism between customers and users, as we will explain below.

  • Ground rules: Majority of platforms offer some version of online community, either in the form of a forum, commenting below blogs, submitting reviews for products or services purchased, or else. These initiatives can help immensely with eCommerce building customer loyalty and trust, as prospective customers can learn more about products or services they are planning on purchasing from people who actually used them (great examples to illustrate this point are Google reviews and Amazon reviews), or ask explanatory questions that will be answered from previous customers or the specific seller. For this system to work though, users need to follow certain ground rules, such as respect language use guidelines, post reviews after having their purchase being verified, post reviews or answer questions based on their honest opinion, provide certain details in their review to make it useful to others.
  • Account verification: In the era of multiple cyber-attacks per second and robot-based customer profiles, it is imperative to only include legitimate customers on a platform that wants to develop customer trust and loyalty. Account verification can take place through a verification email or text that the user will have to act on, verifying their identity and legitimizing their effort to become part of a certain community. Knowing that users go through this process can increase the level of trust between customers but also between customers and the platform.
  • Promote communication between users: a platform which has nothing to be afraid about with regards to the quality of their products or services and the offered customer experience, and which is looking for ways to be improved, will facilitate customer interaction and communication. Allowing customers to communicate with each other within a safety bubble builds trust and loyalty, in a framework comparable to trust between siblings (customers) and their parents (platform owner, seller). That being said, this safety bubble should encourage customers to share their profile, in an effort to increase trust between them.
  • Punish bad behavior: Platforms which are willing to go the extra mile for customer satisfaction and development of their eCommerce trust mechanism through trust building between users, will want to put systems in place for the punishment of unacceptable behavior. Disobedience to the ground rules, mistakes occurring from the platform’s perspective (e.g. delays, wrong product being sent, bad customer service from individual sellers) should be highlighted and punished, to illustrate that the platform is taking the trust of their customers seriously and cares about their shopping experience. An example to illustrate this point is Uber, offering “score” cards for both drivers and service users.