If you’re an international e-commerce merchant trying to sell to consumers, the latest Global Survey on Internet Security and Trust has some daunting data for you. The survey found that many online shoppers are more likely to purchase a product made in their home country. That’s a buy-local preference that, on top of widespread and persistent mistrust of online shopping in general, can stymie foreign e-commerce vendors.
Preference for goods made in certain locations is so common among consumers that it should be assumed. The survey found that for 82% of global respondents, where a product is made affects whether or not they buy it. That’s right. Most buyers will dig around on your site not only for pricing and reviews, but also for information on where the item was manufactured. Their preferred country of origin? You guessed it — their own. The majority surveyed (55%) prefer to buy products made in their backyard.
So how can you entice buyers in the U.S. and around the globe to trust your offerings? Here are a few suggestions:
Focus on what matters.
First, some good news: According to the survey, customers like a lot about e-commerce. They like that it saves time, is convenient and flexible, and is easy to use. As an international seller, make sure you excel at these e-commerce strengths. Make it fast and easy for customers to purchase and return items. Offer really good stuff at really good prices. Make sure your website is honest and easy to navigate. If you can make the process as reliable and user-friendly as it would be if the products were mom-and-pop domestic, you’ll likely find that many consumers will overlook their manufacturing preferences.
Take privacy and security seriously.
The survey found online consumers continue to worry about their information being stolen or used improperly. Some 22% of consumers distrust the internet so much that they never shop online. What’s more, consumers at large blame e-commerce businesses. Nearly three-quarters of respondents listed “internet companies” as one of the reasons they worry about internet security. That’s right — in the minds of consumers, e-commerce companies like yours are as nefarious as cyber criminals. Clearly, you’ve got to do what you can to combat this perception.
Invest in securely encrypted shopping cart technology, and be honest with your customers about your security safeguards and your policy in the unlikely event of a breach, as Amazon does so thoroughly. Have a security incident? Some say don’t hide it, others say hide away. Whatever you decide, know that consumers will usually excuse one security breach — the survey found that only a minority is “very likely” to stop using a site after one incident. But they lose patience quickly if you suffer another breach—at two incidents the majority of users would be “very likely” to stop using your site.
Partner with a local distribution service.
Finally, consider hiring an order fulfillment service based in the country you’d like to cultivate. This won’t change your product’s origin, but it will make the fulfillment of your customer’s orders as seamless as if the product were made next door. Savvy distribution partners will be able to reach all parts of their country. They’ll make sure your deliveries are accurate and timely, and facilitate speedy returns in partnership with your customer service team. They’ll also be clued into the country’s packaging rules and able to negotiate the best rates for your business.
The global neighborhood is growing.
Consumer protections online remain important for some 94% of survey respondents. It’s a big deal and will continue to be, especially as governments like the United States consider altering their net neutrality rules.
But despite the anxiety, there is plenty of good news. In most regions of the world, the pace of concern about the internet is slowing year over year, according to the survey, from 64% reporting “growing concern” in 2014 to just 55% in 2017. This includes the United States.
Users worldwide are also getting savvier — taking more precautions like not opening strange emails or clicking on unknown links. And perhaps as a result, their online activity is increasing — 23% report they are using it more for entertainment than in recent years, 18% are using it more for social interactions and 16% are using it more for business. Even e-commerce, burdened as it is by the perception of security and privacy risks, is becoming more popular. Some 13% of respondents say they spent more online in 2016 than they ever have.
And so e-commerce grows, despite its trust issues. Why? Because at the end of the day, consumers like all of the perks shopping online provides. So address consumer fears about online purchasing head on. Make your site’s transparency and customer service as good as the mom-and-pop store on Main Street. And get the distribution partner you need on the ground to make even the most remote sourcing seem local. In short, offer global options with a local mindset and you’ll go a long way toward winning the trust of even the wariest online consumer.