I had an opportunity this week to examine old world old school old time trust. And how its changed in the modern netcentric world, and how more importantly it hasnt.
This past year my gemstone business has grown a bit. Not much, but a bit. Mostly its kept pace with the year before. Not sure what that all means as far as my marketing input, but its a good thing for sure.
Its main goodness, to me, is that I have gained peoples trust for quality, and good service.
I have a lot of repeat buyers, and that would indicate that. Or at least I hope so.
I have always had a good sense of what is right about a business transaction. I watched other Jeweler friends of mine in Brick and Mortar stores, and the distance they would go to build and guard the trust of their customers. And it made sense. But they had this rapport built on face to face interaction.
So I try very hard in this still somewhat uncharted territory of internet sales to achieve those same levels.
But it can be difficult to convey in an online interaction, where there isnt any rapport prior to that transaction.
Example: It costs money to go shopping. In the B&M world, you put gas in your car and off you go, eating through the hours of your day. You find say a ring you just have to have at one store, buy it and take it home. Its not just right. Fits a little tight. Stores policy is sizing is extra, but he knows you really like it so he can size it for free, or charge you for it. Many things enter into the result.
Online, you sit at home, you buy a ring with a gorgeous stone. You pay for it with extra for shipping, and receive it. It looks nothing in color to what you saw on the monitor. You want to return it. but the shops policy is refund on cost only.
So you lose shipping fees. The shop owner knows you may be back if he refunds the shipping. Many things enter into it as well. Blanket policies such as refunding shipping, or in B&M's unlimited free sizings invite abuse. But stringent policies seem unyielding, cold and invite neutral or negative feedbacks.
The many things that enter the B&M's decisions on extension and such are figured out on the go, and through discussion and interaction that is just not possible to do online in the brief time we have to create our sphere of trust, and our extension of integrity, without getting walked on.
We know experience is the biggest guide in the B&M shop. The 'feel' of a customer, can give a very good idea of who to go beyond for. And who is going to be a problem and impossible to please.
How can we achieve the same kind of long term relationship out of the casual online shopper?
And how to feel out those customers who need the extra effort to just break even with?
I havent the answers completely yet. But I have a great intuition it lies in the vast amount of communication resources available to online sellers.
Life isnt all Etsy. and it isnt all personal websites. Those themselves arent enough. A customer has to feel they know you a bit. In a B&M, its after a couple purchases they call you by name. And they feel their investment is safe.
While facebook, blogs and twitter, may be a viable starting point, I am not sure they are the complete answer.
But I say that from an unknowing position. Those are still on the horizon for my business.
Perhaps it is a custom package for each individual, with no one system being "right".
I am convinced of this though. If you can get through to the real person on the other end of that electronic maze, you can have an effect on them and how they feel about your merchandise. Of course you MUST back that up with quality and service that is unsurpassed in integrity. You need to walk your talk.
Thing is you must get there before any problem arises, or you will lose them as a customer, or worse have them spread negativity toward your shop or items, that is unwarrented and more the result of a nuance of dissatisfaction that would have been quite solvable, than actual issue.
If only given the chance.
And that the old words of trust, integrity and ethics are going to apply perhaps even more so than ever, but their face will be a brand new one.