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Frank Reynold

Social Presence is a Key to Customer Trust in an Online Retailer Website

Frank Reynold

Customer’s trust has always been a key to successful commerce. But if earning clientele’s trust in physical commerce is hard, it’s a challenge in e-commerce and the key to survival of online businesses. In e-commerce, social presence is one of the factors that affect customer’s trust and online retailers that maintain strong social presence are those that win that trust.

A research carried by tow researchers, Mouna Thabet and Mustapha Zghal from the Faculty of Economics and Management at Tunis-Tunisia and published recently in a Journal of Internet and e-Business Studies, has highlighted this issue. The study “aims to identify the dimensions of this form of trust and explore the manifestations of this "need for contact" required by users in a virtual shopping.”

The shopper always looks forward to reduce uncertainty, and this could be easily reached when there’s physical contact, something which is not relevant in online commerce. As this new research stated it “trust in a virtual environment is characterized by uncertainty, vulnerability and dependence.” Then, trust can only be reached if the “website fulfills its promises, accomplishing its ethical obligations as the delivery of goods and services or their confidentiality with respect to information disclosed” and if the “the website does not take advantage of the vulnerability of the client and is in the interest of its customers in Instead of worrying maximize its profit.”

Among the factors that affect the customer’s trust in a retailer website is social presence. As stated by the research “social presence is a determinant of trust in a retail website.” It’s an emotional and psychological and in order to build a relationship with the customer and earn his confidence, the retailer needs to maintain a social presence so that the customer feels of “being present with a real vendor. This feeling comes from the emotion during the interaction with the website” the research affirmed.

What makes earning the customer’s trust online is the lack of human contact. It’s different to have physical contact with speech tone, facial expressions and all human communication aspects than making contact from behind dead screens. So even when online, customers look for that human touch. "I want to feel that I am in front of a salesperson or a technician that I could request any information that I need" the study mentioned.

According to the study, there are a number of aspects that manifest social presence of a an online retailer including website data, animations on the website, human photos, personalized welcome, virtual agents, frequently asked questions , instant messaging, number of entries, discussion forums, and social networks. But, “the human photos and data especially about prices represent the heavier forms in determining trust in a retail website.”

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