Oct. 3 2019 - 4 min

Digital is playing an ever-larger role in commerce. Consumer spending habits are changing: rather than shopping in store from a handful of brands they know and trust, consumers are buying ever more goods online, from brands they have not previously tested. Retailers, meanwhile, are leveraging digital to source directly from suppliers, many of whom are in the Far East and who advertise their services via online platforms.

But how can buyers be sure of the quality of products they purchase, and of key service promises including delivery times? We explain how customized audits can be used to build trust between buyers and sellers and in doing so, boost the reputation for reliability of the platforms that house them.

In Amazon we trust

Online shopping continues to skyrocket each year. Topping the list of items purchased online are clothing, shoes and consumer electronics. Rather than go in store for these items, consumers are increasingly clicking on online marketplaces and social media to purchase. In fact, nearly 2 billion people purchased goods online in 2018, with worldwide sales totaling $2.8 trillion USD, a number that is expected to rise to $4.8 trillion by 2021.

Amazon is the world’s most recognized online shopping platform, contributing to the company’s $232.9 billion USD in sales in 2018. What’s the key to Amazon’s incredible success? It seems the e-commerce giant has gained consumers’ unwavering trust. The American Institutional Confidence Poll placed public confidence in Amazon at 36%, surpassed only by the military.

There are a few contributing factors. One is Amazon’s efforts to ensure reliable delivery: another is its seamless return policy. Shoppers are more inclined to try new and unseen products since they know any item can be returned for a full refund. Just over half of customers say they are more likely to try an unfamiliar brand on Amazon than elsewhere, giving small brands a unique opportunity to gain sales and exposure. Many customers have blind faith that Amazon offers them the best deals, with a quarter never even bothering to compare prices, and half comparing on occasion.

Quality still top of mind for shoppers

While buying habits have clearly changed, expectations for product quality have not. Buyers may be willing to try out new sellers, but they are unforgiving when products fail to meet their expectations. Today, many small brands are setting up shop on social media, with conceptual photographs of products to sell to their client base. Algorithms correlate customers’ personalities, values, demographics and shopping habits to particular garments, with ads targeted accordingly.

But now, knock-off brands are trying to get their slice of the pie. Delivery times can be very slow (if the item ever shows up) and when it does, clothing is often defective, cheap, or looks nothing like the image that appeared on the Instagram feed to begin with. These businesses fail to recognize that consumers, whether on- or offline, expect quality. And if they don’t get it, it won’t take long for the negative reviews to show up on social media.

Demonstrating integrity in the online marketplace

Retailers are getting on the digital bandwagon, too, and face similar problems when sourcing suppliers. They are often dealing with large quantities of product coming from all over the world, quality needs to be high, and delivery schedules are extremely important. Alibaba—a digital giant that offers among its many sites the equivalent of Amazon for wholesalers—is leading the way to meet these needs. The global wholesale platform puts import/export buyers in touch with wholesalers, enabling small businesses to sell their goods overseas, and businesses to benefit from low prices. For a retailer, this is a far cry from having to tour Chinese factories to select suppliers!

Back in 2011, Alibaba was looking to build trust in its 350 million customers, and hired Bureau Veritas to act as a reputable third party to certify its suppliers. Certification enabled the company to quickly identify quality suppliers, thus make the purchasing environment more credible. Bureau Veritas completes a site audit for each selected supplier on aspects such as product manufacturing, HR, customer service, and more. A detailed assessment report and verified videos are made available to potential buyers on the platform. Alibaba wants to continuously expand the program, eventually having verified information about every business selling on its platforms.

The advantages of this type of program are numerous. For customers, it provides the reassurance that the goods they order will be of the quality specified and that service levels will meet their needs. For suppliers, it provides a way to highlight good practice and gain access to valuable customers that would otherwise be hard to reach. And for the marketplace, it underlines the credibility of the site. For these reasons, audits of companies that use digital as a primary sales channel are growing fast: they provide a much-needed element of trust in virtual sales relationships.

Companies with this type of digital offering choose Bureau Veritas for our efficient execution and support, rigorous work practices and international recognition. Digital isn’t going anywhere soon—probably ever. Bureau Veritas ensures that customers benefit from the incredible advantages of digital, while securing the trust that has underpinned commerce for centuries.

 1 Source: Amazon. Figure represents net sales from all Amazon businesses