Monday, March 13, 2017

How Technology Makes us Trust Strangers

Trust is a high-value currency that applies very well to the online world. From a physical store to a toll-free support line to a verified page to a Verisign or TRUSTe symbol, to user reviews to support for good causes – each one of them creates trust in the user. After the internet era, we seem to have developed almost absolute trust in online.

In recent years, that faith is getting extended to services that begin online and are fulfilled offline by strangers – the ride sharing, the product and food deliveries, the room-sharing and such.

What has really changed? In the real world we trust people and organisations based on the reputation of the brand, our knowledge, past experiences and social influences. The same has extended online, although a bit differently. People believe online services are trustworthy. We also trust the notion that ride-sharing, room-sharing or placing money in online wallets is safe. We believe the platform is built to be safe and secure and that it has proper mechanisms for speedy resolution in case of disputes. We also trust the person who delivers it (the cabbie, the matchmaking company, the food delivery person, the host on Airbnb).

What could be the reasons we trust strangers? The benefits and convenience offered by the service override any rational concerns we may harbour. There seems to be a sense of obligation too, because you can choose to pay in cash for the goods ordered on Flipkart or Amazon, you pay Ola or Uber online after you’ve taken the ride. Because they trust us to pay after delivery, we tend to reciprocate.

Humans behave and reward differently when they’re trusted. The peanut seller’s story is a classic case. A peanut seller outside a busy IT park always had a long queue of customers. His peanut were tasty, but that’s not why. He just packed the stuff but never handled the money. Next to him on a table was a box that had paper currency and change. People had to drop the money and pick up the right change themselves, based on their purchases. Every day he got 20 per cent of his sales as tips. The reason: When people were trusted to tender the money for the product purchased, they repaid the trust generously with tips. Yes, there’s the fundamental reason too – the trust in people doesn’t seem to have altered at all in our society.

The speed at which we trust has been forever altered by technology which seems to have persuaded us with the sheer convenience and benefits it offers.

However, when a stranger rings our doorbell we’re not going to be relaxing our trust norms, simply because we don’t have anything trustworthy to relate to the stranger and we have seen and read quite a bit about crimes and thefts at homes. The dichotomy of behaviour will continue to exist. The question, though, is whether this will change in the long run?

What does all this mean to marketers? It simply means that they need to create trust by using cues relevant to them. While a 10-day full-refund guarantee may work for Flipkarts and Amazons, a simple mobile-verified profile may work for matchmaking companies such as BharatMatrimony, brick-and-mortar presence may work for some, visual clues like ‘1 per cent of your payment goes for CRY’ might work for others and Verisign secure payment can suit some businesses. What works for you?

Rajasekar KS is a speaker, writer and social media strategist who works as GM – Marketing at BharatMatrimony. Views are personal. His article was originally published here

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