Summary:In China,websites must work harder than in other markets to gain users' trust.Displaying the company's local presence,past client work,and being available to answer questions via online chat are critical.
Counterfeiting is not uncommon in China.Thus,a main concern for Chinese web shoppers is making sure that the products they see online are authentic.Some Chinese online marketplaces are assumed to contain fake products,and past negative experiences with these fakes — ink cartridges that don't last or don't quite print the correct color — cause consumers to be extra wary when shopping online.
This guardedness is exacerbated by the restrictive Chinese return policies.It's rare that sellers will take back a product with "no questions asked." Chinese consumers who are displeased with a purchase will often choose to absorb the cost and treat it as a lesson rather than attempt a troublesome return process.
Participants in our latest round of usability studies conducted in China displayed a heightened awareness of fakes,and were on the lookout for markers of authenticity and trustworthiness while researching various products and services.
Especially when makingB2B purchases(which tend to be more expensive and affect more people than B2C purchases),Chinese online shoppers were concerned with how credible the organization appeared.Nobody wants to be held responsible for buying something that doesn't work!Driven by past experiences with fakes,our Chinese study participants tended to be highly skeptical when researching items online.When counterfeit products are commonplace,how can a company prove itself to be authentic and of high quality?
This article presents findings related to gauging credibility and establishing authenticity from our recent study in China focused on B2B purchases.
manbetx官方网站手机版Design quality is always the first indicator of atrustworthy organization,regardless of culture and region.First impressions matter!Visitors reaching a website judge whether they can trust the site based on the landing page's appearance: Is the information well organized?Does the manbetx官方网站手机版design use high-quality images and a professional color scheme?Our study participants in China exhibited this same assessment of manbetx官方网站手机版design quality we've seen in countless past studies in many countries.
One thing that differed,though,was that,unlike Western users who tend to use a general search engine first,participants typically began their search for a product or service on an online marketplace such as Taobao or JD.com.In the rare case of turning to a general search engine to search for a specific known brand,participants sought tofind the official websiteof that brand,often including the phrase "official website" in their search query.Popular search engines Baidu and Qihoo 360 both display an "official website" indicator on search-results pages,and users in our study relied on this to choose where to navigate.ForSEO purposes,we recommend including this phrase in plain text (官网) in your Chinese homepage's meta title.Additionally,ensure your company name is apparent in thedomain of your URL,as this acts as another distinguishing element to identify the true official site.
Getting people to the official website is just the first step.Once they are there,you still must ensure that the landing page is clear and professional — and don't forget the details!A well manbetx官方网站手机版designed website can be undermined by a single,poorly produced element.For example,one participant in our study initially liked the Azure homepage,and was intrigued by a banner promoting a sale and trial on cloud services.He started to watch the accompanying video on that detail page,but abandoned it when he felt it wasn't very professional."The voice is so lazy and not attractive.And so much noise in the background.The video is not professional.I think they should do better." Due to people'snegativity bias,this disappointing experience overpowered his initial positive perception of the site's manbetx官方网站手机版design.Unfortunately,negative views aren't limited to only the offending element,but tend to extend to the organization as a whole: a phenomenon known as thehalo effect.
Once disillusioned,people often exhibit a confirmation bias and continue to notice additional elements that strengthen their negative viewpoint.On the Azure website,after he stopped the substandard video,the participant pointed out that promoting 60% off the service was not typical in Chinese markets,but rather is the "Western style" of promoting a sale.In China,promotions usually state the percentage of the full price you would pay,rather than the amount of the discount."For Chinese market I think they should change this Western style [of 60% off] to 40%."
Lack oflocalized contentwill be obvious to users in that region.Merely translating into the appropriate language is not enough;users will notice that the site — and entire organization — does not match the conventions of the region and will not trust purchasing its products or services.
Regional Presence and Previous Customers
A known credibility factor for B2B organizations isdemonstrating a presence in that particular region.Not surprisingly,this finding once again held true in this study.
Several participants in our study looked for proof of a local presence such as whether the organization listed physical stores in that area or local distributors that they could work with.This physical,nearby presence made the organization feel tangible,and allowed people to do business in person rather than online if they preferred.Participants felt that,in case of any issues with the product or service,a local contact would make it simpler to hold the business accountable.
"I want to see whether the physical store is far.If it is too far away I would order it online,but if it's not,I would like to see it in real life.I am always worried that if the product ordered online isn't the model we want,it would be inconvenient to return."
"It could be difficult to communicate with those foreign brands,but if you have the local distributor to contact — especially authenticated by the brand's official website — it is the best."
Just having the possibility to see products in person made the organization immediately feel more trustworthy and authentic.Participants commented that they trusted those products would be real,not fakes.Additionally,a local presence implicitly demonstrates familiarity with local business practices,laws,codes,and any other specific needs of that market.A foreign brand without any physical local presence has to work much harder to prove that it understands the local market.
Aside from physical locations,study participants sought out other indicators of local expertise such asphotos,case studies,or testimonials from past or current customersdisplayed on the website.Many people in China avoid being the first to try something new — it is better to wait and see whether it works for others.Ideally,featured examples should be specific to the region,but,when that was not the case,participants were satisfied when enough detail about past work in similar markets was presented.For this goal,photos reigned supreme: Participants appreciated seeing numerous pictures of the real products,or before and after photos of projects.Trust also increased when the company logo was visible on the products shown in the images,as one participant pointed out when researching a manhole-cover supplier:
"Those pictures are really their products,and they also show the previous [client] projects [where the manhole covers were used].I can trust them because they have actually done these similar projects before."
In China,it is common toprovide contact information for previous customerson the website.Participants stated that they would call these customers directly to ask them questions and ensure the accuracy of their testimonials."I need to know what they have done.I could contact the previous customer and ask about the details of this vendor." If providing client contact information isn't possible,then be sure to include even more photos or videos detailing the work.Themore details you can provide,the more authentic the information appears.At the very least,a display of logos from client companies can demonstrate past experience as well as longevity — depending on the number of clients presented.
Online Chat Is Critical
5 of our 8 participants sought out and engaged in an online chat with an organization while researching various products and services.Contacting customer service was seen as a standard part of the research process for business customers,and participants often requested a discount (because they would be purchasing in bulk for their company),asked about any hidden taxes or invoice fees,and — if they were feeling wary —inquired specifically whether the items were authentic.
Communicating via an online-chat feature is common behavior in China,and participantspreferred online chatting to calling a phone number.One participant explained that online chat allows her to prepare the questions she wants to ask,and both she and the customer-service agent have plenty of time to adjust their tone of language — a nicety not always available on the phone.This practice of preparing questions in advance was echoed by another participant,who preferred online chat because of the number of technical questions he would often need to ask and,presumably,remember answers to.
Indeed,one of the big advantages of online chat is that itprovides users with the chat log,which not only can help people later refer to the information provided (acting,in effect,as a form ofexternal memory),but,as several participants noted,can also serve as a record of the conversation if they needed to negotiate a price,or return the products in the future.Participants were also aware that the chat history forced organizations to provide carefully worded responses from customer service.For example,one participant chatting online on Taobao asked directly whether the replacement ink cartridges for sale were authentic,but the service staff tiptoed around the topic and dodged answering his question,so he commented: "They dare not promise the authenticity.They keep avoiding it." Although the company was confident in guaranteeing that the ink cartridges contained enough ink,this evasion led him to the conclusion that the products must be counterfeit,and he wouldn't purchase them from that seller.
Establishing trust with prospective purchasers and conveying credibility are critical in all countries,but they can be even more important for some markets,as shown by our research in China.Chinese shoppers tend to be highly skeptical and cautious when buying products and researching services online due to their heightened awareness of counterfeiters — more so than online shoppers in the US or Europe.While manycredibility strategiesare universal,somedetails differ by cultureor are relatively more important in certain cultures.This is why we always recommend conductinginternational usability researchto supplement what is already known about worldwide user behaviors.To get the wary Chinese audience to trust a website enough to commit to a purchase,special care must be taken to demonstrate knowledge of the local area,a history of past customers,and availability to answer questions via online chat.
We'd like to acknowledge Qiaochu Mu for her contribution to this research conducted in China.