Google announced its Trusted Store program for US merchants last autumn. This last week, Google has acquired KikScore and its underlying technology, which would seem, along with the announcement about Google Shopping, to imply that anyone running an e-commerce operation will need to focus far more in the future on delivering great customer service, conducting business in an honourable and trustworthy manner, and demonstrating credibility than previously in order to feature in the Google shopping search results. As well as requiring a budget to do so.
The Trusted Store badge can only be displayed by online shops who adhere to the merchant guidelines, and whilst these are currently only relevant to US merchants, it is likely that this program will expand to UK in the near future too.
Trusted Stores display a badge which offers customers the confidence that the store has a good reputation for shipping on time and providing excellent customer service. In addition to this, Google also allows customers, at the time of purchase on your e-commerce enabled website, to register for Google support in resolving any issues which cannot be resolved directly between the store and customer.
There is a report card which is used for customer feedback and this is visible to other customers too. It is likely that these scorecards will form part of the algorithm used to display shopping search results in future, as well as the Trusted Store quality score which will be generated from the success of the paid product placement that will feature in the Google Shopping results as this becomes available globally over the next year or so.
The addition of Kikscore technology into the mix may well complicate matters further for those seeking high search results for their products, or for the internet marketing agencies who offer this service to clients. Kikscore's Trust Score and Confidence Seal is slightly different from Trusted Stores in that it looks beyond shipping and service to a company's credit worthiness, criminal record, traffic, feedback, online security and general business practices.
For some companies, it has long been a matter of treating customer service, shipping, business practices etc and online marketing, promotion and social media as almost unconnected issues within the business, often handled by different departments, but that separation has never been the case in reality. What you do offline affects what happens online, and it is high time businesses realise that the way your secretary answers the phone, or failing to solve a persistent breakdown in the reliability of your supply chain, will seriously affect your sales, credibility and brand worthiness.
The growth of personal social networks has meant that many seek advice and recommendations within their own individual contacts before making a purchase decision, and one negative tale from a friend or colleague can colour that decision. However, these personal recommendations are often double checked against online reviews, trust seals (Verisign, Truste, BuySafe etc), forums, Twitter etc to see if there is a general negative or positive feel about said company and/or its products.
Taking an holistic view of the whole business and understanding how each department or issue relates to the rest of the business will become increasingly important over the coming months. Whilst Google Shopping is not the only way to promote your products for sale online, the same approach to maintaining a Google Trusted Score status will help customers to view your brand as 'the one to go to' and set you above your competitors wherever you choose to advertise, promote and market.