Quality Assurance and Trustworthiness. The two biggest challenges for online services

Outside of my role as Managing Director for Bernskiold Media, I am also a part of the team of Advisors at the Goethe Unibator, an incubator at the Frankfurt University in Germany.

A few times a semester we hold pitch events to select which companies are allowed into the Unibator. Usually, this very topic comes up: Quality Assurance as an online service.

Some people mistakenly believe that it is a fully viable business model to provide a marketplace without any quality assurance, figuring that the market will take care of it. I’m here to make the bold statement that this is (in most cases) wrong.

Quality is the foundation of a company

The answer to why it is wrong lies in the human psychology. Let’s ask ourselves what our challenges are when shopping: Making a selection and trusting the merchant.

I have written about trust previously as one of the most important factors when we make decisions. When purchasing an item, part of the trust means that you believe in the quality of the product (or service) that you are buying.

What does a marketplace add in terms of value for us, if it doesn’t come with any form of quality assurance. Nothing. If you on the other hand have a marketplace whose existence is to assure the visitor of some base level of quality, then you are on the right track.

I have seen pitches from companies believing that the market will indeed weed out the bad people in an online marketplace. While I wouldn’t disagree, it doesn’t help you to build a business model on anything less than being awesome.

Trust is the only way to sell

It is only through trust that you can make a visitor become a customer. Part of this trust is to make them feel at ease with your offering. For an online service there is the added barrier of being online. It is nearly impossible to see the people behind the website, which in turn means the barrier to trust is much higher. Especially online will our senses be vigilant for a scam.

The point of this post? I want to tell you that you absolutely need to focus on the quality and trustworthiness. The devil could well be in the detail for this, but your biggest problem is likely not building the great product. The biggest problem is going to be how you set yourself apart from the competition, and how to gain your visitors trust. These go hand in hand, and should be a focus area from the start.