When it comes to trust, psychologists make a distinction between two different types: cognitive and affective. Cognitive trust is knowledge-driven and, in this case, refers to your customers’ confidence in the reliability and competence of your service. When it comes to online shopping, this kind of trust stems from your customers’ previous experiences with your shop, whether directly or through word of mouth. Your clients will subconsciously use the information they have gathered about you to predict if they can rely on you to fulfill your obligations.
If your shop or brand already has a strong reputation, the first interactions you may have with a new customer are vital in determining whether or not you live up to their expectations. It can mean the difference between winning new business and growing your online market, or losing a valuable client due to lack of preparation. Affective, or emotional, trust is your clients’ sense of feeling safe, valued and cared for. Unlike its cognitive counterpart, this kind of trust tends to be based on direct, personal experience and will usually deepen over time as the relationship grows. Interestingly, if your clients trust you emotionally, it can cloud their objectivity and grant you more trust than is actually warranted in reality.
This effect can be further amplified if your clients believe that your actions are motivated out of an innate desire to help them. If you think I’m painting a picture of the “stupid consumer,” think again—and consider for a moment the socio-evolutionary context of this trait. As discussed earlier, one of the main reasons we’re here today is because our ancestors were able to forge strong social connections and trust other members of their tribe thus enabling the survival of the group. Emotional trust was part of the glue holding these early human societies together, and it was this kind of trust that contributed towards our species becoming one of the most prolific on Earth.