How to Build Trust for your Online Store

How to Build Trust for your Online Store

Building trust is one of the most important things that you’ll need to do in your online store if you want it to be successful and profitable. How can you do it?

In a physical store, a shopper has a number of visual and physical reference cues to help them make a judgement about the trustworthiness of a store. For example, the shopper can look at cues like the store’s decor and ambiance, where the store is physically located, the way the staff in the store dress and act, and how the actual products look, feel and smell. These things are all working together to create an overall perception of the store before a customer surrenders their card or cash to make a purchase.

An online store however has to work a lot harder, as trust cues are less obvious to the customer. How do they know that your store is not an elaborate fraud and that their money is safe in your hands? They can’t see who they are purchasing from, they can’t see and touch the goods, and they don’t know whether the item will look like it does in the product photo and whether it has been described correctly. Reputation and trust are therefore significantly important for online stores if they are to succeed in selling and growing loyal customers and referrals.

Fortunately, there are cues that shoppers directly or indirectly use in forming a perception of trust when visiting your store. Here are some of the things that you can do to build the trust of your site visitors.

Show that your Site is Secure

Fear of fraud is a major anxiety factor for online purchasers. Being able to prove that your site is secure will help reassure shoppers your site is safe to buy from. SSL encryption is known world-wide as a symbol of website security, as these encryption certificates that are installed in websites must be verified by a trusted third party. Most people would not know the ins and outs of how SSL works or even what it is, but what they probably will know is that a secure site has a padlock on the checkout, or on every page.

If you have SSL security for your site (so that your site appears as https:// on the checkout or on every page), then customers will see the padlock in the browser URL on secure pages.

Keep it real

Proving that you are real person or business gives potential customers a strong trust signal. You can do this by publishing your Australian Business Number (ABN) in the footer of your website so that a nervous customer can verify that your online business is registered at ASIC and actually exists. You can also fill out the About Us page in your site with details about you and your team (if you have staff). Don’t just list the people so it looks like a template page, give it some personality. What made you start this store? Are you passionate about the industry? What’s your point of difference? How do you make the customer’s life better by selling your items? How long have you been in business? Do you have a bricks and mortar store?

Too many online sellers end up fishing for bargain hunters by filling their About us page with a generic blurb that could be any business, saying that they’re providing good products and competitive prices. What was the light bulb moment that made you start this business? If you’re selling in a competitive industry where there are many sellers stocking similar or the same products, what do you do differently? Do you ship them faster? Do you pack them better? Do you offer other services? Do you bundle products in packages? Do you offer bulk discounts that your competitors do not? Have you partnered with another business in your industry? Do you get new lines in faster than others? Do you sell discontinued lines that are rare or hard to find? Whatever it is that makes you unique and special, get it across in your About us. These pages do get read and can be a huge trust factor for an unknown online seller.

To this end, if you have a phone number, Skype or social media pages where customers can contact you, make them prominent – it doesn’t have to be stuck in the footer or on the Contact Us page. People trust real people, and sometimes just want to talk to a person to know that they’re buying a product from the company who they think they are dealing with.

Show others trust you

Trust breeds trust and it grows stronger by association, so if you can show that other trusted organisations already trust you, this increases the chances of a buyer feeling comfortable purchasing from you. If you have any industry memberships, publish them. If you have won any awards or been featured in the news, make sure there’s an “as seen in” banner in the footer of your site. Have any testimonials from customers? Publish them. If you have nothing relevant that you can post, then show the logos of the brands that you stock, the payment providers that you use, or the provider of your security certificate. Using known recognised secure and trusted payment providers like SecurePay or PayPal can really increase perceived trust in the minds of the potential buyer.

Or if you have the budget, get verified by a known third party like trust-e or Norton and display the relevant badges on your site.

Use Social Media

Social media platforms have huge penetration and familiarity, so your business appearing on them is inherently reassuring. Facebook remains the social media channel with the most impact overall – a 2015 study by Accenture found that in some cases is trusted even more than content in printed newspapers. Even if you are a B2B seller, posting product demonstration videos, testimonials, industry membership announcements and useful industry information can help build trust for your website and store.

Be up front with your returns, privacy policy, shipping prices and terms

Hidden “gotchas” are a big killer of confidence, and a disgruntled customer can easily spread the word about your website in a way that could harm you for some time. Whatever you decide to do with regards to returns and exchanges, you need to publish this prominently on your returns page, and make this easy to find. Similarly make any website or business terms obvious as well. Don’t be afraid to publish what you don’t do as much as the things that you do offer. A customer will appreciate that you were up-front with your policies rather than trying to hide things in the fine print.

Similarly shipping processing times, where you are shipping from and the shipping costs need to be very clear in your site. Poorly understood or perceived overpriced shipping has long been one of the key reasons for cart abandonment. For this reason, some online retailers build shipping costs into their store overheads and offer free delivery. What works for you will differ from store to store, but whatever you decide to do, what’s important is that it’s made clear.

Maximise the quality of the website and product photos

The design and functionality of your shopping cart website can greatly affect people’s perceptions of your site. Make sure that you don’t have any unfinished sections in your site and that everything looks professionally finished. Think about stores you’ve shopped on – would you pay a premium price for a product if their website had error messages all through it, the cart functionality did not work on checkout, and you got a security warning? Test your site thoroughly before going live and ensure that you’ve covered off all of your policies, written descriptions for categories and your key products, featured your main products, are showing reviews if you have any (or testimonials), have added cross sells (if applicable) and all of your product imagery is as high-resolution as possible, and appealing. Poorly taken product photos or great ones that are tiny can massively detract from an otherwise great impression of your business. Customers are quick to form opinions and do judge a book by its cover.

Deliver on your promises

Respond to enquiries promptly to ensure that you start off any customer relationships on the right foot. A customer that has a good pre-sale perception of your business will more than likely be primed to form positive associations about your product(s) when they receive them. This increases the chances that they’ll want to leave a positive review about your store on your own website, or on a reviews site.

If you say you’ll post an order in 5 working days, make sure it’s posted in that time. If a customer puts in an enquiry respond to it as quickly as possible to create positive first impressions. If you don’t know the answer and have to research it, be honest and tell them that there will be a delay getting back to them and why. Communication is one of the key parts to delivering on promises, setting expectations and managing perceptions of your online store.

After you’ve made a sale follow up with the customer – tell them when the order will be shipped and when you ship it confirm again with the tracking number if relevant. One of the fears for a customer is making a purchase and not hearing something – the customer is left wondering if they have purchased from the right store, and whether the order was received at all. Communicate and keep your promises to enhance customer relationships and increase the chances of repeat purchases from your customers. Any one-off transaction could be your next best long-term customer.

Provide adequete detail in your product descriptions

To allay concerns about buying products without having seen them, make sure you include relevant detail in your product descriptions. If it’s a clothing product, include a fit guide. If not, think about whether it would be helpful for buyers to know about the item’s material, shape, packaging, accessories, hidden or installation/setup costs. Would pictures from different angles help? Or a demonstration video? When writing descriptions think about the benefits of each feature and write about what problem that the item solves, not just the name of the feature you’re trying to describe. Think about how the item looks, feels, smells, its dimensions and how it might be used when doing this.

If you can think of anything negative that might stop someone buying your products, try to anticipate those objections in advance. Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes – how reassuring is it to find a seller who has such attention to detail that they’ve thought of nearly everything. It enhances the trust built from other cues described here and can be a key factor in clenching a sale in your ecommerce website store.