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Establish Trust in Your Brand Online



Trust is a key factor in any customer’s purchase decision. PR company Edelman have recently released their 2010 Trust Barometer which highlights that we are now less trusting of business than we have ever been. Within this context we need to try even harder to instill confidence in our online purchase processes.

image courtesy of Jean-Francois Chenier CC http://www.flickr.com/photos/jfchenier/428825569/Here is a list of 20 things you can do to in order to reassure your customers and online:

  1. Third-part seals or certificates, such as the Verisign logo, are important in reassuring customers that any data input is securely protected by a recognised independent vendor. Make sure that the seals are visible, clickable and present from early on in the sales process.
  2. Make sure that personal data is visibly submitted securely using HTTPS. This follows from point one, but some websites only transfer the user to HTTPS as they click the button that submits personal data. While this is a secure interaction, the customer cannot verify that it is secure until they click the button.
  3. Phone numbers and contact details should be clearly visible. Some websites actually hide these when all the research indicates that most people are reluctant to purchase on websites they are not familiar with unless they can easily find and get a response from such contact details. Avoid PO boxes and provide local numbers as alternatives to LoCall numbers for those who cannot or do not want to use them.
  4. Make sure there are no surprises such as terms and conditions that were not visible up-front, hidden charges that don’t appear until the payment screen, or unclear delivery costs. We don’t like surprises and don’t trust websites that use them to get more cash sneakily out of our wallets.
  5. Provide product ratings and reviews, since customers are more likely to trust what other customers say than what your literature says about the products you sell. We spend less than 1% of our time actually making the purchase, and the rest is spent researching and finding out what others think.
  6. Engage with third-party review websites that are talking about your products or your brand. More and more we check out what others say on these websites about the products we are going to buy or the companies we are going to buy from. Negative comments will put us off, but a response from the brand in question will help to reassure us that they are listening and do care about their customers.
  7. Respond to criticisms on social media and discussion forums. We are all using these to seek the opinions of others, and there are opportunities for businesses to address customer complaints and turn them into positives by being seen to be responsive. Damien has an excellent post on how transparency and responsiveness can really help to rebuild trust when an online crisis happens.
  8. Get blogging. Employees are the most trusted source of information on a company. Get your employees out in front of your customers by having them write company blogs with personality. They are believable and will help to provide a more human, and hence trustworthy, face for your business.
  9. Rank well in Google. According to the Edelman survey, Google and other search engines are more trusted as sources of information than company websites. Searchers use Google results to help inform their decision-making process. If a website appears on the first page of a search results then there is an assumption that if “independent” Google rates it, it must be okay.
  10. Implement a professional and functional design. Don’t scrimp on the graphic design. Think about it; wouldn’t you be less likely to purchase from a salesman in a shabby suit with stains on his tie? Don’t make it too “slick” either as very few of us are sold on hyperbole.
  11. Clearly display the returns policy. No one likes the hassle of having to return items, but there is an inevitability about it that all online sellers need to be clear about. It will give me lots of confidence if you highlight to me what the steps are in case I need to send an item back.
  12. Provide comprehensive product information. This is especially relevant for clothing and used goods. The more information – including descriptions, specifications, imagery, video and even 360 degree views -  that you provide the more likely I will be able to decide that this is the right product for me. Scant information doesn’t help me make a decision and at worst could lead me to think that you’re trying to hide something.
  13. Build offline awareness since customers increasingly rely on multiple sources of information to support purchase decisions. While we are certainly less trusting of traditional advertising; features and articles in traditional media are still seen as reliable. Advertising is not dead and, together with general awareness in the media, can help to both build visitor numbers to your website and increase conversion rates.
  14. Eliminate errors as there is nothing that will undermine confidence in a site more than technical errors. A customer will be thinking; “If these guys cannot get some basics right, how do they expect me to give them my credit card?”
  15. Proof-read all your content and eliminate spelling mistakes – a pet hate of mine that  smacks of lack of attention to detail. Why would I trust you with the bigger things if you can’t get the smaller things right?
  16. Use Plain English in all the content on your website and when you contribute on other websites. Legalistic text or complicated terms and conditions will confuse customers and make them wary that you many be trying to hide something.
  17. Only ask the questions relevant to the transaction in hand and don’t waste customers’ time asking them questions you may use in the future for marketing purposes. Customers don’t want to waste their time on your marketing and are always wary of providing information that could result in unending amounts of spam.
  18. Provide local payment options when you are selling into diverse markets. The payment screen is critical and customers are used to paying in certain ways online. If you don’t provide them with a payment method they are familiar with and trust then they could well go elsewhere.
  19. Provide post-sale updates as regularly as is needed. You have secured the sale but where the customer is unclear about delays or gets a sense that all is not right they can still choose to cancel their order. Provide immediate email confirmation and at each point notify customers of the order progress or of any delays.
  20. Ask your customers for feedback. This shows them that you care about their experience and will help to build trust for future purchases. Encourage your customers to leave product reviews on your own website or to submit positive (genuine) reviews on third party websites.

Have I missed anything?



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Add Your Comment

  • http://www.channelship.ie/blog/ fred

    Brilliant post Brendan. Thanks for sharing.
    Love point 10. Great analogy to explain it. Unfortunately, there’re still a lot of people out there thinking that e-commerce is easy money, that they can build “Amazon” type sites for 3K … with this mindset, you can imagine what the site will look like (not just the design).
    Point 18 is crucial. I’m still surprised to see a lot of e-commerce sites without the option to pay with a laser card.
    Point 20 is so important. I’d say that the majority of website owners are not doing this proactively. The idea would be that you “go get” the feedback, then you or the customer can also post it on Google Local, then you could also ask for recommendations on LinkedIn (at a personal level) or on your LinkedIN group. If they also say something on Twitter is great! Finally, you can include in your Facebook page the “reviews” tab and have them leave a comment there!

  • http://tweakyourbiz.com/author/brendanhughes Brendan Hughes

    Good idea Fred about using LinkedIn and Facebook for getting feedback. I hadn’t thought of those and increasingly these will be important as they become more popular ways for people to find brands that they can trust.

  • http://www.btbtraining.com/blog Niall Devitt

    Great points Brendan! I think that responding to criticisms on social media and discussion forums is a biggee. I would add that it makes sense to take a little time before you respond, rather than jump in straight away. Responding effectively to criticism is as you point out a great way to build brand and market the business. Thanks or sharing, Niall