10 tips for building trust on your eCommerce website

5 years ago

Alex Jordan (Hyperlink Media)This is a guest blog by Alex Jordan, CEO of Hyperlink Media (a digital agency based in London) and business consultant specialising in start-ups and digital media.

Winning the trust of perspective customers is essential for any business, but eCommerce businesses may find this to be particularly challenging due to the lack of face-to-face contact.

Imagine what would happen if your customers didn’t trust you enough to buy your products or services? The chances are that you wouldn’t survive for very long.

Despite its obvious importance, trust as a concept is often overlooked. I’ve therefore put together a list of 10 essential but simple things that you can do to improve perceptions towards the trustworthiness of your eCommerce website:

1. Show your contact information: Customers like to know that they can easily get in touch. Providing only a contact form can be off-putting, it’s as if you have something to hide. In fact, if you’re selling through your website providing an address is a legal requirement in the EU. So why not open up? Providing email addresses, phone numbers, physical addresses and links to social media profiles tells your customers that you have nothing to hide and that you’re there for them if they need you.

2. Introduce yourself: People like to know who they’re dealing with, so create an ‘About’ page, add photos and show your customers that there are real people behind the website. You don’t have to give them your full life story, but you should want your customers to feel that they know who they’re dealing with and would be able to contact you personally if they needed to.

3. Don’t use generic product descriptions: Product descriptions are one of the most prominent ways in which you can communicate with perspective customers. Many eCommerce websites use the standard boilerplate descriptions provided by their suppliers. Others simply provide one-liners that offer no real insight. When building trust you need to prove to your customers that you are a real person/business and that the products are real too. Simply copying description from elsewhere can make you appear inconsistent across your website and foregoes this opportunity to interact.

4. Use high quality photos: Photos are an essential ingredient for a trusted eCommerce business because customers can’t pick up and inspect your products as they would in a physical shop. High quality photos are important because they can simulate this, allowing your customers to see the products they are buying. Therefore the higher the quality and the more detail offered the better. You could even use different images to illustrate the various features you describe in the product description.

5. Publish genuine customer reviews: Reviewing platforms, such as eKomi and TrustPilot, are great for inviting and managing customer reviews. Customers love reading about other peoples’ experiences and since third party reviewing platforms are impartial and hard to manipulate they are trusted more than self-published testimonials. If that wasn’t enough, Google Adwords users may benefit from their rating appearing in Google search results which can lead to more traffic.

6. Install an SSL certificate: SSL certificates encrypt information sent between your customers’ browsers and your server. The visual result is a padlock icon that appears in your customers’ browser address bar. To your customers, this signals that they can trust that you have taken measures to protect them from people stealing their personal information when they login, complete forms and make payments. A Symantec survey revealed that failing to do so may result in as many as 75% of customers abandoning a transaction.

7. Keep your website fresh and maintained: So you go to a website only to find it was last updated two years ago. Would you buy from that website? Keeping the website up-to-date shows your customers that you are present and available, and it’s great for Search Engine Optimisation too. General maintenance is also essential as spelling mistakes, broken links and low-quality images imply that you don’t care about your website. Poor spelling, grammar and copied content is a common trait of fraudulent websites, you don’t want these negative signals impacting your genuine business.

8. Don’t ask for too much information: It is very tempting to require that customers provide lots of personal information in order to complete a purchase. However, some customers may not be so happy telling your their age and gender. After all, why would you as an eCommerce website need this information to process an order? A fraudster on the other hand could do a lot with this information. It’s good practice to ask for as few personal details possible when developing trust. It may become more appropriate to obtain this information at a later date.

9. Be social: Research suggests a higher conversion rate for customers who include social and search in their purchase path when compared to search alone. This is arguably because social is more transparent, allowing customers to act on endorsements from people they already know and trust. Social media also provides an opportunity for you to interact with your customers, to develop relationships and build trust. You should take time to develop your social profiles, such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn, and facilitate social sharing and commenting on your website. By taking an active social role you can replicate the benefits of the face-to-face communication you would experience offline.

10.  Reinforce trustworthiness after a sale occurs: Placing an order then not hearing anything can be worrying, especially if it is your first order with an eCommerce website. Once a sale occurs you should reinforce your trustworthiness by sending them confirmation that the order has been received, providing delivery dates and giving them someone to get in touch with if they have any problems. If they don’t hear from you they may start to worry and reverse the payment, or even turn to social media telling the world not to trust you.

Every customer is different and will have their own expectations that must be met before they trust you. Some may hear about you from a friend and need no further convincing. Others may be satisfied once they follow-up with a phone call, having visited your website. Others may never trust you at all if you don’t have a physical shop.

Trust is usually about the big picture, so not everything on this list may apply to your business. However, trust can easily be lost and is hard to regain. It is therefore good practice to never give your customers any reason not to trust you.

This list has hopefully given you some areas to look at to see whether the trust signals you are giving off are positive or negative. If you have any more examples of your own it would be great if you could post them in the comments section.