By Dan Monaghan
There are a lot of shady characters and websites online. Heck, there’s even a whole underground Internet that most of us aren’t aware exists, much less navigate through on our way to check the news or our friend’s latest tweet about their commute to work.
As a business owner with a web presence, you therefore have to pay special attention to building customer trust and enhancing the reputation of your business online.
Why Customers Won’t Buy From You
Next to being able to find out information about your product or service, the most important thing a potential customer wants to know is whether they can trust you. It doesn’t matter that you’re selling the best product in the world if people don’t think you’re reputable.
Reasons why customers will not buy from you include:
- Taking their money without providing them with a product or service.
- Giving them a product that is inferior to what they learned about on your site (the old bait and switch).
- Losing their personal and payment information if your site is hacked.
- Getting a virus from visiting your site.
- If you sell their contact information to third parties.
- You spam them.
While you cannot control everything that happens on the Internet and account for every eventuality, there are safeguards that you can put in place to let customers know you are concerned about providing them with the best, safest web experience possible. (Note: In this article we’re not covering web security, which is an entirely different topic. Here we’re talking about trust and reputation, not cybersecurity. For that, be sure to consult a web security expert.)
Here are six elements that you can do on your website to increase a customer’s trust in your business:
1. Make It Personal
One of the best things you can do to get people to trust you is allowing them to get to know you personally. You want to get people to like you, and you can do this pretty easily by:
- Displaying pictures and bios of yourself and the other employees of the company. You can show videos of people talking about themselves; include relevant work experience that demonstrates an expertise, and also personal tidbits that make your staff more human (e.g., hobbies, why they like what they do, whether they are married/have kids or pets, etc.).
- Sharing the history of your company.
- Explaining why you started the business.
Once someone gets to know you, they will identify with you and trust that you will treat them fairly and not steal their money. You’ll also not be perceived as a big business that will treat them like they’re an anonymous order number.
2. Include Your Phone Number and Address
Let people know that you’re accessible. The best way to do this is to make sure you have your phone number and address on your website. This will help advance you in local search results as well as build confidence that you’re a legitimate business.
When websites only offer a contact form or an email address, visitors may wonder, “Why are they making it so hard for me to contact them? Is it so I can’t find them if a purchase goes bad?”
There is one more benefit to having your address (with a map) and phone number on your site–it makes it more likely that a customer will actually contact you, thereby increasing your chance for a sale. If possible, place your phone number on every page of your site, in the footer. The address you provide should be a legitimate physical location.
The bottom line for taking these extra steps is that it gives people comfort to know there’s a place they can physically visit to talk to you, even though the chances of them actually doing so is small.
3. Testimonials and Reviews
Testimonials and reviews are a great way to build trust with customers because they offer the opinions of people outside the company. Testimonials are positive comments that customers have about your services/products, while reviews are good and bad opinions that people have about your services/products.
Since testimonials can be easily fabricated, you’ll want to provide enough details that convince visitors that the opinions are from real people. Video testimonials are the most convincing testimonials, but if you can’t do that, then make sure you accompany comments with:
- A photo of the person giving the testimonial
- First and last name (or at least a last initial, such as Tom S.)
- Where they live (city, state or country, if applicable)
- A person’s title and name of their company (if applicable)
For reviews, you again want to make sure that people believe that the reviews are real. Like testimonials, reviews can easily be faked–for good or evil purposes. If people think that your reviews are doctored, it may actually have an adverse impact on visitors.
You will get negative reviews–don’t get rid of them. You can learn from bad reviews what your customers don’t like and adjust your product/service offerings for subsequent customers.
You can even write a comment back to the reviewer, responding to them publicly by thanking them for their feedback and letting them know that you’ve made changes so the issue does not occur again. This shows customers that you care about them, and it shows a level of transparency that can lead to confidence and comfort for customers. If a customer perceives you’re not hiding anything, they will more likely want to do business with you.
Ways to encourage feedback are:
- Post signs in your store (if you have a physical location).
- Print reminders to leave a review on packing slips or receipts.
- Send automated emails after delivery asking for a review.
- Hold contests where anyone who leaves a review is automatically entered into a contest to win a prize.
4. Badges of Trust
Another way to get third parties to vouch for you is to sign up for services that offer a specific kind of endorsement: badges. You’ve probably seen them many times, and you may not have even paid attention to them. Badges are a common type of endorsement that signify you can be trusted and that your site is secure.
You might think that only smaller businesses need badges, but that’s not the case. Even large, well-known brands use this type of endorsement. A few badges that you might be familiar with are from Bizrate, Trustwave, and Google Trusted Stores. Most of these services are paid, with the exception of the Google Trusted Stores badge. The more popular the service is (like Google), the more powerful the badge is.
If you are going to include badges on your site, put them in places that make sense; this means placing them where people will see them when they typically have a particular concern (like the checkout page). If you have a badge that indicates your site is secure, you may want to consider not showing it too early in the buying process so it doesn’t raise (instead of alleviate) questions of security: “Why are they showing me this now?”
5. Risk Reversal
Visitors face a certain amount of fear when they’re shopping. Aside from doing things to build up your trust reputation, you can employ a technique called “risk reversal.” Risk reversal is making an offer that places some of the risk on the seller, as opposed to all of it on the buyer, and it provides some comfort to the online shopping experience.
Examples of offers include:
- 30-Day Money-Back Guarantee
- Free Trial
- Low Price Guarantee (match competitor prices)
- Free Shipping
Offers are similar to trust badges, so make sure that your offers are displayed prominently. In fact, ensure that almost every page, if not every page, has the offer on it (preferably near the top).
6. Be Transparent
Be as transparent as possible on your website so visitors know what to expect. Doing so helps reduce the amount of customer service inquiries you receive and puts buyers at ease because they know what to expect from you.
Common website policies include:
- Terms and Conditions–What you are providing on your site, any limitations of the site, what the user is allowed to do, and what happens if something goes wrong when someone uses the site.
- Return/Refund Policy
- Shipping Policy
Place links to your policies on every web page in a place that’s expected (usually in the footer) so they’re easy to find. Believe it or not, NOT having these things on your site may stand out more to visitors; while customers may not necessarily read them, they notice if they’re not there, which can end up costing you a sale.