Regardless of your chosen industry, trust is one of the most important aspects when it comes to attracting new clients and encouraging repeat custom. Yet trust is hard to establish and all too easy to lose. And while the risks of data theft are certainly exaggerated by the media, consumers may shy away from unknown online retailers due to concerns about whether orders will be honored and personal data protected.
Trust is a key factor in the success or failure of ecommerce platforms like shopping websites. Before someone enters their credit card details and pays up-front for the promise of goods being delivered, they want to be sure they’re dealing with a legitimate operation. Subtle persuasion and reassurance is required to convince people their order will be processed safely and securely. Unfortunately, many ecommerce platforms take this leap of faith for granted. And since people are risk averse by nature, they could end up paying more for the products you sell from a better-known rival, simply for greater peace of mind.
In this feature, we consider ways to convince potential clients that your company will honor its promises. We’ve grouped these recommendations into three categories: quick and easy revisions, more time-consuming solutions, and the sort of step changes potentially requiring an entirely new website. Do bear in mind the value of satisfied customers – repeat business often helps a firm to survive lean spells, while recommendations from satisfied clients reduce the need for advertising or PR by generating organic custom.
- Inject personality. Research suggests photos of staff members and pen portraits build trust, as they show customers that they’re buying from people rather than a faceless brand. First-name contact from customer-facing staff members trumps anonymous emails.
- Provide contact details. Prominently publish your email, phone number and address. Companies that don’t list a head office address look like they’re hiding something, and using a cell as your main phone number also suggests a fly-by-night organization.
- Publish a blog. This is a brilliant way to boost search engine optimization, with boundless scope for incorporating keywords and long tail search phrases. Blogs can address key concerns, demonstrating expertise and resolving audience pain points.
- Encourage recommendations. Word of mouth publicity is the best kind, so set up a “recommend a friend” discount program. A referral scheme where both parties receive vouchers often works well, too.
- Harvest and publish testimonials. People trust the opinions of strangers far more than the promises of salespeople. Publishing reviews on your own site can be counter-productive, so leave that to third-party review portals. A testimonials page featuring satisfied customers provides compelling evidence your firm delivers on its promises.
- Admit mistakes and set realistic targets. If an existing policy is causing problems, acknowledge it and explain how continuous improvement is part of your corporate ethos. Turn a negative into a positive by rectifying it, and show people you care by way of transparent communications. It’s also better to underpromise and overdeliver than making unattainable promises, since disappointed consumers won’t come back.
- Develop social media accounts. People increasingly prefer to contact businesses through Facebook or Twitter, so establish a social media presence. Regular updates demonstrate the company is still active and thriving, whereas social media profiles that haven’t been updated for months suggest neglect and apathy. Don’t post sarcastic or critical comments – be honest, friendly and informative at all times.
- Answer every question about your products. People may be debating whether an item is right for them, so give them a wealth of information. Upload multiple photos or embedded YouTube videos, with detailed product descriptions and PDF guides. Update stock levels in real time, and recommend alternatives if items are unavailable.
- Prominently display industry trust marks. It takes time to gain approval from industry bodies, but the rewards are worthwhile. Internet-based trust seals (e.g. McAfee, PayPal Verified) emphasize the sanctity of financial data provided by clients.
- Create an ecommerce platform with the highest standards of security. Even if it involves a completely new website, SSL certificates are critical for any ecommerce platform to succeed. Consider the merits of two-factor authentication logins, and never allow people to reset their password based on an email address alone.
- Use a responsive template. Don’t discriminate against mobile audiences, who comprise the majority of web traffic nowadays. Your website should resize to suit output screen resolution without compromising the user experience in any way. Other than replacing menu bars with hamburger menus, keep functionality the same.
- Minimize checkout complexity. Don’t force people to create an account before they place an order. Allow them to checkout as a guest before encouraging account registration with discounts or incentives, and present non-essential fields as optional. Ensure customers can change quantities or edit their basket right up to the point where they are submitting payment details, and allow them to save a basket for completion at a later date.
- Offer payment flexibility. Perhaps someone had a bad experience with PayPal and prefers using a debit card, or maybe they favor paying in installments rather than up front. By offering the widest range of payment options, you’re encouraging people to complete a purchase. Offering bitcoin could also give you a USP in your market sector. It’s also crucial not to hide away taxes or postage costs at the end of ecommerce sites.
- Choose partner firms with care. You can lovingly package an item and dispatch it on the day it’s ordered, while undercutting competitors on price, but if your courier firm is inept, customers will still complain. Cut loose unreliable partners and focus on quality over economy – consumers will often gladly pay more for a premium service.