Online environments generally lack the human-to-human contact needed to build trust—the kind of trust that inspires “immediate purchase” leaps of faith, that is. What’s more, the seemingly infinite amount of online options can, and usually does, breed caution among prospective customers, causing them to shop elsewhere at the first sign of mistrust.
On the flip side, businesses who prove themselves trustworthy can more readily influence an online shopper’s purchasing behavior, and even see an audience gain. The higher an online shopper’s trust levels and the lower the perceived risk of the site, the greater likelihood of purchase. Below, we cover seven trust-building methods your online store can adopt to drive customer loyalty.
1. Tell your company’s story in a detailed, engaging way.
The best way to reassure your visitors that you're a legitimate business is to let them get to know you and your business in a more personal way. Tell shoppers about your company, what you sell, and why. You can do this on your homepage, your “About Us” page, your social media accounts, and in your communications with them. Here are a few ways you can focus on telling your brand story in a compelling manner:
- Expand your “About Us” page: Your "About Us" page is likely a new customer’s first stop on their purchase journey. This is your chance to put your most genuine foot forward. Take time to fully explain the “what”s and “why”s driving your company culture. Speak to your mission statement and introduce the human side of your brand. By candidly connecting with potential prospects, you’re more likely to attract those with similar values. These are the values they’ll be looking to support when they eventually give you their business.
- Show behind-the-scenes footage: Sometimes, earning a customer’s trust is as easy as letting them peer behind the curtain. Though polished, your brand alone may feel unapproachable; however, giving a glimpse of the people and places present in your day-to-day can make your company instantly more relatable. This type of transparency also creates an intimacy that can help spark connection and deepen relationships with your potential customers. Consider showcasing candid pictures of your work family, “how it’s made” videos, or tours of your workspace, warehouse, or office.
- Emotionally connect with shoppers: Finally, remember that likability and transparency go a long way in the online shopping experience. The more connected customers feel with your brand, the more likely they are to buy. Start by using your words, focusing on making the overall tone of your site as relatable as possible. As a good rule of thumb, try to write the way you would talk to an acquaintance. Additionally, be an open book—this means being vulnerable enough to talk about the challenges you faced opening up your store and the core values that shape your business.
2. Display security badges, trust seals, and legal assurances.
Want to ease a customer’s concern about handing over their personal and payment information? One of the biggest sticking points for online shoppers is the security of their sensitive data. To overcome this concern, make sure you clearly communicate the security measures in place on your site—like SSL certificates and PCI compliance—and give customers more reason to trust you with familiar names.
- PCI Compliance: To legally accept credit cards online, merchants must be PCI compliant. Coupling evident compliance with a strong point-of-sale system draws attention to your efforts to protect your customers’ sensitive data.
- SSL Certificates: An SSL certificate creates an encrypted connection while authenticating a website’s identity. Outfitting your store with an SSL certificate relays to consumers that you are serious about keeping their information secure.
- Recognized Payment Gateway: Offer customers the option to pay via recognizable third-party payment gateways, like PayPal or Stripe. Well-known payment processors help foster trust since your customers likely already trust that payment solution.
- Better Business Bureau: Show shoppers that you are trusted enough to have earned the approval of an accreditation organization by incorporating a seal from the BBB or another well-known organization within your industry into your site.
- Legal Policies: Not every customer checks legal documentation, but it can certainly help create a sense of ease. Readily available terms & conditions, privacy policies, and more convey that you can be depended upon to stick to your side of the ecommerce bargain.
3. Present product offerings clearly and accurately.
If shoppers aren’t able to gauge to a reasonable degree what it is they're buying, they definitely won’t trust you to send them a quality product. For this reason, it’s essential to make sure that the products you’re selling are presented in a way that will answer as many customer queries as possible in a digital format. To ensure that your products are being presented in a way that makes them appealing (yet still trustworthy) to shoppers, take the following actions.
- Make products more accessible with product videos: Even if you’re able to gain customers’ trust in your brand, you may still need to overcome doubts about purchasing the products themselves. Product videos allow shoppers to examine your product in a (nearly) 3D environment so they can gain a better idea of how it will work with their needs. At the very least, a masterful video helps position your brand as more legitimate—plus, it can easily capture dwindling attention spans.
- Use high-resolution product photos: If you don’t have the budget for videos, quality photography can make an immediate impact on how shoppers judge your products. Most manufacturers provide high-res images of their products, but you can also take your own photos to show additional details, action shots, and options shoppers may like to see. Additionally, you can ask customers to submit their own photos—user-generated photos show that you have a satisfied customer base, which helps build trust.
- Write quality, detailed descriptions: Trust isn't just about seeing the product you’re ordering—it's also about knowing its specifications. Don't risk turning off potential customers with vague, unclear, or unhelpful descriptions. Describe products in detail (a practice that can also improve SEO rankings), including any details about materials, construction, or technical specs that may help customers choose the right product. The more information you provide, the more shoppers will trust the quality of your inventory.
- Develop full-scale FAQ sections: What if you could start building trust on your site with two or three sentences? A well-crafted FAQ page does just that, and it can also improve your store’s SEO in the process. Start by anticipating and then explicitly addressing challenges, questions, or even outright objections. Consult your customer service team and look through emails you’ve gotten to pick out themes you should address. This is your chance to alleviate any purchasing anxieties ahead of time, so don’t squander it.
4. Enable and feature customer ratings and reviews.
Regardless of how flattering your product descriptions are, no amount of compelling copy is going to carry as much weight as an actual customer review. Customers are more apt to trust the word of people just like them rather than the company that’s ultimately after their money, and they are also inclined to do their research before committing to a purchase. Display recent reviews on your product page for full visibility, or you could be losing out on the other would-be buyers looking for feedback to inspire confidence and trust in your brand.
If you’re a new store who’s struggling to increase your ecommerce reviews, try:
- Contracting with third-party review providers to help secure and organize your feedback
- Delighting loyal customers with discounts and special rewards that nurture your long-term relationships
- Leveraging email marketing software to incentivize positive product review shortly after a purchase is made
- Attracting reviews on your social media channels
- Enabling ratings and review features directly on your site
- Providing unmatched customer service
Finally, don’t make the mistake of only displaying positive reviews. Not only could it evoke suspicion, but it’s also important for customers to see how you proactively respond to issues. The more authentic your reviews appear, the more trust you can cultivate—even when they aren’t 100% positive.
5. Make it easy for shoppers to communicate with you.
Giving your customers someone to reach out to with questions or concerns can go a long way in helping them feel more comfortable about ordering from you. By making your business more transparent, you’ll be able to foster trust from your customers. Addressing questions during the shopping process and clarifying doubts could steer shoppers closer to a purchasing decision in your favor. Try to incorporate the following strategies into your site:
- Display contact information clearly: Incorporate a “Contact Us” page that includes your business’s physical address, phone number, email address, and other preferred online communication channels. Don’t obfuscate your contact information—that will just make you look like you’re trying to pull a quick one on your buyers.
- Give customers multiple places to reach out: Some customers only feel comfortable reaching out using a certain channel, and some will only feel comfortable if they can get ahold of someone immediately, so make sure you offer as many contact methods as you can that will work with your team’s infrastructure.
- Provide a live chat option for on-the-spot help: This allows you to provide clarification and assurance responses in real-time. For a first-time buyer who is still not sure if it’s safe to do business with you, this can be invaluable. It starts the relationship off on the right foot and allows you to continually nurture the relationship as they decide.
6. Communicate with shoppers clearly and proactively.
In the same vein, it’s important for you to communicate to your customers proactively as well as reactively. The best way to do this is to maintain constant communication with your customers regarding updates to your business as well as other updates and policies that affect them. Here are a few ways you can ensure that you communicate in a positive and effective manner with your customers:
- Hire a copy editor to reduce mistakes: If a customer sees obvious grammatical errors and misspellings, it instantly calls your credibility into question. After all, if you don’t catch and correct the small things, how can you be trusted with the big ones? They may even determine that your sloppy copy is the precursor to sloppy products and services. Many merchants chose to hire a copywriter or copy editor who can comb through and correct your site and communications down to the last colon. If you don’t have the budget, free chrome extensions like Grammarly can help catch unobvious errors.
- Confirm payments, orders, and everything else: Don’t ghost your customers once they’ve paid. Be sure that your ecommerce solution and payment gateway provides your customers with a clear confirmation that their payment was captured; otherwise, they’ll wonder where their hard-earned money just went. Additionally, follow up at every step of the delivery process so they aren’t left wondering how much longer it will take for their package to arrive—provide tracking information and set triggers so that when their order is out for delivery, you can be the first to let them know.
- Consistently produce educational content: If you become a trusted resource for knowledge about your industry, consumers are more likely to categorize you as a trusted seller. Producing quality content like blog posts, guides, research, and more on a regular basis can help position you as the go-to brand for search queries that relate to your products or industry. Shoppers are likely to return if you create content that supplies them with the answers they're searching for online. Creating content of all varieties will help you get picked up by search engines more easily, so it’s important to diversify.
- Have a return policy and share it: A good return policy is especially important for online merchants whose customers can't try products before they buy. It's also an important factor in convincing new shoppers to purchase. If you have a clearly defined policy that makes returns and exchanges easy, shoppers will be much more likely to commit to buying from you. Offering full refunds is a great way to put indecisive buyers at ease because it shows that you prioritize customer satisfaction above your bottom line. Finally, advertise your return policy in several places on your site so that it is easy to find.
7. Offer free trials and samples.
If you give it away, they will come. Everyone loves free stuff, and if you are so confident in your product that you are willing to give customers a taste before they spend a dime, they will see how passionately you believe in your products and positively associate that with your brand.
Some products—like food or cosmetics—can be easily repackaged into smaller containers. Show customers how irresistible even micro quantities can be, and they’re more likely to pay in full once it runs out. For service-based businesses, try trials. They allow future customers to test drive your offerings in a stress-free environment. This engenders familiarity, which is closely associated with trust. The trick here is to ensure that the samplers eventually become the consumer—or at least help promote your brand. If you’re short on testimonials, ask for a review in exchange for some of your products.
If you want to reach a specific market segment with your samples, influencer marketing can do wonders for a newly-minted ecommerce store. You could also go for sheer numbers, distributing freebies at conferences, trade shows, or other in-person events. Just make sure the recipients know how to find you online when they’re ready to buy more.
As an online merchant, it can be easy to get bogged down in operational or marketing details and overlook fundamentals. Making sure that your business and website are trustworthy will go a long way toward building an avid customer base, protecting you from financial liability and growing your revenue. Put these actions into practice and watch your customer base, and belief in your business, grow in kind.