In a fast-paced world where information is readily accessible at the click of a button, your potential client or customer may have already researched about you and your company. They may have researched tons of information about you already. Before they even messaged you and “heard” what you have to say, they have probably heard what your customers and peers have told regarding you, your products and services, and even how fast you respond to queries, to name a few.
You earn trust. Online visitors will tend not to trust new businesses and companies that they have never heard about from friends and other peers and experts. Recommendations and peer-reviews are crucial factors for every decision to purchase from your business or transact with you. Your goal is to build trust because it’s the first step toward converting your visitors to customers or subscribers.
Establishing trust online is both critical and challenging. Just as brick-and-mortar stores can quickly build customer trust through their professional signage, approachable store owners and employees, a clean storefront, ample and diverse products in stock, and other existing patrons of the shop, online customers look for something similar from online suppliers. Your web design is your signage and your attention to detail or response time your “face-to-face” interaction with your would-be clients. Online visitors want to see other patrons on your site through multiple reviews from peers and users. They want to see diverse stock of products to choose from and immediate service, delivery time, and secure payment.
Customer trust is a must for the success of any business. But, in an age of rampant digital privacy and cyber-crime concerns, online retailers can have a hard time building consumer confidence, especially if they get hacked, and consumers’ personal and financial information becomes compromised.
20% of shoppers still mistrust online shopping in general, while 75% of consumers view online companies negatively due to security concerns. If you are seen as trustworthy as an online seller this year, there is a good chance you will reap 20% higher profits than your competitors.
Trust is a natural first barrier breakthrough as a successful eCommerce seller, and it must be your top priority to turn your brand into a trustworthy company in which customers will feel safe to buy. Check this list 15 key factors that make your online customers trust you:
- Have a Reliable Product
The purpose of having an online store is because you have a reliable product or service. The product or service comes first. The heart of your company or business is reflected by the product you offer, projected towards your online platform. It should not be the other way around. The eCommerce market is so competitive that if you release an unsatisfactory product, excellent web design or good PR will not be able to fix that.
Ensure you have a quality product that went through rigorous testing. Make sure your product is packed well and shipped through reliable courier services, so the product stays in mint condition from your warehouse to the consumer. Even if you are not the manufacturer, make sure you scout for reliable suppliers that have a good track record. Focus groups in your target audience can help you get the pulse of your market, and what their actual needs are so you can provide solutions through your product or service.
A different kind of MVP is helping product developers receive user feedback as quickly as possible so they can quickly learn from early adopters of the product in its pared-down version, and tweak and improve the product before mass production. It is the Minimum Viable Product popularised by Eric Ries, an expert on business start-ups. One example of a successfully-launched MVP is from the company Airbnb. Product Plan says, “with no money to build a business, the founders of Airbnb used their own apartment to validate their idea to create a market offering short-term, peer-to-peer rental housing online. They created a minimalist website, published photos and other details about their property, and found several paying guests almost immediately.”
- Use A Professional Website Design
Make your website’s first impression upon your customers a good one. It is a critical part of the trust-building process every website goes through one to establish a trusting relationship with their visitors. Poor website design can make the best company look the most untrustworthy. Be sure to keep it simple, straightforward, easily accessible, and memorable. There are many solutions available even for newbie website owners to help create professional-looking websites without the hassle of back-end operations. Shopify, WordPress, or Wix offers such templates to make eCommerce seller’s lives much easier by handling the nitty-gritty of website design and development so that the website owner can focus on the forward-facing factors of the website.
And because more than 52% of Internet browsing now happens through mobile phones, the website also needs to be mobile-friendly or responsive. More than half of the market may potentially steer clear of your website if it does not adjust to their preferred devices, especially their smartphones.
If a prospective customer looked at your website, in whatever device, would they trust you enough to give you their money or divulge their credit card information? If the answer you hope for in this question is yes, then it’s imperative you create with a professional, excellently-looking website from the beginning.
- Make Your Company’s Information and History Easy to Find
Your website MUST have a Contact Page and “About Us” page. Some websites are diminishing the value of having this information from their sites, but it is actually crucial for your visitors to know that you are not a scrupulous supplier because they can quickly locate you, get in touch with you, and even know about the history of your company and your product.
Human connection is still a significant element even in online transactions, and the way visitors feel the warmth of your brand is through the story you are able to tell them, compelling them to stay and further linger on your website. Your “About Us” page is a great way to endear yourself to your visitors, so they still feel they are connecting with real people who understand them and identify with their needs, and whom they can relate to as well, and eventually, trust. Having a page or section on your website dedicated to telling visitors who your company is and exactly what you can offer to add value to their lives is a great and simple way to do that.
You can include your team—from the company’s founders, directors, and managers and down to the employees—so it adds a more human feeling to your approach. You may share milestones and achievements your team conquered together through the years, so your visitors would feel they were there with you, somehow. Also include other companies or brands you have partnered with or are currently in partnership with to give your brand more credit. Add selected peer reviews on this page and even customer feedback. Consumers want to trust the people behind the brand, rather than just the brand itself.
When the visitor leaves your “About Us” page, the goal is that they feel they know you better and understand what your company and product is about. They should not be leaving it dazed and confused, with more questions than when they came in. So if you are a business owner or web developer, know the many ways that you can create contact pages that work.
- Provide Detailed Information and Trusted Checkout Methods
Display clear and actual pictures of your product, with detailed descriptions like product information, price, terms for refund or returns, and the like. One of your customers’ biggest pet peeve is to have to click so many buttons just to find out the pertinent info they need from your brand. I, for one, immediately leave a product listing that does not have the price clearly stated at the onset. The website should take that burden to have this information available to me because this is part of an excellent customer service practice. Imagine if, in brick-and-mortar stores, the clients would have to go from point to point in your shop to ask for the price of an item, would that encourage them to buy, or encourage them to leave your store? It’s the same way with website purchases. Some web owners think it is wise to be mysterious and withhold some information, so customers keep clicking into their site. This generation just doesn’t have the time to do that. The better way to keep them clicking is to provide detailed information up front in the most transparent way possible.
You also need to have an SSL certificate to prevent unauthorized parties from accessing financial information. Without one, consumers will immediately turn away from encoding their billing information and will simply drop their transactions with you. Geta certified seal from Trust Guard or the Better Business Bureau to increase your credibility with your eCommerce clients. Show security details on your “Checkout” page and other trusted and known payment methods you employ, such as Paypal, Stripe, MasterCard, and Visa credit cards.
Be transparent with any additional taxes, delivery fees, and possible date of product delivery. Provide a simple tracking system to further help your customers feel safe when finalizing their purchase.
Make sure any opt-in forms on your website include a privacy statement to assure customers you will not sell their personal information to any third-party providers.
- Be Accessible to and Easy to Find
Committing to giving your customers live support when they need it, is key to building online consumer trust. Consumers get turned off by online businesses without reach dedicated support when they have a question or a problem with the product. The feeling of abandonment frustrates the customers and probably makes them decide to never buy from you again, and worse, give you negative feedbacks and bad ratings online. According to McKinsey & Co., three out of four online buyers expect to receive assistance within five minutes of initiating contact.
You may use online customer service is through a cloud-call-center-software-solution, which allows for a centralised operation for your customer representatives to answer queries urgently. You may also use chatbot technology for mundane, low-quality questions so that your human support team can give more attention to high-quality, more urgent calls that require more detailed communication with consumers.
Increasing the level of customer service will also increase the level of the consumer’s overall brand experience, therefore increasing your trustworthiness as a brand and as a company.
- Be Active on Social Media
Social Media presence is highly important to continue earning your consumer’s trust. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube are some of the most mainstream platforms to employ marketing campaigns and strategies. You will also be able to reach a broader range of the market since the majority of online users are social media users as well. If you are a new eCommerce company, try focusing on one or two social media platforms as a start. Facebook is still the most popular among all social media platforms, with its 2.3 billion users. YouTube, Instagram, and WeChat follow, with more than a billion users. So, focusing on the big trio, for instance—Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube—helps you get traction with the younger generation (heavy IG-users), millennials, and senior adults (heavy Facebook-users). YouTube is currently popular with both younger and older generations and everything in between, so it is also the right decision for a better content marketing campaign to include a YouTube site if you can.
Focus on a few as a start, because if you cannot regularly update your social media platforms, then it is also a useless marketing endeavor.
As your social media followers grow, provide your social media stats on your website as well. Include organic links to your social media posts on your website and vice versa to help build credibility and momentum on social networks.
- Encourage Customer Reviews
The consumers of this day and age have become advertising-intolerant because of years of disruption from annoying, hard-selling, and misleading advertising. Out of all the 700 survey participants, only 7 percent view online ads positively, while more than 30 percent say they disliked this form of advertising.
Customer reviews help visitors trust you more because of the trust you earned from other patrons of your product or service. Include user-photos, if possible, to show greater transparency and accountability. Respond NOT JUST to positive reviews but also the negative ones. Doing this shows your visitors and customers that you care for them and genuinely desire to correct their consumer experience, should they have had a bad one.
Include a review and a testimonial section on your website and encourage consumers to participate. Include a picture of the one leaving their testimonial with some background information, so people know your testimonials are not bogus.
- Provide Personalised Marketing and Sales Strategies
Use marketing strategies relevant to your target market. For instance, if you are an eCommerce farmer serving the local community with efficient delivery of fresh produce via online ordering, provide products that people like to consume in that area. If your local town is not into kale, but into regular lettuce, even if kale is a healthier option, you cannot just force the product to your market with fancy discounts and promos.
What does your market need? Find out the need of your market and serve that need. Pattern your promos and freebies around that need to encourage your consumers, even more, to purchase from you and avail of your product.
You may also add blogs to your website to serve your market further. Know what kind of information your target market is searching for in search engines. If you have baby products, that means your marketing strategies should involve serving parents, daycare operators, health centers, and the like. Your ads, content, promos, and other measures should be directed to these specific consumers.
Focus on your target audience and be sure to deliver marketing material that resonates well with what you are trying to sell.
- Deliver High-Quality, Consistent Product Delivery, Image, and Customer Service
Make it a priority to deliver quick and excellent customer service through online chat, email support, chatbots, and maintaining consistency with your image and product delivery to increase the overall trust value of your company.
If you are making any changes or upgrades, make sure to prepare your existing clientele with ample information, guiding their hand through any changes you are taking into effect.
In a time where data breach, identity theft, and cybercrime is prevalent, it’s smart to prove to your visitors and customers that their private data will remain secure when they transact with you.
- Fix Broken Links
Routinely audit your website, so consumers know you are an active eCommerce seller. Ensure all links are working as they should, fix those broken links, and check for any issues your site may be manifesting. Your response time to issues such as this should be immediate. Any delayed action on your end gives a signal to consumers that you don’t care that much and, therefore, lessens your credibility as an online seller.
- Updated Your Content Frequently
Update your blogs, posts, pictures, videos, and all other content you post on your website to keep your website fresh and relevant. These updates must be mirrored in your social media accounts as well for a more unified look. Updated websites increase your SEO ranking because the analytics will show you take the time to provide fresh content to answer the queries of your target market. Make sure you always produce well-written and excellent content to establish your authority in the market even further.
- Use Content Marketing Instead of Hard Selling
Hard selling techniques do not work as they are intended to anymore. The market shuns hard-selling methods, and to be ignored by your target market is not something you like. “People know when they are being marketed to,” says the people behind The Furrow, a publication by John Deere company, makers of heavy equipment vehicles. The Furrow has been in publication for more than a hundred years, but it was hardly about the company behind it, but always about the community it supports. This has endeared them to their consumers more than any hard-selling, intrusive advertising strategy has over the years. They talk about their content marketing methods in this video.
Video by Content Marketing Institute (C) 2016
- Hook them Through a Drip Email Campaign
Once you have gotten that email address, begin addressing your new lead through a much more personal source: their inbox.
Drip email campaigns derive their name from the steady pace of digital marketing. Emails can be incredibly useful.
Do not be too aggressive in answering customers. Perhaps plot out a campaign quarterly, providing valuable or entertaining messages as well as the occasional promotional email when you are plotting a special sale.
Emails should be concise with copy, employ enticing images, and include a call to action every time. The more exceptional your messaging, the more likely they will trust you, click to your site, and even make a purchase.
- Transition to a Face-to-Face / Face-to-Business Relationship
The higher goal for any marketing strategy is to establish relationships in person with their target market. Human interaction can take your digital marketing home in your market niche. Fan meet-ups, product demos, networking events, and going to expos are just some of the ways to personally connect with your consumer. Posting these events on your website and social media platforms increase your credibility and trustworthiness as a company to the market
If you have a physical store as well as an online one, encourage people to come in to meet you and your employees. Offer exclusive promos to online patrons redeemable in-store. When your online consumers see that you are taking the initiative to bridge the digital and physical distance between them and yourself, they will trust you even more as a reliable and sincere brand.
Conclusion: Trust is THE Most Important Factor to Growing Your Online Customers
eCommerce and other online transactions are here to stay. And in this digital world where it is that easy to create a website to lure visitors in for whatever purpose—be it good or bad—it should be your priority to establish trust at the onset. Trust is quintessential to your success as an online business, and without it, you will fail to convince users to have a strong desire and need for your particular product or service, persuade them to buy from you. Conversion of visitors to customers and subscribers is easy, but getting them to stay and become loyal customers, allowing you into their lives and even grow with your business, that is not a walk in the park.
Stay sincere. Stay in tune with your customer’s needs. Let every interaction, even if it’s their nth return to your business, feel like it’s the first time. If you keep your customers excited about you, your brand and your product and maintain these elements of trust that caused them to follow you in the first place, then you will continue to see your online brand increase in the years to come. Always aim to build, keep, and reinforce trust.
John Ocampos is an Opera Singer by profession and a member of the Philippine Tenors. Ever since Digital Marketing has always been his forte.
He is the Founder of SEO-Guru, and the Managing Director of Tech Hacker. John is also the Strategic SEO and Influencer Marketing Manager of Softvire Australia – the leading software eCommerce company in Australia and Softvire New Zealand.