Chances are when you decided to launch a website you weren’t thinking too much about trust. You wanted a way to talk about your products and services to the masses and drive more sales to your business. After all, that’s why you opened your doors in the first place, right? The challenge today is that your market very likely has a big number competitors vying for the same business you are, so how do you differentiate?
The Value of Trust
You have to establish trust with your audience and your customers if you are going to have any success online. Trust is defined as belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, and effective. To translate that to our world of the web: a website builds trust when it knocks down enough of the risks that caution people away. Online customers are hyperaware of the issues around payment fraud, identity theft, poor or completely lacking customer service, and other issues that can make doing business online a complete nightmare. But if you build trust through your content and various elements of your site, you diminish their fears and signal to them that you are the right choice.
Who Do You Trust?
Let’s say you’re in the market for this rather hilarious book called “How to Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You,” by The Oatmeal. Take a look at these two product sites offering up the same book. Which one instills more trust in your mind?
Most people would choose Thrift Books. Not only is it clearly a book store from its title but as soon as you hit the site, you feel a bit more trust than you do than Grab Cart. Grab Cart gives you a bit of an uneasy feeling, and it would be completely reasonable to ask “Who the heck are these guys?”
Of course if we are talking books (or any of the other hundreds of product categories they now stock), Amazon is the worldwide leader in building trust. Amazon delivers purchases on time, is reputable, and customers can depend on them to stand behind their orders no matter what the issue may be.
Will your business be the next Amazon? Probably not. But there are things you can do online to build more trust so that more customers choose you over the competition. Here are three things you need to do to ramp up the trust-o-meter.
One of the easiest ways to show credibility is social proof. Reviews of you or your product, unbiased comparisons, and testimonials are all great ways to show people that it’s not just you saying that your product is good. Social metrics also work great. “Over 150,000 happy customers since 2010. (Updated 6/10/2014)” This not only shows you are current on your numbers but it leaves the customer saying “If 150,000 people have bought this, it must be good. Heuristics is a powerful persuader and everyone uses them to help us make decisions about things without even realizing it. Here are some ideas on using heuristics on your site:
- Expert Authority – If you have some expert talking about how much they like your product, it must be what I should believe too.
- Social Proof – If other people like me are doing it, I should be too.
- Reviews – If 650 people are saying they love this product and have rated it 4.5 out of 5 stars, it must be okay for me.
If you are a family-owned business and it’s you, your wife, and two kids running the business, don’t show a picture of a group of business executives as “Your Team.” Use authentic photos and show the real you. While stock photography can be very useful on a site, don’t use it as a replacement for who you really are. Photos should help tell the story, not misrepresent you or your product.
Also, make it easy to contact you by having your contact information readily accessible no matter what page a site visitor is on. Implement Quick Contact forms on every page and make sure your phone number is in your header. Keep in mind that everyone is different in how they like to be contacted so give options for both phone and email contact.
Use truth in advertising to your advantage. Everyone says they are the best but you can use cold hard facts to show it. Press mentions, affiliations, awards, etc. all help to show that you aren’t just saying you are good, you are proving it by your education, expertise, and publicity.
Make It Easy
A successful site is easy to navigate, loads fast, and gets you where you want to be quickly. If your visitor has to spend time trying to figure out your navigational conventions then you are losing their patience and trust. Your goal here is to “dumb it down” for anyone on your site. Make it ridiculously easy to learn more about your services and express interest back to you on either a purchase or next steps to get to a purchase. Your content should be inviting and indicate within seconds that your visitor has arrived in the right place.
The most important thing to recognize is that when you are marketing yourself online, you are doing it alongside many other businesses as well. Every interaction you have with a customer both inside your business and out matters. Treat your customers how you expect to be treated when you are a customer and be consistent. Trust is difficult to earn but easy to lose. Once you have lost it, it’s almost impossible to get back.