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Improving Online Consumer Confidence
The Importance of Building Online Trust to Increase Conversion
Revised June 25, 2020
Originally Published July 30, 2009
If the ever growing number of competitors in any given industry weren't enough, or the scammers & hackers, there's other factors to consider that greatly affect consumer trust online.
Due to the increasing number of online data breaches and online fraud, consumers today are extremely weary of with whom, and how they transact business online.
For a business to succeed and convert website visitors into legitimate online sales or leads, the website MUST portray security, confidence, customer service, and professionalism.
Without these core factors, gaining a new online consumer's trust is VERY difficult, yet not impossible.
By following a few simple guidelines, a company's online presence can dramatically improve consumer confidence, and increase online conversion ratios.
Whether the purpose is to sell a product or service, or simply generate leads; the requirements for increasing the credibility of any online presence remains the same.
1. Consistent Branding & Presence
When researching a company's legitimacy, consumers will often check out numerous resources; from the website, to social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, etc), to review sites like Yelp, and more.
For this reason, it's imperative to make sure the company has a consistent presence on all major platforms and venues. Often, scammer sites will only focus on one platform to take advantage of users.
For example, many scammers may only post on Facebook in an effort to attract Facebook users; but won't have the same presence on other platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIN, Yelp, etc.
To portray legitimacy, companies must have a consistent branding theme through all online platforms with which they participate. This shows consumers that the business is for real, and not some fly-by-night scam that will be gone tomorrow.
Some of the major platforms most any business today should maintain a presence with are:
- Business Website
- Google My Business
- Bing Places for Business
Depending on the industry, there are many other platforms that may be unique to particular industries such as Pinterest, Instagram, Foursquare, and more.
2. Look The Part
First impressions matter when it comes to gaining trust and credibility in the online world. If customers are going to trust a company with business and conduct transactions online, then their online presence must appear trustworthy and professional.
If the business website looks like it was put together using a free do-it-yourself website kit, then customers will question:
- the quality and professionalism to actually transact business online in a secure and safe environment.
- whether they'll provide the caliber of work expected, when no apparent investment was spent on their own services.
As well, if a website looks professional, yet the site or social profiles contain grammar, spelling or other similar errors, the consumer will again question the competency and qualifications of the company.
Lack of attention to detail can greatly harm consumer confidence!
The following are important factors that can dramatically affect the online credibility of a company:
- The site must portray a professional feel, with easy to understand navigation.
- The look should be easy on the eyes and appear professional and clean.
- The overall look of the site should not detract attention from, but instead guide attention to the products or services displayed.
- As a general standard, the navigation structure should allow a visitor to find any information needed within about three clicks. (Often referred to as the 3-Click Rule).
In real life, it is very rare for a "successful business" to have a physical retail store or office location that is run-down, messy, or looks like it is run by anyone other than a professional organization.
It's important to consumers that a business keeps their physical location neat, orderly, professionally decorated, and with products or services quick and easy to find.
The same effort and organization must go into a website (or any online presence) to be a successful piece of the business:
Businesses with back-alley locations, or sketchy environments rarely fair well with main stream consumers.
Making sure that a website is secure, is critical. Portraying this sense of security to consumers is just as critical. If a visitor doesn't feel secure sending their information through a website, then that consumer may become a lost sale.
By installing proper security technologies, such as SSL Certificates, as well as displaying the corresponding "security badges" for each; a website can greatly increase its perceived security.
Ideally, such "badges" should be integrated into the overall look of the website so that regardless of the page a visitor is on, the security a website uses will be prominent and easy to recognize.
Grammar & Spelling
While it is human nature to make mistakes, a website should not have less than a 99.9% accuracy rate when it comes to grammar and spelling. With spell check and grammar check available to everyone, and already built into so many programs today, such careless errors should be few and far between.
While it would be great to say a website should be 100% accurate, websites are developed by humans, and today's programs don't always catch every mistake or grammar error.
Grammar and spelling are a big deal, and paramount to the first impression of a business. Poor grammar and spelling leave an impression of either carelessness, lack of attention to detail, or lack of education; any of which is not a good impression to provide to a new or returning customer.
When competing for sales, every factor counts and could be what pushes a customer to buy one product over another.
Ideally a website should give the consumer the impression that the company's employees are detail oriented, and will dot all the i's and cross all the t's. All consumers want to know that their transaction will be given the full attention it deserves; 110% and no less.
3. Provide Contact & Terms
While "looking the part" is important to consumer confidence and improving online conversion, there's another area that can dramatically affect website conversion. The "type" of information and assistance offered to visitors greatly affects online conversion.
Addressing the following within a website can greatly increase consumer confidence:
- phone number
- email address
- mailing address
- social media links (link to your Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIN accounts)
- physical address
- fax number
- live chat service (OK even if only during posted business hours)
It's imperative to provide complete contact information in a prominent location, easy to find with no question as to how to contact.
When consumers buy a product or service, they like to know that they can easily get help or assistance when needed. A consumer should not have to search to find the contact information.
As well, the consumer should be given access to contact a company by any means necessary including:
and, depending upon the industry:
At the very least, an easy to find phone number, email address, and mailing address for inquiries must be provided on all websites. The lack of such basic contact information will raise suspicion with a consumer.
If the contact information is too hard to find, a consumer may become discouraged and give up, or worse yet, wonder if the company is a legitimate business.
Policies, Terms & Conditions
Customers like to know what to expect when doing business with a company. It's important that a website make clear the company policies regarding sales, support, exchanges, returns, defects, shipping, refunds, training, privacy (how the business handles the customer's private information--this is especially important today with GDPR in effect in Europe and soon to be the US) and so on.
4. Offer Reviews, Information & Assistance
No one wants to buy a product or service that doesn't come with some sort of assistance, if needed.
A website should make it clear to potential clients the type of support and resources available, as well as how and where to find this assistance.
Often frequently asked questions (FAQ), guides, how-to manuals, as well as industry related articles and newsletters can provide a good base of support and resource information.
In addition, in today's social media world, it's imperative to have links to the company's various online profiles so that consumers can review any help and testimonial resources that may be listed there.
Word of mouth is the best marketing approach for any business to gain new customers. It's important to make sure new prospects have access to Yelp, Google Reviews, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIN & Alignable accounts so that they can review what others have experienced in working with the company.
Such online and social media reviews can help potential customers determine which product or service may be a best fit, based on experiences from similar consumers with similar needs.
Online reviews and social media exchanges can provide product knowledge, training, and answers without utilizing any of the company's resources or expenses.
Gaining trust online through a website is difficult, yet imperative to success. Company websites that look the part, have consisten branding across all platforms, and offer consumers the information, and assistance they need to feel safe - those sites gain customer confidence and trust.
In turn, this online credibility often generates revenues when consumers are properly led to complete the sale, and begin referring associates and sharing referrals via word-of-mouth.
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