Improving Online Consumer Confidence

Generating new leads, and converting those leads to sales is difficult enough in-person, let alone virtually online. Then add the difficulty of numerous online competitors, compounded with the threat of online scams, phishing, spoofing, and potential hackers. Doing business online, in a crowded marketplace, unable to see the prospect can seem like a daunting, uphill battle.

On the flip-side, consumers are rightfully weary today due to the increasing number of online data breaches, online fraud, scams, and constant phishing schemes bombarding everyone!

For a business to succeed and convert prospects into legitimate online leads or sales, the website MUST portray:

  • security,
  • confidence,
  • legitimacy,
  • positive customer service,
  • and professionalism.

Without these core factors, gaining a new consumer's trust online is often VERY difficult. But the following guidelines will help dramatically improve the likelihood of gaining that trust. Increased consumer confidence often translates into higher 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

Whether looking for a vendor (B2B), or a consumer looking for a product or service (B2C); most everyone today will consult a number of various resources including:

  • the company website & social medias,
  • search engines such as Google,
  • review sites like Yelp,
  • among numerous other online directories.

For this reason, the company must maintain a consistent presence on all major platforms and venues. This can set a company apart from scam sites as they often only focus on one platform to take advantage of users.

For example, many scammers choose a single platform to exploit. They might only post on Facebook in an effort to attract that platform's users. If a consumer searched other platforms such as Twitter or LinkedIN, the scammer won't have the same presence.

Companies should maintain a consistent branded theme on all online platforms. Such consistency begins to build trust, and tells consumers it's more likely the business is for real, versus a fly-by-night scam that may be gone tomorrow.

A few of the major platforms most any trustworthy business will have a presence on today are:

  • Business Website
  • Google My Business
  • Bing Places for Business
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIN
  • Yelp

Depending on the industry and purpose, there are many other directories, platforms, and resources a company might benefit from maintaining their presence to help build trust and confidence.

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 to conduct transactions online, then the company must appear trustworthy and professional.

If a company's website looks like a free do-it-yourself website kit, then customers will question:

  • the quality and professionalism of the business,
  • whether transacting business online with the company will be completed in a secure and safe environment,
  • whether the company's employees will provide the calibur of work expected,

when no apparent investment was spent on developing the company's own services.

As well, when a website looks professional, yet contains grammar, spelling, or other similar errors; the consumer will again question the competency and qualifications of the business and its associates.

Lack of attention to detail can greatly harm consumer confidence!

The following important factors can dramatically affect the online credibility of a company:

Presentation

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 for a business to keep their physical location neat, orderly, professionally decorated, and with products or services that are quick and easy to find.

The same effort and organization used in a brick and mortor location, must also be applied to any online presence to be a successful part of the organization:

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. Businesses with back-alley locations, or sketchy environments rarely fair well with main stream consumers.

Security

Making sure that a website is secure, is critical in today's world. Portraying this sense of security to consumers is just as critical. If a visitor doesn't feel safe 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.

As well, Google uses whether or not a site is SSL secured as a factor in ranking sites for search results; so those sites that do not have SSL Certificates may be ranked lower than those that are properly secured.

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 spelling and grammar check available 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 prospect 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 impression that the company's employees are detail oriented, and will dot all the i's and cross all the t's. Everyone wants 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.

Addressing the following will greatly increase consumer confidence:

Contact Information

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:

  • phone number
  • email address
  • mailing address
  • social media links (link to your Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIN accounts)

and, depending upon the industry:

  • physical address
  • fax number
  • live chat service (OK even if only during posted business hours)

At the very least, an easy to find phone number, email address, and mailing address for inquiries should 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 clearly details 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.

Every website should have a clear set of terms & conditions as well as a privacy policy posted for all to view.

4. Offer Reviews, Information & Assistance

No one wants to buy a product or service that doesn't come with some sort of assistance when needed.

Resources

A website should make it clear to potential clients what type of support and resources are available, as well as how, and where to find this assistance.

Often frequently asked questions (FAQ), user guides, how-to manuals, as well as industry related articles and newsletters can provide a good base of support and resource information.

Reviews

In today's social media world, it's imperative to have links to the company's various online review profiles so that consumers can view help and testimonial resources available.

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 Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIN & Alignable profiles where they can review what others have experienced when working with the business.

Such online and social media reviews help potential customers determine which product or service may be a best fit, based on experiences from 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.

In Summary

Gaining trust online is difficult, yet imperative to success. Company websites that look the part, with consistent branding across all platforms, offering consumers the information, and assistance they need to feel safe - those sites normally gain a consumer's confidence and trust.

In turn, this online credibility helps improve revenues as consumers are properly led to safely complete the sale; often such successful experiences result in consumers referring associates and sharing their experience via word-of-mouth.


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