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5 Essential Trust Signals for your e-Commerce Website
Engendering trust is vital for websites whose the raison d’être is to conduct online transactions with their visitors. Fraudulent activity online, and public fears and perceptions, have a direct impact upon the level of trust that is needed for people to confidently make purchases on the internet. So the question is for e-tailers, what steps can be done to improve trust in your website and ultimately increase online conversions.
However before you can advise on how to engender “trust” from users, you must define what “trust” is. Some have defined it neatly into two categories; “negative” cues and “positive cues”. In other words things that users will look for to affirm a sense of trust and things they will want to see absent to equally install the sense of trust. Remember, not all web users are as savvy as each other, far from it and so the trust signals’ impact will vary from user to user.
For example, someone who works in IT or online marketing would have a much keener eye for detail, or would be able to spot perceived warning signs much more easily compared to someone who was not tech savvy and used the internet rarely. To give a quick example, I would be reticent to buy a 52 inch Plasma screen TV from a website named www.bargain-wide-screen-tvs.info, that was hosted in Nigeria and had spelling mistakes contained within it. However other users may not be deterred in the same manner if all other perceived criteria of trust had been met.
That said, there are some broad signals that the overwhelming majority of users will want to see on an e-commerce website.
1. Verisign or Visa (SSL)
Signs that you can safely process card payments are essential as most online fraud involves the theft of personal bank or card details. Of course imitation of these types of sign can be created. Although most users may not know what SSL means in terms of security, they will be used to seeing this on other websites, which will flag your website if they are not present.
The hardest accolade to achieve which can only hope to be assumed over time. A brand is not a tangible commodity such as the verisign badge, it is what people’s pre determined perceptions are of your website based on awareness. Trusted online brands will usually, broadly speaking across a range of products, benefit from a higher than average conversion rate based on their status as a well know brand – for example Amazon, eBay and Argos.
Design can have an impact upon the trustworthiness of a website, but this impact depends on the product being sold as well as other factors such as usability (and so cannot be looked at in isolation). Whilst I would rather have a website that functioned properly but had a lesser design, presentation is important.
This is a key function for an e-commerce website. Poor usability costs money and custom, it is as simple as that. Usability issues can range from major faults such as as broken links (404 errors) down to subtle improvements such as changing a marketing message such as “Free Shipping” (associated with the US) to “Free Delivery”.
Knowing that there will be a method of recourse should a product be unsuitable or faulty is also important. Some retailers, such as fashion websites, get a high number of returned goods (upto 33%). Thus a user must be assured that they if making a purchase that they will be able to return the product it easily. Some retailers have gained reputation for no quibble, hassle free returns which has inturn created a positive perception from the public (Marks and Spendcer for example).