Think about the last time you walked into a shop you’d never been in before. Maybe you were on vacation visiting a new town or maybe you were exploring a different neighborhood in your own city. You pull open the door, walk in, and begin to look around.
This first visit begins with a series of quiet evaluations. As you wander , picking things up or just glancing at them, you think about how the prices compare to what you’ve seen elsewhere. You ask yourself whether the merchandise is especially clever or tasteful or unique. But there are other, less overt ways that you’re evaluating the store, as well. Looking around, you see if you’re the only customer right now or if the store is crowded. You notice if the displays look faded or fresh and if the clerk is bored or attentive.
The results of these quick evaluations determine whether you linger and eventually head to the register with your selections or whether you turn around and walk out empty-handed. The intangible qualities of the shop, the overall vibe (stodgy? classy? helpful?) have a huge influence on your decision to buy.
Shopping Online Depends on Trust
When we shop online that shop vibe is incredibly important, perhaps even more so than it is in a brick-and-mortar store. After all, online shopping is rife with uncertainty. We can’t touch and pick up the merchandise and we can’t ask questions in real-time. We’re entering our credit card information knowing it could be stolen. We’re agreeing to wait for our item to ship accepting that it could be delayed or arrive broken.
When faced with so much uncertainty we quickly look for clues that a site is trustworthy. How do we verify this is a “real” company? An About page with faces and names and a short, but relatable telling of the company’s story reassures us that there is a real person behind this venture. People want to do business with people, not with a website. We want to connect with someone we might come to know and like.
Including contact information is way to further reinforce legitimacy. Often in my work I have to send emails to people who may have never heard of me. I include my phone number in the signature line of my email because a phone number inspires trust. A phone number says, “I’m a real person. Call me and you’ll see.” Links to social media outlets are actively used provide yet another layer of verification that you’re actively in business and ready to fulfill and ship new orders.
Does the Way Your Site Functions Reflect Who You Are as a Company?
A second indication that your online business is trustworthy is the design and functionality of the site itself. Like a cluttered and dusty brick-and-mortar store, an outdated website doesn’t inspire confidence. If you want to do well online invest the time, and if necessary the money, to create a web presence that truly represents your business. Browsing and buying should be intuitive and hassle free. Test the speed of your site to be sure potential customers aren’t clicking away due to long load times. Be sure your product descriptions are free of grammar and spelling errors.
The Power of Referrals
A third way to inspire trust is to prove that other people trust you. A few weeks ago I picked up a memoir at my local bookstore. I read the jacket and the story looked good, but the author was new to me and I just wasn’t sure if I was going to really like it. I took out my phone so that I could read the reviews on Amazon and they convinced me that it was a good choice so I bought it. When we have to make decision we look to other people guide us. Their experience with the product has a powerful influence over us.
You can provide that social proof with testimonials from past customers and you only need a few to get started. Here’s a little snapshot from my Etsy About page:
I pulled these phrases from the Customer Feedback area of my shop and put them on the About page to further highlight them. If you’ve been written about in the media or won an award be sure to include this information prominently on your site to show that other people have checked you out and been impressed.
Keeping Your Promises
A final way to boost your trustworthiness online is to be consistent. Consistency proves that you can make and keep promises. If you consistently update your blog twice a week, or send a newsletter on the first of every month, or publish a new pattern each quarter, our faith in you as a business person is strengthened. We see that you did what you said you would do. And we trust that you’ll do the next thing, too.
Earning Trust Takes Work
The good news is that it’s easy to understand how to build trustworthiness online. We’re all people and we all know what makes us trust one another. Doing the work to build that trust remotely, through a computer screen, is harder, but well worth it.
Take a quick look at your site now (or, better yet, have someone else take a look) and note the features that are inspiring trust in your visitors and those that may not be. Pay special attention to your:
- about page
- contact information
- load time
- sales copy
- reviews and testimonials
- awards and/or media coverage
- consistency of output
Nobody’s site is perfect (mine included!). We can all choose a few of these areas to work on to help potential customers trust us more quickly and thoroughly.