Building Trust with Online Consumers

Andrea Palmer

Published Tue 30 Jun by Andrea Palmer in Marketing More Effectively

Without physical signals and face to face interaction, how are we to build trust with online consumers? This article is full of practical guidance to help you build credibility online.

Building Trust Online

While more people than ever are buying online, shopping on the web is still a different ball game to shopping on the high street. 

Yes, experienced web users can be reckless.  Yet research shows that the majority of online buyers are overly cautious. This is particularly true for lower skilled users who are aware of their limitations and show caution accordingly. 

Without the tangible signals present in a high street store to reinforce trust, brand qualities and company values, e-commerce designers have learned to demonstrate reliability, trustworthiness and security in other ways. 

In a study, Self-Disclosure on the Web the 2 main reasons that prevented consumers from buying were: 

  1. Lack of face to face interaction
  2. Concern over security and privacy issues

The 3 Factors

In relation to e-commerce design, it has been shown that 3 of the most effective factors in gaining trust are: 

  1. Professionalism of Design - How professional the website looks - includes spelling, punctuation and grammar
  2. Usability - Ease of use and compliance with accessibility laws / good practice
  3. Company Reputation - What others have said about the company or its products, both on and offline 

It's worth noting that these are not necessarily accurate indicators of trustworthiness!  But they do have the largest effect on how trustworthy a website/company is perceived.

2 Types of Trust

Cognitive Trust

Cognitive trust is formed when we perceive someone or something to be reliable and trustworthy through knowledge. In terms of your online business, this could be demonstrated through:

  • Customers' reviews
  • A customer's past experience
  • Word of mouth 

Affective Trust

Affective trust is built over time. For example, high street shopping enables us to build relationships with shop owners/assistants through face to face interaction. In time trust is built and we’re happy to take their advice and help. We feel we are taken care of and that we are cared for, so much so we may feel a false sense of security; and even trust misguided advice over our own rational reservations.

Achieving this online is a lot more difficult and takes research, dedication and interacting with your consumers through:

  • Utilising social media - By listening to what your consumers want
  • Offering ways to give feedback
  • Offering advice through blogs and articles – Enabling blog comments and answering them
  • Addressing complaints quickly and effectively

In our practical guidance section we’re going to give you more tips on how you can build trust with consumers and gain credibility for your website

Practical guidance

  • Have a good quality website– Invest in your website! Users tend to trust websites which are designed and built by a professional. More and more people use mobiles and tablets to access the web, so make sure your website has RWD. This doesn’t mean you have to spend thousands on a new website, but do your research and find a web developer who can give you what you need
  • Invest time in your web content - In short, it must be relevant, useful, targeted and regularly updated for your audience
  • Website usability – Clear easy navigation gives greater satisfaction, builds trust and helps to build website loyalty
  • Be competent – keep customer reviews and testimonials up to date: this helps consumers feel safe
  • Security – If you’re taking payments from your website, show users you're safe by displaying signs, logos and symbols of trusted payment systems, such as Pay Pal etc. Make sure pages such as returns policy and privacy policy all align with the core values of your brand

  • Delivery and Postage – There’s nothing worse than having to trawl a website for information on postage costs and delivery times: make it easy for your visitors by having this info close at hand and easily accessible 
  • Images - Choose wisely for your target audience: only use images on pages which need them. Show images of individuals who have given testimonials, professional images of company directors and team members
  • Selling products – Use a professional photographer to showcase your products at their absolute best, if you want to sell more products it's worth the investment

  • Build relationships - Having a blog or article section on your website helps you to send out regular content to users, encourages interaction and builds trust
  • Build trust  – Use professional  formal photos of authors  to accompany articles and blog posts. By providing real photos of real people you’ll be showing visitors your online content is authentic

  • Stock photos – To avoid damaging your credibility, don’t use free, the cheapest or most obvious as these are often used frequently by other businesses. Shop wisely if you want to use them and make sure they sit well with your website design and reflect what your business brand is saying
  • Your Brand – Be coherent, keep everything in line with your brand: this includes content, images, design, layout, your privacy policy and terms and conditions
  • Engagement – Engage with your audience, provide opportunities for them to speak with you, leave feedback or ask questions. Offer different ways of getting in touch, social media, blog comment boxes, contact form and telephone

  • Offer choices – Offer different payment options, this often encourages consumers to buy now

1 Comment on Building Trust with Online Consumers

  • Left at 02:09 Martin Hansen-Lennox

    Nice one Andrea, great article 

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