As Jakob Nielson writes in E-Commerce User Experience, “Trust is hard to build – and easy to lose”. This is especially true for an online business, where your clients will likely never see your face or be able to trade in cash. However, there are quite a few things that you can do to build up a sense of trust, and many things not to do to keep the trust you have earned.
A professional website is to an e-commerce website what a suit is to a salesman. Make sure that information is up to date, free from spelling and coding errors, and free from missing images and broken links. Also important to keeping trust (and clients) is making sure that each page loads quickly, not giving them time to get bored and leave.
Show detailed company information, normally in the form of an “About Us”. Users also like to see that you have your address, phone number, and even a company history on the site, even if they are never going to make use of them.
We all learn to trust certain brand names over time, and this can translate over to other companies endorsed by them. This can be taken advantage of by building links (especially hyperlinks) with reputable companies, possibly with a seal of approval logo, carrying trusted and well-known brands, or through actually linking to reputable, independent sources.
Customers, understandably, want to know as much as they can before giving their credit card details away. Give them everything they want to know about the product, including quality photos that show it in detail, availability, and extremely important, the full and correct price. Have you ever been angry when you have seen a product advertised for a certain price, only to find that the shipping essentially doubles the cost? Tell your customers early what the shipping is likely to be, and save them the heartache (and mistrust) later on.
Security of information is very important to people who trade on the Internet, especially those who don’t really understand the technical side. Make sure that you are using a secure server for your transactions, and that the customer knows and trusts in that. Also, make alternative ordering – through fax, phone or mail – available, simple and easy-to-access.
A free return policy is a very powerful encouragement to buy big, while a bad or seemingly uncaring policy is a definite “trust-breaker”. Once you have a good refund/return policy, make sure that you display it where people will see it.
Being able to talk to a human being is very helpful, especially if the customer is lost or confused with your site. Be contactable by fax, phone, email, or mail. Whenever possible, show that a real human being is answering them – use their name when contacting them, end emails with a “regards, John Smith, Customer Relations” rather than “Admin/hd767/db/app”, and try to keep a consistent face with each client.
Remember, trust is a difficult thing to manage, but a customer’s trust in your business can quickly lead to loyalty.
Building trust over the internet is all about showing customers that you understand how they are feeling, you know what you are doing, and you will do anything to make their experience easier and more pleasurable.