7 Steps to Earning Customer Trust Online

Nobody said it was going to be easy...

Keeping in theme with my recent article about ingredients to surviving in online business, let’s talk about earning customer trust.

A recent survey found that 81% of consumers don’t trust small online businesses.

You cannot survive in online business if your customers do not trust you. If they don’t trust you, they will never buy and you will fail. It’s that simple.

Unfortunately, earning customer trust online is not an easy task, especially when there are so many bigger brands out there where they can easily purchase most of the items they are looking for. That brings me to the first item.

1. Branding

Branding is more than just marketing. It’s a way to establish your business as a familiar face, and familiar faces become trusted more than strange ones. The more branding you are able to accomplish, the more trust you will gain.

2. Make yourself appear larger.

This is really just an extension of branding, but you also have to make sure that brand is conveying as professional an image as possible. This means a good-looking logo, a nice usable site design, and maintaining a solid reputation.

3. Design

Like I just said (and have numerous times in the past), site design is crucial. That is, if you want customers to think of you in a trustworthy and credible light.

Why should a customer take a chance on a small unknown site if it is presented in a sloppy and difficult-to-use manner? They can just as easily find a competitor’s site that looks better and spend their money there.

4. Reputation

I have talked about this numerous times too. You have to maintain a positive reputation if you want customers to trust you. People can Google your business and they most likely will if they’ve never heard of you.

This is why you have to periodically find out what people are saying about you online and do your best to counter any negativity out there. Don’t hide from customer reviews.

Of course you also don’t want to create a bad reputation on your own. You could do this inadvertently through social media, blog posts etc. Just think about what you’re saying before you attach your name (especially the name of your business) to something you’re posting online.

5. Security and Privacy

Customers need to feel secure at your site, and you need to take measures to earn their trust in this area as well.

This means privacy policies. We’ve run a couple videos on this, so check those out.

Customers also like to see SSL certificates. It makes them feel safer on your site. Read this article from Stoney deGeyter to see what other privacy and security concerns customers have.

6. Testimonials

Testimonials are a form of marketing, and can be an effective one. Besides that though, they represent your business as one that has satisfied customers in the past.

If you can get recognizable names to vouch for your business, that’s even better. Again, customers find familiar faces more trustworthy than strange ones.

7. Humanize Your Business

Like Wayne Hurlbert says, "People buy from other people they know and trust". This is why it is a good idea to humanize your business.

Don’t be shy about including photos and bios of your staff on your site. Maintaining blogs is another good idea, but humanize those too. Don’t just fill them with press releases. Make them fun, and reflect the writers’ personalities. Show people that your business is run by flesh and blood people and is not just some cold robot entity who’s after their money.

Building trust on the Internet is no easy feat, but it’s not impossible. The more trust that you earn, the higher your sales will climb, so it is in your best interest to do everything you can to get it.

Do you have any other suggestions for building trust online?
 

There are 16 Comments. Add Yours.
  1. I always used to find testimonials inspired confidence in a website.

    However nowadays I often find myself questioning the autheticity of testimonials on many websites. Sometimes I feel they are doing more damage then good by pushing testimonials at you in the aim that you will trust them.

  2. Trust is also important and being able to find contact information on a site easily adds to that.

  3. Great reading and very very very useful.  I will be rethinking my site to see how I can put your suggestions in place and hopefully I have managed to put a few in already. As Linda say’s, it still does just take time to build a good reputation, however, only a blink of an eye to loose it!!!

    Thanks Chris, love your work.

  4. I think you’re right on Chris! I have just recently entered the blogging arena. Initially I was intimidated about blogging because I haven’t had a composition class in quite some time and run into a fragment issue here and there. I realized though, that readers aren’t there to judge my sentence structure; they are there because of the content. Consequently they will get to know who I am and what I stand for. That is the method I use to build trust.

  5.  I think a big quality in a site is something that many businesses shy away from because of how things "used" to be done, and that is "REAL" human presence.  I don’t think people want the guy in the suit and tie for every business.  Some customers want to see that you are just like them, jeans, tshirts.  A suite sets you apart, which is great in an interview but not great in a business.  For instance I run with my girlfriend TheNakedHippie.com and all organic tshirt business, and both my girlfriend and I are on the front page.  So people know these are the people you’re buying from.  Not thenakedhippie.com website on the internet, you’re buying from Adrien and Erin and we design the shirts we buy the shirts we ship the shirts and we talk with our customers.  I think all those things are key to really building the relationship necessary to succeed from this point on.

     

    Adrien

    httpe://www.TheNakedHippie.com

    Organic Tshirts

  6. Thanks Chris. we will certainly be implementing your recomendations. Engaging and conversing with our customers has been a priority for us but we’ve been flying blind to some extent because we are new to e business. Thanks for the tips.

  7. Chris Uk

    I am trying myself to build an online business at the moment im working from home and as such several of the suggestions based around photos and such are not really an option to me, i wouldnt want my house to become associated with my business as this isnt a professional view for my customers.
    There are some other considerations that you have touched upon that i will be implementing into my business now that i had previously over looked, I do believe i show professionalism to my customers which is a major factor in potential customers parting with their money, this is after all our intention.
    One factor that is often over looked is the quality of the product, would you be happy to buy what your selling be it for 1 pound or a hundred pounds? Is your customer going to be happy when they have paid and received it? This then leads to after care which is a very valuable tool to master. Was your customer happy when they called? likely not, So were they happy when the call ended? If the answer is yes you now have to fulfil whatever you agreed to. Do this and you will have a customer for life as long as you keep up the high standards that you will in time become known for, The best part is the old saying the best advertisement is word of mouth. This is back to the trust if they trust you, you give good service and product, a customer will recommend you to friends, family, even other businesses. On the same token, give nad service products or otherwise make your customer feel they have not gotten the very best from you for their money and they are going to warn friends family other businesses againts doing business with you. Keep up the good work and you will reap what you sow.

    Ok so you may not like to have customers knocking on your front door. Give them a contact telephone number if all you have is a mobile number to give ok this will have to do but make a change to this as soon as possible. A mobile number is great to have on the side of a builders van or for an “extra” contact point it means customers know they can call at any time and contact you. It does not look good for the business you are trying to establish online if this is the only way to get in touch.

    This also helps to earn the trust, if they can phone they can speak to a person, Email or contact forms are very impersonal, Yes some customers will prefer to use them, but they are not and should not be the only way your customer can contact you.

    i hope ive added a few extra things to think about.

  8. We have had to think of innovative ways as a samll business assure our customers that they can trust the details and entertainment at their  wedding, corporate event, retirement party, or sweet 16. Not so easy when there are hundreds of small business Disc Jockey and event planning companies on-line.

    We have approached this in several ways….

    1. We have an interactive web site which allows clients to plan the details of their event. We provide them with a passowrd and user name so that only they have access to their details. We provide this for FREE.

    2. We have built a tremendous "library of links" for our clients that is very well organized and contains a ton of planning information as well as local party vendors that they may need. Anyone can have access to this- for FREE.

    3. We network with the vendors on our site- they appreciate the link. Often they can’t return the favor and swap us a link bc most small business owners don’t build their own web sites- but the word of mouth networking helps our business too.

    4. We have just recently started donating 5% of our profits to local charities- which we allow our clients to pick from a list of 15 of our favorites- all local for our community. Our clients LOVE this. It’s a little more paper work at tax time but well worth it. You can see how we set it up on our profits for charities page.

    If your small business is set up so that you itemize your deductions I highly reccomend the profit for charity approach. You could choose one or two to save on the paper work if your small business does a lot of small transactions. We are in a niche where we book a limited number of events per month so our paper work is much less than most small businesses.

    We feel great about it- our clients love it. Everybody wins.

    We have learned that by being generous and sharing – be it to charity or providing valuable information to our clients for free, and local business web site visinility on our web site even if they can’t reciprocate- it makes us a member of the on-line community that our clients feel comfortable with.

     

     

    :

     

  9. the main point is trust. the trust has always led to small businesses to becomme largers, and trust has also led big businesses to stay in business. the trust is a big factor, and it comes with the way a small business carries itself.

  10. I find that the younger the audience the more they distrust the media.  Older guys seem to be the most comfortable with the internet and understand that business needs to promote in order to get customers.

    Great article

  11. Hey Chris,

    I loved the article and I completely agree with everything you said.  

    I have a comment regarding your mention of security.  In our research, security is the number one concern that customers have when visiting a website. So in addition to SSL, there is a ever increasing number of customers looking for PCI Scanning or vulnerability scanned seals.

    Why?  Because there are over 25,000 known website and server vulnerabilities that hackers can use to exploit a web server.  By running regular PCI Scans on your server, you in essence are making sure that all the doors are locked that should be, so no bad people can break in and wreak havoc with your site and your customers information.

    I also have a quick comment on reputation management.  I come across businesses all the time that are good businesses, but have made a few bad customer service decisions where disgruntled customers have sought revenge by posting bad remarks to online complaint sites about their experience.  These kind of posts can have devastating effects on small companies.  While it is unfortunate, these kind of things can be found and quickly mended with a few smart moves.

    1 – put your company name and URL into google alerts.  Make sure to use quotes around your name or phrase so only that exact wording is found.  This will let you know any time anyone uses your name or URL anywhere on the internet. 

    2 – if a google alert pulls up a bad complaint about your website, you need to post a rebuttal.  This generally means eating some humble pie, even if you’re not at fault, and offering to make ammends publicly for whatever issue you’ve caused.  It’s best to back it up with a renewed committment of some type to do better, or to offer a special email or phone number so that if anyone has future problems that they can contact you directly.  This approach heals the wound so you’re business keeps a good online reputation.

    I hope this information helps.

    Best Regards,

    Scott Brandley, CEO
    Trust Guard

     

  12. Very true and correct. Although it seems easier said than done.

  13. Chris, you have wrote a great article. I’d like to add one more thing in that which is beyond the trust. That Do NOT LIE with your Customers! Do tell them what you are originally selling out. Keep the branding original and take the original product to the consumers as it is. Tell them its merit and demerits, ask them what they actually looking for? Put some cutomers reviews alongwith products, it will help visitors to stay on the site. They always required some attention from your side, but you don’t know how to attend them. So reviews can get them stayed over the site segments and will build up their interests.

     

    Thanks,

     

    Bilal Qayyum

    SEO Expert and Internet Marketer Pakistan

  14. Trust is also important and being able to find contact information on a site easily adds to that.

  15. Several companies I have worked with seem to have shy employees in the workforce. No one thinks they need their picture on the web site and many say they want a group photo of models rather than a more realistic photo of themselves. These people can be very outgoing, but when it comes to putting their bio or especially their photo, dozens of excuses pop up. They don’t have time. They think it’s pretentious.

    So I have found two simple things I can do that doesn’t ruffle anyone’s feathers:

    • On the contact page put a photo of the building. It may not be the people, but at least it gives a web visitor something they can connect with.
    • Secondly I can add a map. This shows the visitor we are not hiding behind the veil of cyberspace.

    It’s not much, but it’s something almost every site can do, and every little bit helps.

    Excellent article by the way, thank you!

  16. Thank You for useful tips. Everything say that if One want to be successful online One need to be serious. Branding, trust, exposure, success is not to be done easy and overnight. But it can be done and prize can be great. you need clear strategy and easy to follow business plan. In one word, You need to see the battlefield. By the way, do You know the story about the McDonalds and Coca cola?

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