7 Ways to Help Customers Trust Your Ecommerce Website

Our Web design diva explains how to increase trust in your business so that your customers feel safe shopping on your small business website.

Whether a customer trusts your business is often the difference between a successful shopping cart conversion and one that's abandoned. Including a few simple pieces of information on your small business website will encourage trust your business and improve the chances of customers completing their purchases.

In this article, I'll explain seven ways to adjust your website design to build customer trust -- chances are you already do most of them -- but have you told your customers?

1. Everything They Need to Know

A customer shopping online is relying on you to provide information about the product he can use to make a purchasing decision. He can't hold the product to see what it weighs, or put it on to check its fit, so your role as an online merchant is to tell them all you can about the product.

BzzGuitars.com; website design
This excerpt from the BZZGuitars catalog makes it clear when cables are not included and where weight makes shipping prohibitive.
(Click for larger image)

If an item of clothing is smaller than usual for a particular size, tell the customer upfront so he can order the correct size. If an item doesn't include batteries mention that too, and perhaps offer a link to suitable batteries for purchase. If your customer receives a wrong size or missing accessories on delivery, it won't endear them to your business, and you'll likely lose repeat purchases.

2. Testimonials and Reviews

Testimonials and reviews about products and your business not only help customers learn more about the products you sell, they help develop trust in your business. Encourage existing customers to review the products they buy and to write recommendations about their experience in buying from you.

Aim for reviews that are more than simple star ratings -- descriptive information about a product is more meaningful to potential customers. Always make sure the reviews you post on the site are genuine and never write them yourself. Also, don't be too concerned if a product doesn't always get stellar reviews -- what one reviewer thinks is a negative might be a positive to other buyers.

3. Tell Them What They Just Bought

At every step of the checkout process it's important that customers know exactly what's in their shopping cart. They will feel more confident in completing the purchase when checkout screens clearly show each item number, the item cost and product details -- such as color and size -- so they can verify everything is correct. Always give a customer the ability to change quantities at the checkout. If they accidentally hit the Add to Shopping Cart button one too many times, they can easily remove an unwanted item without having to jump through hoops.

4. Show Customers You Care

Shopping over the Internet requires your customers to put their trust in you. After all, they're giving you access to their personal and credit card details. Showing customers that you understand their concerns reassures them that can trust your site.

If your business is accredited with BBB Online, or if you use an especially secure method of handling credit card transactions, make that clear by including images of the appropriate seals on your site. It's just as important to tell customers that you have these measures in place as it is to actually have them, and don't assume customers will know this automatically.

Ensure that your SSL certificate is always up to date and that your PayPal account is confirmed. Remember too, that the absence of seals and security statements reflect negatively on your site.

5. State your Personal Data Policy

For every piece of data that you collect from a customer, make sure to clearly state how you will use it. If you're going to sell it to someone, then you need to tell your customers. If you want to share the data with affiliates or other businesses, ask your customers' for permission and if you don’t get it -- don't share it.

SMBs that are clear about how private data will be treated and do so in easy to understand language engender a sense of trust in their customers. A small business website that doesn't make this information readily available suggests that its owners don't understand the sensitivity of the data, and that's not a positive signal to send customers. Burying the information in pages of legalese is just as bad.

6. Post Your Return Policy

Be clear about your business's return policy. If items are broken, if they don't fit or if the customer just plain wants to send it back, make it clear what your return policy is and how a customer should go about returning the item. If you don’t accept certain items on return, then state this clearly, too.

 Fishfast Electronics; website design
Fishfast Electronics uses plain English to make it clear how it will treat your personal data.
(Click for larger image)

This information should be available to customers before they commit to purchasing the item, and it's also a good idea to include it in the email confirming the sale.

7. Provide Contact Information

SMBs that hide behind the Web and don't publish any contact information raise warning flags in the eyes of their customers. If you don’t provide a contact phone number for customers to contact you if something goes wrong, or if they have questions about their order, paints a negative picture of your relationship with your customers.

Providing an email address and a contact form go part of the way towards redressing the situation but you must reply promptly. Also be aware that some people prefer to browse online and then order by phone. If you don’t give them a way to contact you, you'll lose out on sales.

If you're forthright and show respect for your customers, the more likely it is that they will trust your business and buy from you. When you operate an online store, you're not there in person to forge a connection -- your website design has to do the work for you.

Helen Bradley is a respected international journalist writing regularly for small business and computer publications in the USA, Canada, South Africa, UK and Australia. You can learn more about her at her Web site, HelenBradley.com

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