How can I gain user trust online

7 ways to increase trust in online shops

Few customers are willing to have a head start when shopping online. Countless options and easy comparability have made them picky, suspicious and erratic. They know about competition and have a "give me what I'm looking for" attitude towards companies.

Most marketing strategies rely on quick persuasion techniques to generate short-term profits. Less attention is paid to building long-term trust, although this drives customer loyalty.

At a time when face-to-face contact is barely a concern, companies that have mastered the techniques of building trust in online stores make a big profit. Here are 8 best practices.

Act transparently

"If you have nothing to say, it is best not to say anything." This may be good advice for editors, for example - but it does not apply to companies.

This is what Steven Tadelis advises in his study. The professor at UC Berkeley examined the factors that drive trust-building and found that anonymity and discretion perform worst. Instead, identity and transparency information, the top rated factors for trust, especially when expressed publicly.

There is one thing you should definitely be fighting against when running a business: the rampant assumption that your main goal is to make money out of fools' pockets.

Julia Kirby, Harvard Business Review (HBR)

Apple's dispute with the FBI is a good example of how transparency can increase customer trust. Back in 2014, Apple took action against your embarrassing results on the subject of transparency by publishing your anti-corruption guidelines. Of course, transparency should preferably precede a public shit storm.

Use certain pages in your online shop to convey your open mindset. Transparency aims at the emotional aspect of trust. On the values ​​of the customers, not their economic way of thinking.

Accordingly, your website should contain more than legal disclaimers and vague statements about responsibilities. It should include questions about your day-to-day business, such as production conditions, working conditions, data protection and other topics that are sensitive to customers.

Samsung's rather non-binding section on their values.

Samsung's rather cautious "Our Values" section pales when you see how much importance iFAST Corp puts in theirs.

81% of online shoppers do research before making a purchase. They love to uncover contradictions and publish them. It is therefore dangerous to communicate falsehoods about your values, product benefits, features, or comparisons with competitors.

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Transparency is a must in pricing policy. Ensure uniform prices in all departments. Don't fool the customer with price increases during the buying process. For example, with international shipping, you should include the cost and not hide it in the footnotes of the page or add the price at the last step of the buying process, as is often done when buying airline tickets.

Admit mistakes

Business communications expert Shel Holtz argues that the "disclosure of inevitable facts" is a central element of transparent organizations. There is ample evidence that costs double if omissions are kept secret and subsequently discovered and published. On the one hand because a mistake was made, on the other hand because it was concealed.

We realized that silence had been a devastating strategy. And it wasn't just the decision itself not to say anything that was a huge mistake, but that we didn't react immediately.

Marc Benioff, Salesforce

In the book Behind the Cloud, Marc Benioff describes how his company Salesforce mistakenly decided to shut itself off after some serious server problems. In the end, the news about the slip got to the press. Now the server failure was the lesser of two evils.

After learning their lesson, Salesforce implemented a system status page that provides detailed server information. It quickly became the standard practice in the SaaS industry. Here is Help Scouts version:

Salesforce history teaches us that it makes more sense to admit and disclose your mistakes. Even the most successful companies make mistakes. What makes you trustworthy is how you handle it. Be sincere and beware of the danger that apologizing can bring.

Appear sympathetic

A customer then builds trust in a company when he either identifies himself with its values ​​or is often in personal contact with its employees.

In 2001, researchers Carolyn Y. Nicholson and her colleagues found that sympathy amplified these factors. They also found that a steady business relationship gradually strengthens customer loyalty.

Use direct contact via service channels to gain sympathy. Your service should be problem-oriented, friendly, patient, attentive and as immediate as possible. Service employees should be trained to convey the company's sense of responsibility to the outside world, especially when it is important (as mentioned in point 2 above).

The customer's affection grows when they identify with one or more of the company's values. Because of the ingroup tendency, people tend to the Support a group with which they identify themselves. This probably lives for the most part the same or at least similar values. In order to win customers, it is therefore worthwhile to publicly share your company values.

"This guide was only available internally a few years ago. However, as a company that values ​​transparency, we decided to share it with the world." Dharmesh Shah

Companies often express their values ​​in the form of a guiding principle on their "About Us" page. It is mainly about the statement that the format can be freely designed. Above you can see how HubSpot uses a (large) collection of graphs to share their values.

Check out this post by Bruna Martinuzz for some valuable tips on communicating values.

Obtain external confirmation

To gain the trust of your customers, you need to show that you are good at what you do. When evaluating this, customers draw conclusions from a company's reputation.

Psychologist David DeSteno argues that "integrity is not a stable criterion". A company's reputation doesn't necessarily say much about integrity. "Someone who has been fair and honest in the past doesn't necessarily have to be in the future."

Queensland researchers found that "demonstrated consistency in behavior" increased the perceived integrity of online banks. Positive consumer reviews over a long period of time are reliable evidence of consistency. And therefore also for integrity. Kristi Hines went further into the topic of how to collect customer reviews in her insightful Kissmetrics post.

Honest intentions are indifferent if an employee is not up to the task.

David DeSteno

Competence, on the other hand, is a stable characteristic, according to DeSteno. And reputation is a reliable indicator of that. So work on your reputation so that your customers recognize your competence.

Social endorsement through references as used by ChowNow.

The reputation grows to a large extent depending on the opinion of neutral outsiders. They can be experts, customers, influencers or even celebrities (this is the difference). So watch out for the public recognition of authorities. Use reference sites, certifications such as Trusted Shops or cause media coverage with targeted publications.

Show yourself human

Sociologists Ronald S. Burt and Marc Knez defined trust simply as "expected collaboration", which fits the business context. In a transaction, trust is nothing other than the expectation of receiving adequate consideration for what is given.

Essentially, trust allows people to maintain some control despite an unknown future. After all, nobody knows exactly how another person will behave. Not to mention a company run by complex economic interests. In e-commerce, the impersonal connection via electronic devices doesn't make things any easier.

Corporations are not people.

Corey Wainwright, HubSpot

It only makes sense for people to look to familiar human traits when building trust in a company. So if you make your business more human, you will end up getting more customers.

But how do you look human? Apart from direct contact (see point 2), this is possible through the choice of your tone of voice. Avoid jargon and speak in a clear tone so that you show that real people are behind your organization. This also creates a recognition value that promotes trust.

Brand storytelling, “About Us” pages, a company blog or the use of social media are tools for addressing customers with visual and textual content. Marketer Pam Moore saw some other brilliant strategies for humanizing brands.

The right contact channels can also reduce the gap between customers and companies. This is especially true for those that make digital communication more personal at low cost, such as live chat on websites.

Reduce complexity

The more factors affect a situation, the more difficult it is to predict the outcome. And consequently, the mistrust of a customer is all the greater in such a situation.

Trust can therefore be strengthened by reducing complexity. Eliminating uncertainties should therefore be at the heart of any company's efforts to gain customer trust. This also means communicating relevant and particularly complex information about a product to the outside world as simply and understandably as possible.

This is particularly important in the insurance industry or in banking. Companies in such sensitive areas have to explain sophisticated products, which often require long-term decisions by their customers.

A very informative and handsome product page from Square

Even if you're selling less complex products, it is a good idea to weed out any ambiguities on your website's product pages. Resolve predictable questions with accurate information. Highlight these special features at the same time, for example with symbols that break down and organize the content. Despite the trust benefits of extensive information, simply designed websites are scientifically better.

Ideally, users decide how much information they want to include and take into account. However, you should be able to access all information.

Wallet maker Bellroy did a good job. Within the "functions" they give a general summary and important information about the product. This includes size, warranty and the leather used. If a customer so wishes, they can find out more details about the leather and its warranty by clicking on a plus sign.

It is often difficult to predict what customers will ask about a particular product. And as a precaution, you don't want to clutter your website with too much text. However, you shouldn't expect customers to contact your customer service for every open question about a product. However, they could cancel the purchase at any moment.

To get this problem under control, Amazon has developed a model that is operated by its own users; the Customer Questions and Answers section. It's a dynamic FAQ created and operated by buyers and sellers themselves.

Choose partners wisely

According to MCA's coverage of the Volkswagen emissions scandal, the share price of the French VW supplier Faurecia fell 8.3%. And only because they were associated with the dramatic breach of trust by Volkswagen.

Being associated with a company that is being pilloried can damage your reputation. Working with a trustworthy company, on the other hand, also strengthens your own image. So compare the values ​​of your future business partner with your own. It's part of a holistic approach to building customer trust.