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Ecommerce | Design

Nine Essentials for a Trustworthy Website

image: chalkboard with essentials written in white chalk
Consumers are more suspicious of ecommerce sites than bricks-and-mortar businesses. These tips will help you win their trust—and their sales

Your website could have a spectacular product offering at unbeatable prices, but if consumers don't trust your business, they're going to be reluctant to buy. When it comes to parting with their hard-earned money, most people are risk averse.


You can easily make your site look more credible and trustworthy to visitors—reducing their perception of risk and increasing their likelihood of making a purchase, signing up to receive information, or taking other desirable actions—by ensuring your site has at least some, if not all, of the following:



Contact information.

And not just an email address but also a physical address and a phone number. You don't want to communicate with consumers by phone? Sorry, but a successful business is not about what the business wants; it's about what the consumers want. Besides, providing a phone number doesn't mean people will ring with the sort of questions you'd rather answer by email, any more than providing your physical address means they'll be popping by in the afternoon for a cup of tea. But providing complete contact information is perhaps the simplest and most persuasive means of establishing credibility for your company: 54% of participants in the 2015 B2B Website Usability Survey from Huff Industrial Marketing, KoMarketing, and BuyerZone said lack of thorough contact info made a site seem less trustworthy, to the point that they would leave—and there's no reason to believe that visitors to consumer websites would feel appreciably different. After all, business-to-business shoppers are consumers.



A robust "about us" section.

"Anyone who comes to our site knows we sell widgets, so what else do I need to say?" Yes, your URL and all those pages and pictures of widgets make it apparent that widgets are your business, but they don't make clear why I should buy widgets from you, nor do they make me feel certain that you are in fact a true widget supplier and not a front for a phishing scam.


But an "about us" page in which you sum up how you came to be in the widgets business and the credentials of you and your staff will provide credibility. Why are you passionate about widgets? How long have you been selling them? What makes your selection of widgets so fabulous? Why is your staff equally fabulous?


Feel free to keep the tone colloquial, so as to make it clear that you're a person, not a faceless entity. By the same token, include photos—of yourself, of your executives, of your offices, your customer service staff, or anything else that proves your existence and establishes your and your company's personality.



Press mentions and awards.

If your business has been included in a newspaper or a magazine article, on TV or radio, or in a blog post, let site visitors know. For one thing, modesty will get you nowhere. For another, media mentions give your business credibility by association. Show a photo of the clip and/or link to it. Likewise, if your company has won any awards, display the badge and link to the awarding organisation.



Customer testimonials.

These are different from customer product ratings and reviews, though those also help establish trust, both in your brand as a whole and in the individual products. Customer testimonials, though, can go on their own page. They're especially important if you provide a service rather than sell products. If the customers will let you include their real name (rather than, say, "homeowner" or "plumber" or "patient") and a photo of them, that's even better.



SSL certificates and trust marks.

Eighty-six percent of consumers look for a secure website logo or SSL certificate, such as that of Norton or TRUSTe, according to a 2008 survey of 2,000 Americans conducted by First Data Corp. If you're a major brand like Amazon you can get away without displaying one of these, but they're essential for lesser-known companies. Non-ecommerce trust marks, such as badges from the Better Business Bureau (in the U.S.) or TrustMark (in the U.K.) also reinforce credibility.


As for where to put the badge, website development and design firm IM-Creator suggests on the checkout page, near the top or next to the payment field. It also recommends including it on the first screen of the home page or major landing pages, though it admits that this could clash with the overall site design and appearance. And speaking of site appearance...



Professional-looking design.

Yes, yes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But certain features—visitor counters, animated gifs, poor-quality and/or gratuitous images, clip art, too many fonts, too many colors—are universal signifiers of unprofessional design. And if your site doesn't look professional, visitors have little reason to assume your business is professional.



Correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

This ties in with professional design. Unprofessional copy, in the form of typos, incorrect punctuation, bad grammar, and misused words give the impression that you couldn't be bothered to take the time to proofread... and if you couldn't take the time to get your website's copy correct, how can I assume you'll get my order correct? **



Easy-to-find privacy policy and other policies.

It's become common practice to include clearly labeled links to privacy policies and terms and conditions (and often to guarantees and shipping information as well) on the bottom of the home page. Visitors expect to see them there; don't disappoint them.



Recent activity.

Businesses that offer services or products that don't change frequently—dentists, plumbers, some industrial supply companies—can be at a disadvantage here. The inclusion of a blog can help, so long as you update the blog regularly. Likewise, including feeds of your Facebook page, Twitter account, and other social media accounts can do the same, so long as you update those regularly as well.



** Yes, I realise that I've just left myself wide open to Muphry's law.

author: Sherry Chiger

Sherry Chiger

The editorial director of Your Commerce, Sherry Chiger is an award-winning writer and editor. She was formerly editorial director of Multichannel Merchant and Catalogue e-business magazines.


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