7 Steps To Earning Customer Trust Online

I recently got an edition of SmallBusinessNewz in my inbox with an article by Chris Crum on “7 Steps to Earning Customer Trust Online”. The complete article can be found here. I thought it was worth mentioning here, as I’ve been striving to build credibility and trust in my own online store. At the risk of ruining your read of the actual article, I’ve re-summarized the 7 points here as well, though with my own notes.

Chris starts with a stat claiming that 81% of consumers don’t trust small online businesses. Shocking? Not really, if you think about it. Personally I’ve grown over-used to trusting things online, and I’ve slapped down my credit card for more offers than I care to think about. So it came as a small surprise to me the other day when my sister asked my advice on buying a study guide online. I had a look at the sales letter, and turns out it was hosted by ClickBank. To me, that was golden. I realized though, that for most people, at least that first initial ebook purchase can be quite intimidating. The same holds true for physical goods.

So what’s important?

1. Branding

You might ask what can a small company do in terms of branding? Well there’s lots. You don’t have to be Coca Cola with $58.2 billion of brand equity to be successful at branding. I’m working hard on this with my store, DigitalFrameGuy.com. Putting forward a consistent image, whether it be your logo, your signature, or your marketing claims, all helps to build your brand. People tend to trust the familiar more than the unknown, unless you’re one heck of a copywriter.

2. Make Yourself Appear Larger

Do you have a toll free 800 number? If not, go get one for $10 a month. I specifically chose an 800 number over cheaper 888 or 877 variants, simply for the psychological “big company” factor. If you hear 1-800, your brain has been trained to think corporation. Even though it is just me, there are ways to appear much larger.

Using your home address? Throw a “Suite 110″ in front of it and mail yourself a letter. I’m actually trying this as I write it, but I’ve read it works. Plus, chances are “Suite 110″ sounds more official than your street address. By law you need to include your address on emails (for instance if you use Aweber), so why not try to use that as a trust builder?

On your email and voicemail, you can create separate departments as well. Now, you don’t want to confuse people or cause unnecessary bureacracy, but separate lines for service and sales is usually pretty straightforward. You can do that all for free with Ring Central.

I’ve got more ideas, but perhaps that is a whole separate post 😉

3. Design

Site design is crucial. Ever visited one of those websites that was clearly somebody’s 1990’s brainchild that never grew to maturity? The instant I see a site like that, red flags and alarm bells start up even as I’m clicking back to Google. People tend not to trust the digital donkeys that don’t have modern site designs or technology. Plus, the site needs to be straightforward and easy to use. Have you searched for your site in the search engines, and then followed the process all the way through to checkout? I did that the other day and found a glaring error that I fixed immediately. You might be surprised with what you find.

4. Reputation

I care quite a bit about my businesses’ online reputation. Once that gets dragged through the mud it would be very hard to recover. Because I want people to trust me, I’ve given my customers my 100% guarantee that I’ll take back their order for any reason within 30 days. If my supplier won’t take it back, then I’ll be on the hook for it. However, I’d prefer to sell it on Ebay for a bit of a loss than to take the PR hit in some forum or blog somewhere. I recently stumbled upon a blog where the owner had had a run in with one of my competitors (do you Google to see what your competition is up to?) and he had quite the horror story going on! I jumped into the comments, trying to console him while at the same time explaining how my store was different. There are emotional people online, and they won’t keep silent. Use it to your advantage. Provide much more than they anticipated and they’ll heap praises on you! Let the down, and you better look out!

5. Security and Privacy

SSL certificates. Privacy Policies. No, you cannot sell or rent your list. Pretty straightfoward, but some merchants still aren’t getting it.

6. Testimonials

People are far more likely to believe someone else who’s walked a mile in their shoes than they are to believe you. Get over it. Once you get over it, use it to your advantage. Don’t have any testimonials yet? Have you asked? Send out an email asking for testimonials to all your past clients. Offer them a discount or something if you want. But you must use testimonials – they are a very powerful marketing tool!

7. Humanize Your Business

I started out right from the beginning with this one, calling the store “Digital Frame Guy” which has a personal feel to it. My logo has a guy in it, and I’ve tried to keep the site copy personal, especially the guarantees and such.

Looking for more ways to personalize your site? Put a picture of yourself the About Us page, or do some employee profiles. My next step is video – I’ll shortly be rolling out a series of videos for the site which I hope will both drive traffic and build a personal touch for the site. If you’re doing a video series, you’ve got a great opportunity for branding there as well. More on that in a different post, once the videos are out. We can’t give everything away all at once, can we? =)

Do you have any other suggestions or comments for building trust online?

One Response to 7 Steps To Earning Customer Trust Online
  1. Dan Waldron
    August 15, 2008 | 7:16 pm

    You know, I have to tell you, I really enjoy this blog and the insight from everyone who participates. I find it to be refreshing and very informative. I wish there were more blogs like it.