There’s an old saying that there are only two things you need to be successful online – trust and desire. Now it’s not too difficult to generate desire – we see it all the time on social media, influencers serving up eye candy, beautiful people in beautiful locations with beautiful things, and it’s not long before we’re sold, take my money already.

But then, alarm bells ring; the sensible minions living in your brain get the message through to you that this is just a sham designed to part fools and their dinero. So you back away from the Buy Now button.

Why Trust is so Important Online

We might not be watching our backs, scared of being attacked by a pack of hippos out on the savannah, but in this world of online everything, we are (rightly so) cautious of being taken advantage of. Our brain’s amygdala system, trained to detect danger, is heightened when we’re on the internet, as we hunt and gather (only for necessities of course, this includes things like, and I’ve had this on good authority, a fully operation ironman suit).

So, when we’re casually browsing for said ironman suit, our spidey senses are switched to def-con one, ready to spot a scam, lies and half truths in a fraction of a second.

If you want a real-world example of why online shoppers are still wary of doing business on the internet just look at online ticket retailer, Viagogo. For years, Viagogo has been swindling consumers with fake tickets, proving that you need to be careful about who you trust online, making it all the more important you stand out as being trustworthy.

Here are three ways you can improve your trust rating online, and earn more business from website visitors.

1 – Be real and authentic

The website copy (text) and photos should help convince visitors you are a real business, that you’re genuine, reliable, and here for the long term.

Some things to avoid:

  • Borrowed or boilerplate text – We understand it’s hard to write, so yes it’s tempting to just copy and paste from somewhere else, or use filler text to use up space, but this won’t help you to project yourself as a genuine business. Don’t worry if you can’t write a lot – less is actually better – just write as if you had a real customer in front of you, and you were selling them on your product or service – what would you say? Also avoid, where possible, phrases or spelling from a country that isn’t New Zealand; hence why it’s better to hire a local NZ copywriter if you need help with your website text.
  • Stock photography – Sometimes it can’t be avoided when the budget’s tight (list of free resources) but where possible try to use actual photos of your business and employees. You don’t have to be a professional; Google some tips and give it a whirl. Even an average real photo is better than a cheesy stock photo. Bonus tip: What about including a video introducing yourself? Sidenote: We finally released our welcome video!
  • Spelling or grammatical errors – This can be tough, particularly if English isn’t your native tongue, but spelling mistakes or poorly worded sentences can erode trust in your website (and business!). Feel free to get in touch if you need help.

Don’t confuse being authentic with having a flawless online profile; people just want to know you’re a real business, that you’re not just a faceless international entity looking to take their money and disappear.

2 – Use social proof (reviews)

Social proof is basically marketing speak for customer testimonials, or reviews. While there’s no harm in putting a few on your website, ideally you want your reviews to be on a trusted third-party website such as Trustpilot, Facebook or Google. People are more likely to use these reviews as trust signals, rather than just relying on what you’ve written on your website.

You can easily create a free Google My Business page and start inviting your customers to leave a review. These reviews will show up in local Google search results, and can help boost your listing in Google Maps as well. If you’d like to integrate these reviews into your website, we can help with that.

Social proof can help differentiate you from the competition, which is particularly helpful when there are a lot of providers offering similar products or services, or you’re not overly well-known.

Make a point of replying to all reviews, and don’t shy away from bad reviews – you can normally take away some valuable lessons (and besides, if you had all glowing reviews, people might get a little suspicious!).

3 – Set realistic expectations

We’ve all suffered the disappointment of expectations not met. Maybe the marketing department overcooked the description of what we were getting, or maybe the photos didn’t represent the product accurately, or there were hidden costs we weren’t expecting.

It’s a fine line between putting your product or service in a good light, and stretching the truth to the point where you run a real risk of disappointed customers. You might win more business in the short term, but word will get round soon enough.

How can you set the right expectations?

  • Full Descriptions – Explain exactly what they will be getting, including all the boring technical details, since these are often used by shoppers comparing your product or service with other providers. Include information about any limitations (e.g. indoor use only) that might be relevant to your customers (feel free to use this as an opportunity to cross-sell or up-sell).
  • Accurate Photos – Provide clear photos that show the product from all angles, and covers all items that are part of the package. Make sure photos are clear, bright and distraction free! Consider using something like a photo box (also called lightboxes or background shooting tents) if you’re not able to source professional photos.
  • List All Costs – This is important if you want to avoid grumpy customers – no one wants to go through the whole process of doing an online order only to find out that the delivery costs are outrageous, or there’s a “convenience fee” that’s the GDP of a small country (we’re looking at you Ticketek!). If it’s a subscription service make sure it’s clear what the renewal costs are (hosting companies are guilty of advertising extremely low sign-up prices that suddenly triple when it comes time to renew) and if a notice period is required to cancel. Yes, it might be tempting to be sneaky (many companies are) but if you want to stand out as a business that people can trust, don’t be like that.

Building business trust takes time – but it’s worth it

It might seem like it takes forever to get that big global pool of potential customers to click Buy Now on your website, but it’s not going to get any less important as more of our buying and selling happens online. Customers can choose from lots of different suppliers, and new ones are coming online all the time, willing to lower their prices to steal their share of the market. You’re only hope is to be a business people know they can trust.

We’ve experienced this – there are literally thousands of hustlers out there who will sell you a cheap website, but people come to us because we’re a NZ business with over 10 years of history, and plenty of happy clients who have got a great business website and saved thousands, with no strings attached. People know that we deliver, because that’s what we’ve always done, right from the start, working hard to make sure our customers feel good about their decision to choose us as their website designer.

So, yes, you will need patience as you build trust, but don’t give up and you will be rewarded.

See also: What are 4 Trust Factors every E-Commerce Website should have?

3 Ways to Build Trust Online (and why it’s so important)
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