Seemingly everything we do today revolves around the internet. It’s how we socialize, how we find new restaurants, how we watch movies and tv, and how we shop.
But websites—especially smaller, lesser known ones—have a problem. A new store is inherently unfamiliar, which makes people reluctant to trust it.
It makes sense. If you’re going to a big online retailer like Zappos or Warby Parker, you can be pretty sure that your credit card information is going to be stored safely, that shipping times will be reasonable, and customer service accessible. You can also be sure that your computer isn’t going to get a virus by clicking on a link.
If you’re shopping at a new store, you don’t really know those things.
If the store is new enough, you probably don’t know anything about it.
We call this problem the trust gap. In this post we’re going to look at 4 things that cause the trust gap, and what you can do to close it.
Show social proof
Social proof means attracting new customers on the strength of previous customers’ experiences. Word-of-mouth is social proof. A line out the door is social proof.
It’s the shopping equivalent of the saying, “A thousand Frenchmen can’t be wrong.” It’s the idea that because other people have tried something and liked it, you will too.
Online retailers can’t rely on the exact type of social proof that local brick-and-mortar stores can. After all, most web businesses are specialists, focusing on items people don’t buy every day, and so word of mouth is harder to come by.
While online retailers can’t get physical lines out the door, they can get the next best thing: great customer reviews.
Reviews are the most powerful marketing tool, and the most powerful form of social proof because they’re authentic.
Reviews are highly trusted by consumers—especially if there’s a few bad ones sprinkled in there (this shows customers you aren’t simply cherry-picking the best reviews and editing out the bad experiences).
Pro tip: TrustedSite Reviews is free, and lets you collect and display unlimited reviews.
The trust gap doesn’t just come from worrying about if your products are made the way you say they are, or how customer-friendly your return policy is.
It’s also rooted in real, legitimate security concerns. Concerns like: Will my information be stolen if I place this order? Is this even a real store or is it just a front for malware?
Unfortunately, the last few years have shown us that security concerns are extremely valid. Customers are right to wonder about the security of their sensitive personal data.
And that means you need to take action to let them know you’re not one of the bad guys.
How do you do that? You need to rely on a trusted third-party to authenticate and verify your security bonafides. And then you need to show off that authentication to customers.
Pro tip: The McAfee SECURE certification is recognized all around the world, and scans your site to make sure that it’s free from malware and phishing links that all your customers are worried about. Oh, and it’s free to get started with, and can help your site’s performance in Google search rankings.
Social media is a great way to build trust naturally.
Let’s say you run a store that sells organic baby accessories. Clothes made from organic cotton. Non-toxic cups and utensils. All that good, comfy baby stuff.
You’d want your social media pages to reflect a) your products b) your business and c) your brand.
That means you’d want to sprinkle your Instagram and/or Twitter with updates of customers enjoying your products, you and your employees/colleagues enjoying your work, and images of happy and safe families that your products are meant to provoke.
Doing this will show customers that your company is legitimate (scams tend not to build up a huge social media presence), prove to people that other customers have enjoyed their experience with you, and put a human face on your company.
Pro tip: Many people are willing to post about your products on social media if you simply ask them to. If you’re still not getting the mentions you need, send an email after a purchase offering them a discount if they mention you on social media!
SSL certificates are so important that not having one is an enormous red flag. After all, they’re a bedrock of web security that nearly every site uses to encrypt data sent to their servers.
Having one is so standard that even pages that don’t have forms or places to transmit data—like articles on websites—tend to have SSL certificates.
Why? Because the green padlock lets customers know that you take their security seriously. It shows that you can be trusted with their data, because you’re taking extra steps.
Pro tip: GoDaddy offers industry-leading encryption on their SSL certificates.
Building trust is crucial for all sites, but especially for small ones. If you follow these steps, you’ll have gone a good part of the way to bridge that trust gap and earn your visitors’ confidence!