There are a few things as valuable in commerce as trust. The difference between having trust and a lack thereof is the difference between a retained customer and none. Sure, even the shadiest establishments can succeed in selling their product. Such sales are about a lack of options, though, rather than a desire to do business with the untrustworthy company. It does not make for a sensible business strategy.
So how do you go about building trust with customers? That question is crucial in e-commerce. Due to the lack of tangible things that a customer can interact with, the only thing they have to rely on is their eyes. Presentation, accessibility, and customer reviews; only those can convince a new visitor that you are a trustworthy seller.
The two main vectors of building a good rapport are:
- Creating a pleasant and confident shopping experience that puts visitors at ease.
- Having strong customer support and success strategies. These should leave your customers so satisfied that they want to share their experience with the world.
Let’s look at the best ways to improve in both directions.
When we are talking about the visual side of e-commerce, the term actually encompasses concepts that go beyond the design proper. Responsiveness, adaptability, presentation, and trust signals. Those are the parts of a presentation that turns visitors into customers.
“It takes users only about 50 milliseconds to form a poor opinion of a user interface design. This can quickly turn what could potentially be an engaging user experience into one that users find frustrating.” – Q Manning, UXMatters.
There are many ways to create a modern, satisfying user experience. Sometimes, two websites could not be any more different, but they both fulfill the golden rule–make the website satisfying to use.
The modern web conditioned people to receive immediate satisfaction and feedback. Think only about apps like Tinder or Twitter. Liking someone’s tweet or swiping left/right on a potential match takes one motion, followed by pleasant visual feedback.
It is hard to incorporate these examples into your e-commerce website 1-to-1. However, that does not mean you cannot adopt that “instant gratification” philosophy into your website’s redesign.
For example, you can opt for multi-step forms over single-step ones. When we are saying “single-step” forms, we mean these long one-page ones with over a dozen required fields. Nobody likes filling those out, especially for things that aren’t essential (e.g., signing up for a newsletter, registering an account, contacting support, etc.). If being overwhelmed is users’ first experience when they want to do something proactive on your website, chances are they won’t be returning.
Instead, look at this example from Giosg, and how they make the process of requesting a demo feel friendly and granular:
Although it fulfills the same role as a single-page form, this one feels less tiresome to fill in.
NOTE: While multi-page forms are great, it is best to keep the billing forms on one screen. That way, your user can double-check that they have entered the correct information.
Demonstrate Security & Reliability
In e-commerce, being a show-off is one of the best things you can do to garner users’ trust in your product.
SEO Consultant calls these manifestations of legitimacy “trust signals.” Transparency about your return and billing policies, guarantees of quality, and willingness to display feedback from third parties in the open are the signs that garner trust.
Specifically, the latter. Every e-commerce enterprise can claim that it is the best in the business and always delivers, but they would be foolish not to. Past clients, however, do not have any obligation to lie or overpromise. Hosting third-party reviews from sources like TrustPilot on your platform shows confidence in your offering.
DavidSW TrustPilot review page shows real customers’ experiences with the business
If you are working in the B2B sphere, customer stories are another great tool to reassure your customers. By showing real case studies of how you helped others succeed, you can prove that your offering solves real issues.
Consistency & Quality of Your Presentation
Establishing trust with customers does not happen overnight. Just because you made a sale once does not mean you have that customer for life. Perhaps they were in a hurry, and yours was the first link that came up, or a particular offering was out of stock everywhere else.
Being consistent in how you present yourself will compel customers to stay with you and spend more money while they’re at it. The question is: what does it mean to be consistent?
Baseline consistency implies the harmony between your visual presentation and offerings. The consistency principle means to demonstrate values resonating with your target audience.
If you are selling children’s toys, it does not make much sense to make your website look like Apple’s knock-off. There is a visual dissonance between minimalism and childlike whimsy. Such design fails at communicating that you care and understand your visitors. Demonstrating that you understand your customers’ expectations is a great way to build trust.
Speaking of toys, let’s examine how Hamleys approach the consistency problem. They do so by syncing their values (“we want to help parents buy toys for their kids, and we want to make the process as enjoyable as possible”) with visual presentation.
The first few things you see on Hamleys’ landing page are two categories: Shop by Age and Shop by Characters:
The first one is already a good idea. It is the second category that demonstrates Hamley’s ability to understand the buyer’s intent: “Hey, we know that your child has been begging you for a Peppa plushie for their birthday, so let’s save you some time so that you can get right to it.”
Matching the expectations for a diligent toyseller with a corresponding UI/UX presentation establishes consistency that translates to trust.
When we are talking about ongoing consistency we talk about the maintenance of consistent branding during rebranding and design changes. To give you an example:
Imagine that you’re launching a wide scale overhaul of your branding. Everything from logo and landing page to social media profiles is about to be changed. It is a massive undertaking with many unexpected obstacles.
One of the bigger, and ever so prevalent, troubles of rebranding is human error. Simply put, someone in your team will forget to update this or that page. Now your potential customer clicks a link expecting to see promised visuals and instead gets greeted with something else entirely. That does not seem like a catastrophe in a vacuum, but these things can stack up unexpectedly fast.
Or, let’s say you decide to upgrade some image carousel on your landing page, and you forget to update carousel images with higher resolutions. A blurry mess is the first thing that your visitors will see. Nothing to dissuade most determined would-be customers, but certainly something that diminishes trust. “If they cannot pay attention to something as obvious as this, what else are they forgetting?”
There are many ways to ensure that your service reflects vision and design intent. From manual double-checking to staying on track with JIRA, there are as many solutions as there are e-commerce websites. However, one quite efficient solution to this problem comes in the form of digital assets management (DAM).
The purpose of DAM is in the name. However, its capabilities extend beyond the mere ability to keep your assets in one place and make them easier to find. DAM is also a great tool for the maintenance of your brand consistency. And, as we’ve already established, consistency is one of the key factors in building trust.
Using Pics.io as an example, here’s a mock logo that needs to be changed by a designer. When they’re assigned to an asset, they are notified through many channels (their email, messengers, etc.) that they need to take a look at it:
The revision to the logo will be placed on top of the existing asset in your library. So, when the marketing representative has to get an asset for the LinkedIn page, for example, they can find the updated one by simply searching through one of the keywords. And, like before, you can assign these assets to team members in charge of updating social media so that they won’t forget to update it when the time comes.
Maintaining brand consistency throughout many updates is still going to be quite an undertaking. With digital assets management, it might be just a touch easier.
Customer Support & Customer Success: Long-term Trust Building
Sooner or later, mistakes will happen. There isn’t a single brand on the planet that sees no use of their customer support. Refund requests, clarifications, problems with a product, frustrations about long delivery times–regardless of how big or small your contribution to these problems has been, customers will still direct their ire in your direction.
Per HubSpot’s report, great customer service is a deciding factor for 90% of Americans. 58% of surveyed consumers will switch companies if the customer service is not up to their standard. For these reasons, it’s wise to invest in quality customer service. But what, exactly, makes customer support good?
A happy customer is a rare guest at your helpdesk. Frustration, anger, annoyance–a good customer service representative needs to know how to diffuse the situation and divert customers’ emotions into a more positive, productive course.
Being proactive and empathetic shows customers that you care about their problems, not just trying to dismiss them as soon as possible. So, a good support team member is a good conversationalist at heart.
Speaking of conversations, do not rely on canned responses as the cornerstone of your support strategy. We are talking about copy-pasted walls of text from the support manual. Even if they solve the customer’s issue 100%, there are few more effective ways to imply to the customer that you aren’t trying to understand their problem.
Service & Product Knowledge
Product knowledge is Ying to friendliness’ Yang. A customer support rep that has mastery over your offering can swiftly respond to customers’ questions and expect their next request. They may also give some tips and tricks on using the product to the best of its abilities, which is a great plus for someone who is only beginning to use it.
Knowledge of the product is also knowledge about its shortcomings and drawbacks. Inexperienced customer support may deflect or dismiss questions about the product’s flaws because they don’t know better. However, someone who personally used your offering will know where it lacks.
This knowledge helps to anticipate customers’ questions if there is a frequently experienced issue. Furthermore, it offers an opportunity for sincerity–admittance of the product’s flaw. Such honesty signals to the customers that you are not trying to upsell them but are sincerely trying to understand their problem. In e-commerce, honesty is a disarming quality that goes a long way in building trust.
This part might not always work out. For instance, your support promises customers that their delayed shipment will arrive on a specific date, but for some inexplicable reason, it does not. So, customers’ frustration is doubled. From initial delay and from feeling like they have been lied to.
As in all human relationships, keeping promises is one of the best ways to build rapport and trust. So keeping promises, even if they are as seemingly inconsequential as promising to get back to the customer in two minutes flat, makes a difference in the long run.
Customer Success: It’s Not Only About Bad Stuff
Customer success and support sometimes overlap but there are certain distinctions between them. For one, even customers that never turned to your support team should be targets of your customer success endeavors.
Little Gifts Can Make a Difference
Small gifts (discounts, extra little something with shipment, redeemable vouchers) are especially helpful to please frustrated customers, but everyone loves a good surprise.
One empirical study found that when customers received gifts that they deemed of appropriate quality and usefulness, their customer satisfaction increased significantly. If you’re selling printers, for instance, you can send a courtesy package of printing paper to show the customer that you care. Or, if there was some mistake on your end (delayed shipment, broken product), you can offer a discount or a free sample to make customers’ wait more bearable.
And a happy customer is a customer that is going to trust you.
Following Up For Inquiries & Feedback
Every business is unique, and there isn’t a better judge of your service/product than the person who’s buying from you. Long-term customers are long past the honeymoon stage of getting a new thing, so if they have some valid criticism about what (or how) you’re selling, their critique may prove to be invaluable.
However, reaching out to old customers does not need to end on that. Just simply checking up on them with customized offers can show that you care about them and that you did due diligence on getting to know their purchasing habits. So, if someone buys a month’s worth of supplements from you, shoot them a gentle reminder just before the month ends to say that they might consider stocking up on their favorites.
Or, if a customer is constantly buying a particular product line, you may wow them with a custom-made deal offer on that exact line of goods. These things build relationships with customers. They give a face to your e-commerce brand that transcends beyond being just a corner store. So, don’t hesitate to research your customers’ wants and needs. Such research done once will bring dividends over and over.
Summing it All Up
As the world dives deeper into digital living, trust becomes a scarcity like it has never been before. With so many scams and bad actors popping up from all corners of the internet, it becomes difficult to trust a new face on the market.
Besides, bad news tends to travel much faster than good. If you begin your e-commerce journey with a rocky launch, building trust becomes an even harder task. Given that the only reviews that would-be customers can get about you are the negative ones.
That is why it is important to build a solid framework from the start and never stop working on it. By creating a professional-looking website that caters to your customer’s expectations, you make the first step towards trust.
With that established, it is important to maintain those sprouts of trust with good customer service that does not just satisfy but wows your customer to such a degree that they cannot help but share their admiration with other people. Word of mouth is the best type of advertising, after all. It establishes trust from the get-go.
Building trust is not an easy task, but we hope that you have found this article to be a helpful reminder of the areas in which your business can improve. Happy sales!