It’s no wonder that trust is an issue online. Fake news jeopardises elections, clickbait headlines lead to disappointing content, and dating websites sell their users to other dating websites. The internet is full of pitfalls for the unwary and new scams emerge all the time.
Honest sites suffer from the actions of dishonest ones. You need to do everything you can to communicate your trustworthiness at every touchpoint, reinforcing your customers’ trust in you every step of the way.
This is particularly true if you work in an industry people tend to be wary of, such as ticket resales or financial services.
Elements of your web design can help communicate trustworthiness and reinforce customer trust in you at every touchpoint. Some of these are obvious, such as being upfront with delivery costs and not hiding information in small print. Others are less obvious, like choosing the right technology.
Users strongly favour sites that are reliable and run smoothly, and the tech on which they are built will have an impact on that. Communicating trust is not just a challenge for the content team; it’s also a key factor all website stakeholders contribute to.
The design and build of your site reinforce trust values by contributing to how professional and reliable your website feels to use. Sites that are easy to navigate and user-friendly tend to communicate respect for the customer and imply that you’ll deliver good service at all stages of the relationship. Trust goes hand in hand with good user experience.
Customers also tend to notice the small details, such as typos. It’s well worth having a formalised editorial process in place so that everything is checked by at least one extra person before being published. This attention to detail helps communicate quality, which is also a key component of trust in any commercial relationship.
Trust is transparency
Transparency makes a huge contribution to how trustworthy your organisation appears. This includes being very explicit about how you intend to process data and only sending users the type of communications they have agreed to receive.
The most basic component of transparency includes telling consumers who you are. Make certain that you explain exactly who your company is and where you’re based, and ensure clear lines of communication are visible so customers feel they can always reach you.
It may sound obvious, but it’s surprising how many companies neglect to reveal just who is behind their brand. Many brands find it helpful to show their human face, which is one of the reasons it’s common to have a photo gallery of your leadership or, for smaller organisations, the entire team.
Other trust-inducing factors include publishing your physical office address so customers feel you exist offline as well as online.
Some companies go the extra mile when it comes to transparency. International social-media management company Buffer decided to publish the salaries of all of its employees on a publicly available spreadsheet. The company offers a dashboard of transparency on its website, so anyone can access all the information that companies usually keep confidential, such as how its pricing is broken down. This approach may be a step too far for your organisation, but it seems to be working for Buffer.
Demonstrating external proof of your trustworthiness is one way to communicate your trust credibly. Some sites choose to embed third-party reviews on their pages using external reviews from Feefo, Google My Business, Birdeye, and more. There’s strong evidence that customers are more likely to purchase from sites that include product reviews.
There’s also evidence that consumers mistrust reviews on a brand’s own website, where it’s presumed the company has editorial control over what is shown. That’s a good reason to link product reviews to external sites, as well.
Obtaining reviews from local customers is a key component when it comes to penetrating a new market. Peer reviews by other customers can be an important trust indicator for BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) audiences, and there’s also evidence that Asian consumers spend more on products that have been reviewed by people they trust.
There are other third-party trust indicators, including quality marks, awards, and certifications. In the B2B market, you may also consider ISO Standards as your audience is more likely to understand their significance. For B2C, it’s probably better to display any awards or certifications from brands consumers may recognise, such as Good Housekeeping.
It’s important not to overlook the key element of communicating trust: You have to actually be trustworthy. That may sound obvious, but it’s harder to execute than you may expect. Brands may feel confident that they have rock-solid values and practices, but things can easily get derailed by the actions of one team or individual.
The bigger the organisation, the harder it may be to ensure trustworthiness across all operations. Getting the full buy-in to brand values across every area of operation is a major challenge, and it’s one that never ceases. Many organisations have been horrified by the activities of an ill-supervised branch or a poorly run franchise.
A single breach of trust in any of your regions can destroy all the global efforts you’ve made to communicate trustworthiness. You need to put robust practices in place to ensure every element of your brand fulfils its promise of trustworthiness before you begin to communicate that online.
Research suggests that customer trust develops over the long term, as customers have an ongoing relationship with an organisation and need to consistently feel satisfied. It’s important to never take long-standing customers for granted, particularly if you change the nature of your relationship with them.
Consistently delivering on expectations is the key component of your trustworthiness in the eyes of customers. For example, many Amazon customers felt duped by the brand’s Prime membership offer, thinking they’d signed up for a free trial and not always realising they’d actually subscribed to Prime’s paid monthly service.
Trust is hard to win and easy to lose.