It’s no wonder that trust is an issue online. Fake news jeopardises elections, clickbait headlines lead to disappointing content, 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 the customer’s trust in you at every step.
That’s particularly true if you’re in an industry that people tend to be wary of, such as the secondary ticketing market or selling infant formula online.
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 things in small print. Others are less obvious – such as choosing the right technology.
Users strongly favour sites that are reliable and smooth running and the tech on which they are based will obviously impact on that.Communicating trust is not just a challenge for the content team – it’s an activity that all website stakeholders contribute to.
The design and build of your site reinforce trust values by contributing to how professional and reliable it feels to use. Sites that are easy to navigate and use 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 it’s published. This attention to detail helps communicate quality; also a key component of trust in any commercial relationship.
Trust is transparency
Transparency makes a huge contribution to how trustworthy your organisation appears. Your organisation is probably already preparing for GDPR becoming enforceable legislation in May.
Many of the principles of GDPR support trustworthiness, such as being very explicit about how you intend to process data and only sending the type of communications that your users have agreed to receive.
The most basic components of transparency include telling the consumer who you are. Make certain that you say exactly who you are, where you’re based and have clear lines of communication visible so customers feel they can reach you.
It may sound obvious, but it’s surprising how many companies neglect to reveal 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 gallery of your leadership or (for smaller organisations) your entire team.
Other 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. Buffer decided to publish the salaries of all of its employees in a publically-available spreadsheet. The company offers a dashboard of transparency on its website, so you can access all the information that companies usually keep confidential – such as how its pricing breaks down. This approach may seem 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 trustworthiness credibly. Some sites choose to embed third-party reviews onto their pages, using external reviews from the likes of Feefo, Google My Business and Birdeye. 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 brands’ own websites, where they are presumed to have editorial control over what is shown. That’s a good reason why you should link out to product reviews externally as well.
Obtaining reviews from local customers can be an important part of penetrating a new market. Peer reviews by other customers can be an important trust indicator for BRIC 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 might 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 they may recognise, such as a Good Housekeeping or Which?.
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 might be expected. 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 seems to be to ensure trustworthiness across all operations. Getting full buy-in to those brand values across every area of operation is a major challenge and it’s one that never ceases. Many an organisation has been horrified by the activities of one of their own ill-supervised branches or poorly-run franchise.
A single breach of trust in any of your regions can destroy all the global efforts you’ve made to communicate your trustworthiness. You need to put robust practices in place to make sure 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 consistently feel satisfied. It’s important never to take long-standing customers for granted, particularly if you change the nature of your relationship with them.
Consistently delivering on expectations is really the key component of your trustworthiness in the eyes of your customer. For example, many Amazon customers have been caught out by the brand’s Prime membership offer.
Long-standing customers have felt let down by Amazon when they found out they’d be signed up to the Prime monthly subscription without fully being aware of it. Trust is hard to win and easy to lose.