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Earning Customer Trust Online

Aug 17, 2007
Building customer trust online is a combination of good branding, good design, and good content. A website needs all three components to be successful in creating a climate of trust that encourages sales.

Branding is about finding a specific idea that you stand for, finding a way to own that idea in a credible way, and ultimately building a total trust that you will always deliver.

Branding for Success
Maybe you think only big businesses need to be branded, but I'd challenge that thought by telling you this - As soon as you open your doors for business (either physically or metaphorically) you become a brand in the eyes of everyone who sees you or buys from you. The only choice you have is to become either a negative brand, undifferentiated brand, or a powerful, motivating brand.

Good branding on a website immediately lets a visitor know what you can do for them. In other words, don't brand your business by a generic term like "gardening." Instead, brand your business by showing the uniqueness of what you offer with a benefit statement, "Container gardening for unhappy apartment dwellers who want to be surrounded by nature."

With Internet branding, you want to present your brand so customers can interact with your message and interact with your site. On the Internet, your prospects have total control of what they see, read, and hear. That's why traditional advertising doesn't work on the Net.

Design Considerations
Visitors are interacting with your site when they are shopping. The Internet gives you total control over what your prospective customer sees. Their shopping experience needs to be positive or you lose the sale. According to a 2002 survey by the Stanford Credibility Project, 46% of respondents said that design plays a role in a websites creditability. Even a reputable brand with a poorly designed website would cause people to leave.

Just like in a crowded store, where you can't find the section you are looking for, a crowded/cluttered website confuses a prospective buyer. Have the website set up with simple graphics and navigation. What you need to do is remove all the obstacles from the selling process. To increase the click-thru rate, your site must offer instant gratification in terms of comprehension and clarity.

Remember, customers are entering your site at different points, so it is important that your brand message is clear on every page of your website. Try to have a consistent look on the site that matches your offline branding. Keep the same colors on your website so that they match your offline marketing materials.

Trustworthy Content
Creating content that gives your customer a sense of safety and security is also a way of building trust with your customer. Fraud and identity theft are big concerns for online shoppers. Sadly, according to Forrester Research, 71% of online shoppers don't believe the retailer can protect them from fraud. So, they are reluctant to give out financial information. Consumers also believe that only 49% of companies will protect their privacy.

Website visitors need to feel that the information they give to a website will be held in confidence. Before asking someone to give you their email address, be sure you have a privacy policy statement. Make sure the privacy statement is near the email sign-up.

To reassure your website visitors of a secure financial transaction, use the security certification seals of Verisign, Hackersafe, and Thawte. Make sure the seals are prominently displayed on the shopping cart and throughout the checkout process. Forrester research found that sites using these certification seals had a 14% increase in conversion rates.

Another technique is to use privacy seals from BBB online and TrustE. These third party logos communicate that your company can be trusted and have met a standard of measurement for reliability. These seals need to be placed throughout the website: near email signups, registration, cart, and checkout.

Communicate to Build Trust
Building trust online comes down to clearly communicating with your customer. Something as simple as failing to communicate the total purchase price upfront, will lead to shopping cart abandonment. Forrester research found that 57% of shoppers will abandon a shopping cart because the shipping charges were more than they expected.

The goal of an online business should be to create an environment of worry free shopping. Create a website that makes a visitor feel safe, clearly expresses the company's brand through good design, and boosts website conversions through trustworthy content.
About the Author
Michelle Howe, MBA, president of Internet Word Magic, specializes in writing irresistible copy for websites. Transform the way you do business. Visit her website at http://www.InternetWordMagic.com for a FR^EE chapter download of her new book "Turn Browsers into Buyers".
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