Trust, Confidence and eCommerce Conversion

James Shakespeare
By James Shakespeare
20 Aug 2013

In any type of shopping, there is unlikely to be a transaction without trust. And trust is so much harder to establish online than in person. There's no doubt that eCommerce websites that fail to make the earning of trust a central feature of their design will experience significantly higher bounce rates, abandoned purchases and failures to convert. So why is trust harder to establish online and what do you need to do to persuade somebody that it's safe to do business with you? 

There are a few critical differences between buying online and going into a shop. First of all you can see right away that a shop represents a real business. Also, the terms of the transaction are clear - there's an advertised price that is fully inclusive. You hand over your money (or your card) and take away your goods. If there's a problem with what you bought you know where to take it back and that you'll get a refund, replacement or repair.

Because all of these factors are understood and have been part of our culture for centuries it's rare for any of us to go into a shop and hesitate to buy something because we fear that there is any risk in the transaction.

eCommerce is different

With eCommerce websites, things can feel very different. Maybe it's because of a few high profile cases of customer accounts being hacked, or maybe it's because the practice of buying things online is still relatively new. Whatever the cause, people tend to be more wary. Promoting trust and confidence throughout the online shopping experience and in the checkout process in particular, makes all the difference to maximising conversion rates and minimising abandoned transactions.

What do people know about you?

You know that yours is an ethical and honest business, but none of this will be immediately apparent to somebody visiting your online shop. They are likely to be concerned about the following things (possibly even subconsciously):

  • Will my goods turn up on time or at all?
  • Will they be exactly what was advertised?
  • Will the final price be the same as the one displayed?
  • Will you take responsibility if the goods turn out to be faulty?
  • Will you take care of my personal data?

Think about your own eCommerce website - what are you doing to offer positive reassurance in each of these areas?

Fortunately, many of the things you need to do to reassure potential customers are not difficult to implement. Perfecting them to achieve the highest possible conversion rates still takes considerable work and experimentation but always ensure your eCommerce website and your checkout process are designed with the cautious customer in mind.

Building trust in eCommerece websites - the basics

The first element in convincing people that your eCommerce site is linked to a serious business is to have a site that looks as though it belongs to a reputable company. Sites that look home-made or amateurish are likely to undermine user confidence from the start. Poor quality images, garish colours and haphazard typography are unlikely to instil the sort of trust you are seeking.

You would never dream of misusing your customers' personal data. You know that, but do they? Having a clearly worded, unambiguous and prominent commitment to protecting personal data and not exposing your customers to an avalanche of unwanted spam is one of the simplest things you can do. Yet this often gets overlooked, 'taken as read' or buried in a terms and conditions page, rather than being made explicit. This is a serious oversight, particularly for a new online business that has not yet established a loyal customer base or solid reputation.

There's a similar argument with your standard terms and conditions, your returns policy and your commitment to after sales service. Don’t underestimate the value these hold to your customers. On your cart page, we’d recommend displaying a summary of your returns policy to convey that, should there be a problem with their product, they’re not up the creek without a paddle. This is especially important for apparel sites where the number of returns tend to be a lot higher.

No hidden extras

One thing that is sure to irritate people and make them suspicious is any attempt to load extra charges during the checkout process. If there are delivery charges, for example, you need to tell people about them up-front. Starting with a low headline price and then loading on extra charges is a sure way to lose potential customers. I know at least one low cost airline gets away with this but people have got used to the way they do things and know what to expect - even if they don't much like it. For the rest of us, a straightforward price, with clear options for delivery and upgrades and no nasty surprises has to be the way to go. 

Reassuring words

If the link to your checkout page currently just says 'Pay Now' or 'Proceed to Checkout', the simplest and most effective change would be to include the word 'securely' or 'secure'. You could also include a padlock icon on the checkout button. We've tested the effects of these changes on many eCommerce sites and I can tell you the impact is usually startling.

Hinders Secure Checkout Button

Trust Seals

Trust seals are incredibly important. Baymard (an eCommerce consultancy), recently conducted research into trust seals & the preferred seal (Thawte, Norton Secure, McAfee etc). Generally people seemed to have more trust in ones associated with well known anti-virus companies such as Symantec. Again, we know from extensive testing that adding any trust seals and displaying them in the right ways will make a significant positive difference to conversion rates. Even well-known brands and eCommerce sites, where you might think trust is not an issue, use them - so why wouldn't you?

Powertools Online Secure Certificate

Is your checkout secure?

The best way to show that you take safeguarding your customers' data seriously, and to protect yourself from a potential commercial catastrophe is to ensure that data exchanged during your checkout process is fully encrypted using SSL. This needs some technical know-how to set up but trying to do eCommerce without it is a huge risk. If you’re taking payments onsite (not through other sites such as PayPal where they’re redirected to to make their payment), then it’s a requirement that your checkout processes be SSL secured. If in doubt, speak with your merchant bank.

Spread the word

Increasingly people want to see that others have had a positive experience of your online business. Encouraging customer reviews and embracing social media can be powerful ways to use positive feedback to help win the trust of new customers. Ultimately we are all much more likely to buy something when we know the process has worked well for others. 

There are a number of 3rd party review companies such as TrustPilot, Feefo & Reevoo to name just a few. They provide an external review system that can be integrated into your eCommerce store with ease. Typically people trust these sites a lot more than onsite reviews as they’re assured that the reviews have been vetted and are from valid buyers, not just the store writing their own reviews (which sadly does happen).

Essentially, trust and reassurance should not be added extras but need to be at the core of how you design, build and continue to develop your eCommerce website.