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By Susan Ward

All right. You’ve got the products. You’ve got an ecommerce website with a finely tuned checkout process. But you don’t have the kind of conversion rate you would like and shopping cart abandonment is an ongoing problem. Maybe visitors to your site just don’t trust you.

While the cost of shipping and handling has long been the number one reason that people abandon shopping carts, fear also makes the list.

The increasing prevalence of phishing scams, malware, and just plain shoddy customer service makes consumers more wary with their clicks than ever before – which means that trust indicators on your website are more important than ever before. Here are five things you can do to soothe your potential customers’ fears and make them more likely to follow through and buy your products online.

1.Make it Personal

People don’t trust pages or websites. They trust people. So it’s crucial that your website has a human factor.  One way or another, you want to present your prospective customers with faces and names. Use  an about us page to present not just information about your company, but a message from your company’s Founder or President (with an accompanying photo, of course) or a Meet Our Team section (with photos and names)  - or both.

And if possible, add a personal twist to the information you provide on other sections of your website and in your marketing. Online bookseller Chapters Indigo features a Heather’s Picks section of items “specially chosen and loved” by CEO Heather Reisman. You might do a similar thing on your website or have a specific person present a deal of the day or best buy of the week. These, of course, could then be featured in your email marketing, newsletter etc.

2. Look Professional

Show that you’re a “real” company with all the things a real company would have, such as an easy way to contact the business (a fully developed contact page, not just an email form) and customer service (a fully developed customer service section on your website, including a returns policy and a FAQs section). This Future Shop Customer Support page is a great example of what a customer service section of an ecommerce website should be. I’m not saying that yours has to be this big but it does need to be as easy to navigate and present all the relevant information your customers might look for. Remember, the more complete your customer service FAQs, the more confident an online shopper will be buying one of your products.

3. Show that Others Trust You

"What others say about you and your product, service, or business is at least 1000 times more convincing than what you say, even if you are 2000 times more eloquent," says marketing guru Dan Kennedy of GKIC (Glazer-Kennedy Insider's Circle). So you want to make sure that you feature customer testimonials on your ecommerce website. Text testimonials are great but today, when YouTube reigns, video testimonials are even more powerful. Brian Tracy explains how to create video testimonials here.

Another way to “prove” that other people trust your company is by displaying the positive press about your products in an In the News section on your website. If your company has been lucky enough to be featured in some well-known media, build some immediate trustworthiness with your site visitors by displaying the logos of the media your products have been favorably mentioned in on your homepage as Shopify does. You’ll notice that the Shopify home page prominently displays customer testimonials, too, another great idea you should borrow.

4. Prove That Your Website is Secure

Today’s online shoppers are savvy people, trained to look for the additional “s” in their browser address bars, https rather than http, and padlock symbols that tells them that a website is secured – an absolute necessity for an ecommerce website.

Websites secure their servers by using secure sockets layer (SSL), a standard security protocol that encrypts data between a web server and a browser. To do this, the web server needs an SSL Certificate. Any full featured, worth-the-price ecommerce solution will provide the SSL certificate(s) you need so you can provide your customers with a secure checkout when they buy your products online. For your part, if your ecommerce solution doesn’t automatically display a notice to customers upon checkout that they are using a secure server as Shopify does, you’ll want to be sure you let your customers know your website is secure by displaying your SSL certificate symbol or a notice informing them of the fact.

5. Mitigate Customers’ Risks

Think about your ecommerce website from a potential customer’s point of view. What’s their biggest risk? That they won’t like your product – and be stuck with it and unable to get their money back. So increase the credibility of your site (and increase the chance that they’ll buy something from you) by addressing the concern up front, spelling out your shipping and returns policy. For instance, Darling Starling Gifts’ Shipping and Returns page informs customers that domestic shipping is free for orders over $50.00 and that items may be returned or exchanged within 30 days of ordering, and then goes on to explain the details of the procedure. Darling Starling also does a great job of addressing customers’ potential fears that they’re going to get slapped with high shipping charges in addition to the cost of the product(s) if they order anything. Their Shipping details state that orders $49.99 and under ship for a flat rate of $7.

And both Darling Starling’s $7.00 priority shipping and free shipping policies are visibly promoted on their home page, assuring customers of a low-risk buying experience as soon as possible.

The Bottom Line

When customers first encounter your ecommerce website, they do exactly the same thing they do when they walk into an unknown traditional storefront – look around, size up the place, and decide whether or not they trust the merchant enough to buy something from them. If you want them to buy something from your website, you need to do everything you can to make sure they find you trustworthy enough.

By Susan Ward, Writer at Small Business: Canada