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The 39-Point Store Trust Checklist: How Trustworthy Is Your Online Store?

The 15-Point Customer Trust Checklist: How Trustworthy Is Your Store?

Customer trust is the foundation of every successful business and sale. Consumers today have countless options available at the click of a mouse, and business owners can track every click. But the most crucial measure, trust, is harder to fully understand.

How does trust develop for shoppers when they purchase a new product online or buy from an online store they’re unaccustomed to? What elements of an online store’s experience gain customer trust or break it?

Learn more: How to Start an Online Store with Shopify

What makes an online store trustworthy?

At Shopify, we continually study those very questions. Last year, our teams interviewed a diverse set of North American shoppers, asking them to walk us through a recent purchase involving either a product they’ve never purchased or a store they’ve never bought from. We also asked them to make a real purchase of up to $40 on a Shopify store they’ve never bought from.

Customer trust study

Specifically, we wanted to learn:

  • How does trust form for shoppers assessing a purchase of a new item on a new store?
  • Which pages or elements on your store are most important for building customer trust with shoppers?

After analyzing their actions during these purchases, we noticed a few patterns. This allowed us to pinpoint design elements that are trust breakers and trust builders in online stores. 

Trust builders are elements or design details that reassure shoppers—they quell doubts and help customers feel relaxed about making a purchase. Trust breakers fill shoppers with apprehension, making them question the validity and authenticity of the business and creating doubt as to whether making a purchase is a safe choice.

Today, we’re sharing our findings so you can increase the trustworthiness of your online store and increase the likelihood of a first-time shopper buying from your site. We’re also sharing a simple checklist you can follow as you tweak or build your website.

Download the checklist

How to build customer trust on your website

 

  1. Ace the first impression with your homepage
  2. Provide customers with essential information
  3. Share your story and why the business started
  4. Show current customer satisfaction
  5. Ensure the transaction is transparent and easy

Gaining customer trust starts with the first impression. Building trust continues with the information you share and the social proof that backs up your claims.

Our findings show there are five essential ways an online store can establish and increase customer trust, beginning with first contact.

1. Ace the first impression with your homepage

🔍 What the customer is asking: Does this website feel safe? Can I find what I’m looking for and navigate this site easily?

🎯 Business goal: Create a welcoming homepage and establish the overall look and feel of your store on the first visit.

We found shoppers are more critical of a store’s design and layout on their first visit, regardless of whether they’re familiar with the item they're looking to purchase. Since your homepage often serves as the start of the customer journey, it's the perfect place to gain customer trust by acing the first impression, as well as providing guidance for where shoppers can head next.

Our findings reveal essential elements that shoppers want from a homepage, along with nice-to-have details that can further tip the scales in your favor.

Must-have

  • Content that is consistent and polished, with high-quality photography and error-free copy present across the site
  • A layout that is clean and uncluttered (important for North American shoppers)
  • Category navigation that is easy to understand and use across all devices

Nice-to-have

  • Category names in your navigation that are clear and easy to understand (e.g., Shop, Women, Men, About, Contact, etc.)
  • When selling internationally, copy and content translated into the shopper’s language and prices listed in the local currency
  • Fast-loading pages across your store, with no errors (shoppers usually only notice performance issues when pages are slow or broken)

Example: How Hat Club’s homepage promotes customer trust

Take Hat Club, a business that sells a mix of branded and licensed hats. One of the store’s competitive advantages is its Hat Club Membership, a loyalty program that allows shoppers to get hats at a discounted price. Building trust with loyal customers and creating long-term relationships requires getting visitors past the front page, deeper into the site, and presenting the customer loyalty program as a value-added perk.

What is Hat Club doing well with its homepage design?

  • The layout is clean and the navigation is simple, which encourages shoppers to dive deeper into the site and closer to making a purchase.
  • It showcases a unique offer with its specialty hats section, listed under “This week’s drops.”
    An example of how Hat Club builds customer trust with their homepage
    Hat Club has a homepage that builds trust with shoppers right off the bat with its professional look and feel.

    2. Provide customers with essential information

    🔍 What the customer is asking: Does this product solve my problem? Is it well made and the right size or dimensions? Is the price fair, and can I afford it?

    🎯 Business goal: Make product information easy to discover with detailed product pages, accurate search results, and collection pages.

    Once new customers navigate away from the homepage, we found they typically head straight to a product page. The product page is where shoppers evaluate a product’s perceived value, whether they’re visiting a new store or a store they’re familiar with.

    The right layout and design elements on your product page make it easier for customers to determine if each product offers the value they’re looking for. Images, descriptions, sizing charts, stock and inventory details, and information about shipping and taxes draw outsized attention from customers. 

    While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to designing the perfect product page, our findings once again show there are cardinal details to consider for building trust, regardless of your industry. Be sure to add these standard elements to your ecommerce launch checklist

    Must-have

    • A variety of product photos for each product page
    • Product descriptions organized into distinct sections for readability
    • A size chart, preferably with size conversions, on your product page, when appropriate
    • Recent product reviews and testimonials on the product page

    Nice-to-have

    • Return policy and shipping information included on the product page
    • A product video included on the product page
    • Desktop only: a “quick view” option on collections that allows customers to view the product without opening the product page

    Example: EM Cosmetics lets its photography speak a thousand words

    EM Cosmetics is a makeup brand that inspires self expression through its products. Beauty products affect a customer’s appearance and can even influence their identity, so it’s important that customers are able to envision the results of using each item.

    To build trust with its customers, EM Cosmetics needs to clearly explain how its products meet the needs of each shopper—not just with product photos, but also through specific use cases and examples. So the brand highlights its customer feedback section as a complement to its detailed descriptions and animated product visuals.

    What is EM Cosmetics doing well with its product page?

    • The description and layout are clear and concise, with sections and subheadings.
    • The shopper can find product measurements in both milliliters and fluid ounces.
    • The number of product reviews and current rating is presented clearly at the top.
    • On other product pages where the item is out of stock, there is an option to sign up for an email alert once more stock arrives.
      An example of EM Cosmetics product page and how it builds customer trust
      EM Cosmetics has essential components of a product page that builds shopper trust.

      3. Share your story and why the business started

      🔍 What the customer is asking: Is this an upstanding business? Does it treat its customers fairly?

      🎯 Business goal: Help the shopper feel reassured this is a legitimate business. If you have a mission or values, share your brand story and why the business was started.

      We found that shoppers want to navigate to an About Us page to learn more about the brand—and the people—behind the products. An About Us page should offer up answers to quell the two curiosities that shoppers have.

      First, shoppers often are trying to make sure a business is legitimate and likely to be around for the long term. This is why a Contact page can be useful: by listing a contact phone number, email, and retail location (if there is one), you’ll reassure potential customers that you don’t plan to close up shop anytime soon.

      Second, many customers are interested in the business’s mission and purpose, to see whether they share any values with the business (e.g., sustainability). They will turn to the About Us page to learn more about who they’re buying from and, for more socially conscious customers, how the business is run.

      Must-have

      • An About Us page with a detailed story about the brand
      • A Contact page with phone number included

      Nice-to-have

      • A professional email associated with the store domain name included on the contact page (e.g., info@yourstore.com, not yourstore@outlook.com)
      • An option to contact the support team via online chat
      • When appropriate, the address of the merchant’s physical location(s) included on the contact page

      Example: Tease connects with customers by sharing its values

      Tease specializes in sustainably sourced loose leaf tea. Yet like many modern companies, Tease is about more than what it sells. The brand’s purpose and principles—which include a firm commitment to sustainably source its products and empower women through its Charitea Program—are intrinsic to the company. That’s a story worth telling, and one it skillfully shares on its About page.

      What is Tease doing well with its About Us page?

      • It puts its value-based message front and center.
      • It’s detailed and structured for the shopper to learn about its mission and values.
      • It clearly explains its founding story and who the founder is.
        An example of Tease About Us page and how it builds customer trust through a compelling mission-driven story
        Tease has a detailed About Us page consisting of all the elements to build shopper trust.

        Example: Kotn is maintaining customer trust with a Contact page

        Kotn is a brand making apparel from authentic, ethically sourced Egyptian cotton, which it sells in its online store and in its Canadian retail locations. Kotn builds trust on the oft-overlooked Contact page by letting customers reach it through their preferred channel, and by surfacing all of the necessary details, along with providing guidance around which path is best, depending on the customer’s question.

        An example of Kotn's Contact page and how it builds customer trust with multiple customer support options
        Kotn’s Contact page surfaces a series of different contact options for the shopper to build trust.

        What is Kotn doing well with its Contact page?

        • Listing a professional email address allows customers to get in touch with support
        • Providing links to its social media
        • Listing a direct contact method for both email and phone for its retail locations

        4. Show current customer satisfaction

        🔍 What the customer is asking: Do other customers think the product is as described? Does the business treat its customers fairly?

        🎯 Business goal: Provide customers with social proof about your brand and its products.

        While glowing customer testimonials can be helpful, our research found shoppers greatly value the reassurance they get through impartial product and store reviews from real customers. 

        When considering a purchase on a new website, shoppers want to read reviews on product pages, external sites and marketplaces, and social media before completing the transaction. Specifically, shoppers look for explicit warnings from existing customers, or feedback that contradicts what a business says on its website. On social media, shoppers may, for example, use mental math to figure out if the ratio of Instagram followers to likes feels authentic.

        It’s essential that business owners understand that community sentiment can be what makes or breaks the decision to purchase a product.

        Must-have

        • Positive reviews of products with a rating of 70% or more
        • Product reviews posted on social media and external websites (e.g., Facebook, Google, Yelp, Amazon, eBay, etc.) that are mostly positive
        • Product reviews that are descriptive about product quality and customer experience
        • A social media following on Instagram, Facebook, or other platforms

        Nice-to-have

        • Product reviews that include photos and/or videos
        • Product reviews for clothing/accessories/health and beauty that include the reviewer’s description of themselves (so shoppers can relate to review more)
        • Links to the store’s social media profiles that are easily visible in the store

        Tip: Browse the Shopify App Store for a product reviews app that lets your customers upload multimedia to product reviews and testimonials.

        Example: EM Cosmetics eases customer curiosities with reviews

        EM Cosmetics builds social proof through product reviews and, specifically, by encouraging customers to attach photos and other details. This transparency from reviewers opens the brand up to critiques and criticism, but it also instills trust and gives them the chance to discover a review that helps them say, “That’s just like me.”

        An example of EM Cosmetics product reviews and how it builds customer trust with shoppers
        EM Cosmetics builds social proof through product reviews and, specifically, by encouraging customers to attach photos and other details.

        What is EM Cosmetics doing well with product reviews?

        • Ratings & Reviews section clearly summarizes the product as five-star with 100% product recommendation.
        • Product reviews include a customer-provided description and photo of the product.
        • The product reviewer is asked to provide a description of themselves, helping other customers relate and simplify buying decisions.
        • When you use a search engine and look for “em cosmetics review,” multiple videos reviewing the brand and products are listed, as well as product and store review articles published on popular selling websites.
          An example of EM Cosmetics building customer trust and social proof with positive offsite reviews that can be found easily in Google
          A preview of what the search term “em cosmetics review” returns in Google, allowing shoppers to get offsite reviews in both written review and video formats.

          5. Ensure the transaction is transparent and easy

          🔍 What the customer is asking: What is the cost of delivery and how much are taxes or duties? Are the payment options familiar and secure, and do they function well? 

          🎯 Business goal: Remove customer doubts and risk when calculating the total cost at shipping and payment.

          As the saying goes, “Price is what you pay, and value is what you get.” While high-quality photography and compelling copy help strengthen customer trust by communicating product value, shoppers also want to easily access the total price they’ll pay—with all discounts and fees included—as early in the purchase as possible.

          Price is fairly straightforward, but there is lots of subjectivity to what a product costs and how valuable a customer feels it is. That means adding context around price, and reducing unnecessary surprises, is a valuable way to gain customers' trust.

          Must-have

          • A return policy that is clear and easy to understand
          • When shipping internationally, a shipping policy that clearly states who pays duties and taxes

          Nice-to-have

          • Clear shipping costs
          • Ability to apply discount codes in the cart and edit cart content
          • Familiar payment methods (such as PayPal and Shop Pay)
          • Optional order status tracking 
          • Rewards and discounts for future sales, surfaced on the order confirmation page
          • For international stores, a language and currency switcher

          Example: L.L. Bean builds shopper trust through transparency in transactions

          L.L. Bean, an outdoors apparel retailer renowned for its generous return policy, has traditionally gone to great lengths for customer satisfaction and customer retention. For a brand with a mission and values grounded in loyalty and making customers happy, it’s vital that it puts all of the key information about a transaction right up front on product pages and during checkout so there are no surprises when placing an order.

          An example of L.L. Bean's builds customer trust through transparency in transactions
          L.L. Bean builds shopper trust through surfacing costs across the online store.

          What is L.L. Bean doing to show the transaction is easy?

          • Clearly communicating tax inclusion for shipping across borders.
          • Offering a free shipping policy and the ability to find out more details, like estimated shipping speed and return policies.
          • Highlighting a trusted payment provider (PayPal) at the top of the checkout page.
          • Clearly stating total cost before finalizing orders by breaking down all discounts and fees.

            Customers reward businesses they trust

            Maintaining customer trust is frequently a blind spot for businesses, especially newly formed businesses, because companies who deliver on promises to their customer base typically don’t question their own trustworthiness. But it’s important to remember that trust is a matter of perception and something every business has to earn.

            As you gain more customers, your business can build trust via excellent customer service, positive word of mouth, and a marketing strategy that highlights your many satisfied shoppers. By then, your brand reputation will precede you, and the finer details of your site may not have to do the heavy lifting in relationship building.

            But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use proven practices to make your site feel familiar, reliable, and clear. Doing so will put shoppers at ease, enhance the customer experience, and increase customer retention, and potentially unlock step level growth for your business.

            Download the checklist


            Customer trust FAQ

            What is customer trust?

            Simply put, customer trust is a measure of how new and existing customers feel about your business based on product quality, customer service, and interactions with your website.

            What is the importance of customer trust?

            Customer trust is the foundation of every successful brand. Without customer trust, your business will struggle to build genuine relationships that result in repeat sales.

            How do you build customer trust with a website?

            1. Ace the first impression with your homepage
            2. Provide customers with essential information
            3. Share your story and why the business started
            4. Show current customer satisfaction
            5. Ensure the transaction is transparent and easy
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