How to Build Trust Online
The digital world is a gift to the entrepreneurially minded. In an era where almost 50% of Australians make purchases online, there’s more scope than ever to go into business for yourself without the crippling overheads that come with establishing a business presence in a physical space. With more opportunity than ever available, and a digitally-literate market that’s always growing, new online businesses have every reason to shoot for the stars as we move into the 2020s and beyond.
And if you’re to achieve the kind of success you’re looking for, it’s of paramount importance that you consider how to build trust online.
The importance of trust when running an online business
These are exciting times. But there are caveats, of course. Starting an online business is neither risk-free nor a guaranteed home run. The very same opportunities available to you are just as available to your legions of competitors. And in an era where consumers know that they can afford to be fickle, businesses need to work harder than ever to secure their loyalty and ongoing custom or risk losing them to the competition.
There are certain drivers of trust which are woven into the fabric of what you do. The quality of your products, the reliability of your delivery and the fairness of your pricing will all go a long way towards ensuring that prospective customers begin a trusting relationship with your brand. But if you’re to secure their trust online, you need a multi-channel approach to earning it.
Whether you do business purely in the digital realm or whether you have an integrated “bricks and clicks” approach to your business model, here are some ways in which you can build trust online.
Invest in good quality website design
Many online retailers have a channel agnostic approach to selling, meaning that they ensure that their products are listed in Google Shopping, Facebook Shopping, Instagram Shopping and, of course, Amazon. And while this is a great way to ensure that your products reach a large audience, that doesn’t mean that you should neglect your own website.
It’s hard to earn the trust of fickle customers if your website looks like it was built in 1995 and has little to no consideration of how it incorporates either your own branding or the customer’s User Experience (UX).
In an age where consumers are accustomed to shopping online, while they may not necessarily be web design literate they know what looks and feels “right” in an online store, and they will judge your website accordingly.
For this reason, while you may be conscious of overheads it’s essential that you invest in a professionally designed website. Avoid Wix or Squarespace pages. While their systems of predesigned themes might look good to the untrained eye, they have a habit of screaming “amateur” in a way that might be detrimental to your ability to build the trust of your customers online.
But beauty is only skin deep, and a great website is about more than just looking good. It should also have great UX that makes it easy for customers to find the products and features they want. It should handle responsively on both desktop and mobile devices with fast page loads and good page access on smartphones.
Show your face
One of the caveats of online trading and digital marketing is that it removes the human element. It’s easy to build trust when you’re face to face with a customer. You’re able to provide answers to their questions and allay their concerns instantaneously. What’s more, they can see your passion and infectious enthusiasm for your brand and your products. It’s easy for them to build the kind of personal relationship with you that results in lasting loyalty.
But when you have the curtain of digital interaction between you, it’s hard to deliver that human touch. It’s harder to be sincere and convey your passion and enthusiasm. Viewed through the lens of digital interaction, sincerity can come across as typical marketing bluster and your best efforts to engage customers can come across as cynical brand building.
That’s why it’s important to show your face where possible. Help customers get to know you and the people that make your business great. Share images of office hijinks and celebrate the achievements of your team members through your social channels. Use your name when interacting with customers on social platforms and in emails and direct messages. Do whatever you can to bring the human touch.
Blog often, blog with authority
If you do business or market your business online, you should be blogging. Blogging is a great way of helping loyal customers and new prospects alike to build a relationship with your brand. What’s more, posting regularly and using well researched keywords is great for your SEO, giving you an advantage over the competition in online searches. The more regularly you post long form written content, the more favourably Google and other search engines will regard your website.
But if you’re regularly posting low-quality content sourced by overseas content farms, you’re unlikely to get the sort of engagement out of readers that builds trust. Ideally, you should be writing your own blog posts, entrusting it to a skilled writer in your team or outsourcing to an agency that uses talented and experienced copywriters.
Your blog is an opportunity to get your personality and character across and establish your skills, knowledge and credentials. You should view it as a showcase for your own unique insights, knowledge, ideas and experience. After all, these are the things your competitors will never, ever have.
Your blog posts should ensure that you are establishing topical authority, painting you as the expert in the minds of your readers and customers. But at the same time, your posts shouldn’t come across as self-aggrandising. They should be written with the aim of adding value for the reader. They should help them to solve a problem they encounter regularly, overcome a common pain point or frustration and make their lives easier and happier.
When you’re giving people something of value for nothing, you stand a great chance of earning their trust online.
Leverage social proof with online reviews
No matter how great your blog posts are and no matter how well composed the other copy on your website, the fact is that consumers will always take everything that brands say about themselves with a pinch of salt.
For better or for worse, consumers are always wary of brands, even brands they like. However, they trust other consumers implicitly. Thus, the reviews and testimonials left by the happy customers you’ve left in your wake could be your most valuable tool in building consumer trust.
Make sure that customers’ star ratings and review snippets are prominently displayed on your website. Where possible, you should have a customer testimonials section on your website or link directly to the flattering things that people have said about your business on Google, Trustpilot, Facebook etc.
When website users see that you’ve earned the trust of other customers just like them, they’re more likely to trust you.
Targeting a younger market? Reach out to social influencers
The world of marketing is ever-changing, and you should neglect the value of influencer marketing at your peril. If you have your sights set on a millennial audience, it behoves you to find out which social influencers matter to them and reach out to them.
Social influencers are consumers, just like the people who leave you reviews. Except that their online reach far eclipses that of most of your customer base. And it’s arguable that millennial consumers trust their word a lot more. In fact, 40% of millennial consumers believe that their favourite YouTube creators understand them better than their own friends do. And 70% of teens trust influencers more than conventional celebrities.
An influencer’s endorsement of your brand can not only be cheaper than a celebrity endorsement, it could even be more meaningful to your target audience.
Customer service still matters! Make yourself accountable online
One of the most common frustrations that many people have when shopping online is the dearth of customer service. Unfortunately, many people find that interacting with brands online is like talking to a brick wall.
Even if you do 100% of your business online, customer service still matters. And the longer you leave a customer’s email or direct message unanswered, the more you risk eroding whatever trust you have built up with them. Respond quickly to customer contact and make sure that you assign accountability of every query to someone who can guide the customer to a satisfactory resolution. There’s nothing more frustrating than having to repeat yourself over and over again to different customer service agents.
Take a proactive approach to complaints on social media
Speaking of online interactions with customers, nobody likes it when someone says something unflattering about them on their social feeds. People tend to pull no punches online, and as difficult as the diatribe of an upset customer may be to read, you gain nothing from burying your head in the sand.
Every time a customer writes an angry tweet about you or writes something unpleasant on your Facebook wall, they’re throwing down the gauntlet to you. And other customers will want to see whether or not you pick it up. Respond to these complaints in a timely and professional manner. Apologise with sincerity for mistakes that have been made and assume full responsibility for them. Work with the customer to achieve a satisfactory resolution to their problems.
The customer might not always be reasonable or fair in their responses. But at least it will be clear for all to see that you’re handling the matter properly.
Demonstrate your commitment to ethical trading
We live in very ethically aware times, and a brand’s sense of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has never been more important in establishing the trust of consumers. In fact, nearly 75% of millennial consumers are willing to spend more money on brands that they trust to do business in an ethical and environmentally aware manner.
So make sure that your website, your blog and your social channels shout your commitment to ethical and sustainable trading from the highest rooftops. Whenever you use cruelty free or vegan products, make sure you own it. Whenever you use fairtrade, organic or ethically sourced products and raw materials, make sure consumers can see it.
Show consumers that you care about more than money and they will be much more quick to trust you.
The business landscape of the 2020s promises to be fiercely competitive. But it also promises to be an exciting and dynamic time to be in business. Take the measures above to earn the trust of fickle consumers and you’ll be able to stay one step ahead of your competitors at every turn.