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Trust: Why It’s So Important For Digital Businesses & How They Can Earn It

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

How many businesses haven’t transitioned to the digital realm by now? There may have been various holdouts when 2020 began, but the first COVID-19 lockdown made one thing quite clear: any company that can operate online but chooses not to is putting its future at serious risk. As a result, the number of offline-only businesses is dropping at a rapid clip.

In many ways, operating through the internet is significantly easier. The operational costs are lower, the reach is broader (you can serve customers from a much larger area), and you can take advantage of myriad technological innovations. But there are some drawbacks, too. Perhaps most notably, it’s markedly harder to get prospective customers to trust you.

But why does trust matter so much for digital businesses? And once you’ve accepted that it’s a key priority, how are you supposed to earn it? In this piece, we’re going to answer these important questions. Let’s get started.

The internet obscures many things

When you visit a company’s physical premises, you can glean a lot of rich insight from contextual clues. If there are products on sale, you can look at them up close to discern various things. How are they stored? Have they been handled carefully? Do they look illegitimate? There may be obvious red flags that push you away, but most of the time it’s clear as soon as you walk into a store (or company office) that it’s sufficiently trustworthy.

By this I mean that it isn’t an outright scam: the service might be terrible and the products might be mediocre, but the company is operating within the confines of the law and can at least be relied upon to fulfil its end of the bargain to some extent. When you visit a company’s website, though, you can’t be so sure about it. After all, anyone can throw together a decent website these days, often in very little time and at no significant cost.

Are the product listings you see real? You can see product images, sure, but product images can be taken from legitimate sites. Maybe there are no products at all and the entire thing is a fake operation designed to rip you off somehow. That’s a real concern, as we’ll see next.

Online fraud remains a serious concern

It’s nice to think of the internet as a safe place, and it’s also easy to view it that way if you never stray off the beaten path. When you spend all your time on huge websites, you’re not going to be at great risk — but whenever you venture elsewhere to try new sites, there’s a possibility that you’ll encounter fraudulent enterprises. And online fraud can be hugely damaging.

Social media sites can lose your private data, of course, causing embarrassment and leading to blackmail efforts. Identity theft can see people use your details as a smokescreen. And then, of course, there’s the simple agony of financial fraud: if you use online banking or simply pay for things online, what happens if someone gets access to your bank account (or accounts)?

This is a huge problem now that everything has moved online. People bank online, order shopping online, pay for services online… They even gamble online, betting on sports and playing casino games (for obvious reasons, regular casinos aren’t particularly viable at the moment). In short, you need to be aware of the threat of online fraud.

How to convince people to trust you

So, now we’ve seen why trust matters so much, how can you earn it? Well, it depends quite heavily on what kind of business you’re running. As we just saw, there are so many ways in which people risk their details online, and the effort required to earn trust will scale with the risk being required. The bigger the risk, the more you need to do.

For a retail site with low-cost products, just having good prices and appearing professional can be enough, but service-based sales are much trickier. Take software tools, for instance: when you invest in a new software tool, you’re making it an integral part of your operation, and you can’t afford to choose poorly. This is why comprehensive roundups of apps like ecommerce tools are so valuable. If a tool comes highly recommended, you know you can trust it.

With this thought fresh in the mind, here are four core ways in which you can convince visitors to your online business site to trust that you have a legitimate operation that’s worth their time and money:

  • Provide strong social proof. Reviews and testimonials from happy customers make it incredibly easy to believe in the legitimacy of a business, so show ratings for everything from your service in general to your specific products. Be careful, though: if you only show glowing reviews, people will suspect that you’re being deceptive, so include at least a handful of critical comments to show that the social proof can be believed.
  • Display security credentials. There are various schemes and certifications used to protect online transactions. Assuming you have some in place to prevent financial fraud, display the badges prominently on your site (and during the checkout process). This will prove reassuring to those with concerns.
  • Make it easy to reach you. There’s always the possibility that something will go wrong with an online business deal, so how can customers reach you? Offering nothing more than a contact form with no clear response time will make people think you’ll just dodge any queries, so don’t take that route. Make it easy to get hold of you. Use a live chat system, provide an email address, maintain a support line — do whatever you can.

Write straightforward copy. Internet companies make a lot of implausible claims because they know it’s relatively hard for people to call them out, but those statements inevitably make them seem questionable. Use power words to talk about your products and company, but use them accurately — people will be more likely to believe you.

If you’re interested in promoting trust within your brand, give us a call on 0115 971 8908 and we’d be happy to offer some advice. you could even request one of our free, no-obligation website reviews from our experts!

I write about all things marketing and love to focus on data. You'll see topics from SEO and PPC to web design and CRO.

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