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No Trust? No Sale. 12 Ways To Build Trust And Boost Sales On Your eCommerce Site

By February 13, 2013June 28th, 2015Website Design & Marketing
No Trust? No Sale. 12 Ways To Build Trust And Boost Sales On Your eCommerce Site

Whether you’ve just opened up shop online or have been in business for years, how much have you really paid attention to how your website is affecting your sales?

You may think that making sales has to do with the quality of your products or your prices… but what if I told you that even if you have the greatest products and lowest prices in town, you could still be driving away sales with something as simple as a misplaced icon or a poor choice of colors?

There are about a billion trillion quadzillion eCommerce sites on the web (I’m pretty sure that’s an exact number) so if you want to be the one making the sale, you’ve got to think past price wars to the one factor that can make or break a sale every time: trust.

Handing over your credit card, address and personally identifying information is a big deal. And you can’t go two news stories without reading about the latest scam. Shoppers are cautious and they’re also getting smarter, in part thank to the swindlers and scammers who have made us think twice (and sometimes three or four or two dozen times) about who we share our information and do business with.

Trust is your ticket to more sales even if your prices are higher, so here are 12 actions you can take to improve the trustworthiness of your site and give shoppers the reassurance they need to check out confidently.

1. Be Mindful Of First Impressions

Trying to win over a shopper is a little like trying to get a date with that cute boy/girl you noticed across the room at a party. If your shoes are tied and your hair is combed, you’ve got a better shot at it than if you walked into the room looking like a sloppy, dopey mess.

A visitor coming to your site for the first time is giving it that “across the room” glance that’s going to create a first – and possibly last – impression.

When someone visits your site for the first time, what do they see? Does it convey a professional image or is it a big blinking, scrolling mess of ads and shouting headlines?

How about those colors? Are they comforting and inviting or have you given in to your artistic urges and covered a yellow page with orange text and purple flowers?

Too many (clashing) colors creates a sense of discord that will not make your visitors feel warm or fuzzy – or trusting. The same goes for fonts. Multiple colors, sizes and typefaces detract from the professionalism of your site.

2. Keep The Design Clean

Design is subjective. If you put three people in a room and ask them what they think of a website, you’ll get four opinions.

What you should be more concerned with, rather than whether your design is “good” is whether your design is reflective of the quality of your business.

Is your logo crisp and placed so that it isn’t crowded by more screaming ads and headlines?

Are you using white space to give your visitors’ eyes time to “breathe”? A busy, cluttered, disorganized site says “unprofessional” and “I was built by someone’s nephew in a college dormitory”.

I’m not telling you that you need to have a boring, corporate site. Your design can be fun, trendy and even colorful but it must be done in good taste and reflect well on your business.

3. Make Sure It Works

Sounds like something I could win the Obvious Award for saying, right? But keep in mind that customers can be accessing your site from a variety of browsers, operating systems and even devices.

You can do two things to mitigate the “it’s not working” problem.

First, keep it simple. The more moving parts, the more difficult it can be to ensure all the pieces work all the time. Super fancy rotating photo zoom options are a nice touch, but if they only work in IE on a PC on Saturdays then you’re better off with a simple photo enlargement function.

Second, test! Do not underestimate this simple yet overlooked step. Test in every browser. Test on multiple versions of every browser. You may be using the latest version of Chrome but there are still a lot of people out there using IE6.

Test on Macs, test on PCs, test on iPhones and Androids and tablets.

Be sure your cart works, your forms work, your links work, your functionality, such as those gorgeous photo enlargements, works.

And do this more than once. Just because you tested everything last month doesn’t mean it’s still working today. A broken site is frustrating for customers and can paint your company in an unprofessional and untrustworthy light. If you can’t even get your own site working, what confidence should shoppers have that you can meet their needs?

4. Use Effective Photography

What’s more frustrating than a small, blurry photo of a product you’re thinking about buying?

I’ll tell you what! A small blurry photo that, when you “click to enlarge”, becomes… a small blurry photo.

A good photo can almost sell a product by itself. Photos must be crisp and clean. Surely you can do better than a tiny, pixelated thumbnail.

Your photos should be large enough to see detail and show the product from as many relevant angles as necessary. If your product is a coffee mug, there’s a good change someone will get the idea from a front view. But if it’s a purse, then I know that I want to see it from the top, the bottom and the inside.

Your photos have to take the place of the touch-and-feel experience of shopping in a “real” store. Customers will feel more confident in your product if they can mimic that experience by seeing all the parts of it as they might if they could pick it up.

And if you’ve got an enlarge function then by all means, be sure your photo actually enlarges!

5. Display Security Symbols

It’s vital to create a secure shopping environment. That means using a security certificate to encrypt sensitive data. I’m always shocked that at this point in the history of the web, there are still people who do not protect their customers’ data.

It’s also important to display those symbols of trust. The security lock icons, the “trusted site” graphics and the badges that your security certificate vendor provides.

Using those icons and badges doesn’t change anything in practical application but it can change your customers’ perceptions by reassuring them that their data is safe with you.

6. Display Your Social Icons

You do have social accounts, right? You may wonder why this matters to your eCommerce site beyond the marketing opportunity.

There are a billion trillion quadzillion websites out there and maybe only slightly fewer scams. It’s pretty simple to set up a shell of a website for little to no cost, steal a few bucks or credit card numbers then disappear.

So how does the average person tell the difference between a well-constructed scam and a legitimate business?

Your presence in the world is one of those ways. If you’ve got an active Facebook, Twitter or other social account and you’re engaging people and providing value then you have created a legitimate presence for yourself. You exist in the world where people can see what you’re doing and where they know they can find you if they need to.

7. Have A Good ‘About’ Page

This works the same way as having a social presence.

Use your About page to let people know that you’re a real business, with real people and goals. Tell them a bit about your history so they know you’re not some fly-by-night company.

Capitalize on things like longevity if you’ve got it, family-owned if you are. Include photos of your staff, your warehouse, your store.

Familiarity builds security so use every opportunity to help people to get to know your business.

8. Include Contact Information

At the bare minimum you must have a separate contact form. Better yet, include an address, phone number and email.

This is all part of building a legitimate presence. How comfortable would you feel if there was no way to get in touch with a vendor you just handed your money to? What if there’s a problem? What if you have a question?

Make yourself and your company accessible in as many ways as possible and people will feel much more confident doing business with you.

9. Make Your Policies Clear

One of the first things people want to know before they purchase a product is how they can return it if things go wrong.

If you want people to feel confident buying and to trust in your business, you need to provide all the facts up front. Besides your return policy, every policy should be clearly defined, including shipping, exchanges, even privacy.

If you don’t do this then it may appear as if you’re hiding something, that there’s the potential for an unpleasant surprise or perhaps that it will be difficult to do business with you.

10. Include Reviews

You’ll get lots of advice to include testimonials on your site. I challenge that testimonials don’t matter as much as reviews. Anyone can find someone to say something nice about their product.

But when you open your products up for reviews, you encourage all sorts of responses, good and bad alike. But don’t worry! A few “bad” reviews can actually be good for business. It will show that you’re not manipulating reviews to show only the good side.

Bad reviews can also help people make good judgment calls. They’ll trust your product more if they know the pros and cons and agree to buy it anyway. You’ll likely also end up with fewer returns.

11. Write Good Product Descriptions

Here’s something that’s particularly frustrating for me: when I look for a product and read a description that’s lacking, then find the product on another site and read the same exact pathetic description. And on every single site where I find that same product, the description is repeated word for word.

That means whoever is selling that product got some promotional text from the manufacturer and copied and pasted it into their website. Not helpful!

Your description should answer people’s questions about the product. It should be… dare I say it… descriptive. What are all the things a customer might want to know about that product? Color considerations? Sizing considerations? Does it shrink? Is it washable? Will it fit through the front door or dissolve in the rain? Is it made with natural materials?

Depending on your product, you’ll need to figure out what its features and benefits are, what its selling points are and what ambiguities exist that can be explained in the product description.

Copy/paste is not an option!

And if you’re selling a unique product exclusive to your business, you’d really better punch up those descriptions. People want to feel confident that they know what they’re getting and know what to expect.

12. Eliminate Typos

Here’s how many typos your eCommerce site is allowed: zero.

Nothing says “I’m an unprofessional, fly-by-night possibly scammy built-in-a-college-dorm-by-someone’s-nephew website” quite like poor spelling and grammar.

I’m not even giving you one accidental pass here.

Proofread and proofread again until every single letter on your site is sheer perfection. Your credibility and your sales depend on it.

I’ve given you twelve ideas that you can take to your office and either check off or fix right now. There is no single one of these that will make or break your credibility but combined they can build a powerful sense of security and trust between your company and your customers.

One final tip: if you’re not quite sure what “clean design” means or exactly what a “good” product description sounds like, it’s quite simple: go shopping!

Nothing can shine a little perspective on things like visiting a few websites and noting things that make you roll your eyes, grit your teeth or just plain close the browser. And while you’re there, make a note of the things that compel you to buy.

Tell me about your experiences. Have you seen any egregious mistakes that prevented you from shopping on a particular site? Do you have a question about something you’re doing on yours? Let me know in the comments!

Join the discussion 14 Comments

  • Hi Carol. This is such a good article. I can see how every one of these points would make a visitor.customer feel comfortable about who you are as a business person. I was just saying last night that when customers know you, like you, and trust you, they buy from you. But I think you hit upon more than that because we are in this technological, security driven age where protecting the customer is just as important. Good points throughout but that’s what stuck with me. Although I don’t have an ecommerce site, this is critical information for many who do.


    • It’s true, we’ll buy from people we like and know, but sometimes you might find something you want to buy but you DON’T know the person selling it. So how do you know you’re not going to get scammed or something bad isn’t going to happen? You make a judgement based on what you see on the site and if it doesn’t “look” safe and professional it leaves doubts and you will probably go somewhere else.

  • Great tips, Carol

    Yes, put all together those 12 tips can help any business increase they sales.

    I had to laugh when you mentioned a yellow page with orange letters and purple flowers. Well, I’ve since those sites, out there you know!. Not long ago I landed on a red site with black letters and yellow links. I got there from a genuine reader on my blog, but I wanted to run!

    I have to admit that I’ve not tested my sites on all browsers, but at least Chrome of course (that I’m using), Fire Fox and IE.

    When I buy a product, yes, I want to know about the return policy first. This needs to be clear.

    I tend to agree with you that few bad reviews among the good ones is good, because it shows that the review are not fake. And real feedbacks help the sale.

    • Sometimes I find bad reviews more helpful than good ones. When I’m thinking about buying something I like to know what the good and bad sides are. So when someone tells me the bad sides, I feel like I can make a better judgement. Say someone says “don’t use this purse in the rain or the color will run”. Well, that’s good to know! I would feel better buying it and knowing when to use it. Plus not everyone looks at things the same way. Someone may think something is a problem, but someone else may not. That happens a lot when I read books reviews. Some people complain about certain things in the book, but I know that those things wouldn’t bother me. It just helps to get a good perspective.

  • Hi Carol,
    Great points here, especially some that I do have to revisit myself. My About page needs to be updated and consistent on all my sites. I’ve noticed some are different.

    What I’m in the middle doing is writing one and copy and paste it to every one of social sites and also my blog. This way it works like a “gravatar” Wherever people go, they will get the same information.
    As for my blog, there aren’t those flashing things going on making it look like times square! It is one of my pet peeves when things are blinking and distracting me from reading.
    The plainer, the better I think. Your other points were awesome,
    Thanks Again,

    • I hadn’t thought of it like that Donna, but you’re right. Some of these can work just as well for a site even if it’s not ecommerce. You want to build trust with your audience and some of the same things apply. You’re right, you do NOT want a site that looks like Times Square! I agree, I like things to be clean and simple too.

  • Jose Palomino says:

    Thanks for your article Carol

    People do business with people that they know and trust.

  • Adrienne says:

    Hey Carol,

    Okay, so we both know I don’t have an e-commerce site but I have been on the other end of it so I am definitely sitting here nodding my head as I read through these.

    I’m totally turned off by ugly sites. I mean I was looking for something the other day and the first site that came up my first impression was “what were they thinking”. They may have had what I wanted but I was getting a headache just looking at it and trying to find where I needed to click was a joke. Must have been their first site ever.

    All your points can be taken for what we’re all doing online as well because everything needs to be up to date on our sites too. I know that a lot of people when they first write their About Me page they never go back to it ever again and over time things need to be added and updated. I laugh at some of them myself.

    Great points, as always. Hope you enjoy your weekend Carol.


    • You’re right about lot of this applying to any site. And those poor, neglected “about me” pages… they’re so much work to write and we try to hard to get them right and then we say PHEW and leave them there forever. I am just as guilty! I know I have to update things too. I keep putting it on “the list”. But some sites, you’d think they were built in 1990. They probably were 🙂 Time to get on top of things or people will find another option!

  • deeannr says:


    My site is a blog and not an eCommerce site but I really hate eCommerce sites that are not well done.

    All 12 of your points are very valid.

    I was at an eCommerce site just this morning and all I could say was they need a new web design person. The site was very poorly done and navigating from one place to another was extraordinarily difficult. I really wanted what they were selling so I continued until I found what I wanted and how to get it but someone just stopping by would most likely leave.

    I think it is really important even with blogs to follow all of your points.

    Great list!!

    Dee Ann Rice

  • It’s true that a lot of these could apply to any site. You may not be selling products but even on a blog, you need your readers to trust you. If your site in a big mess it reflects poorly on you. i don’t have a lot of patience for a “bad” site. There are so many options that I can usually find what I want someplace better!

  • steve flanagan says:

    Very good advice. I am looking at making changes to my site, currently I do not get any feedback,inquires or sales. I am still hesitant on who should work on it, as the guy that suggested a few things has not gone through my whole site. He did not even know which product I was selling, he thought it was on the front page.

    • Carol Lynn Rivera says:

      Sounds like you need a second opinion. Or a third or fourth… there are a lot of people who can help, you just have to find the right one who you feel confident with and comfortable with. I would agree that it also sounds like you need as more thorough analysis of your business goals, a review of your site analytics and then a plan for revamping the site to improve sales. it could be the layout, the trust factor, the promotions… all good things to ask about.