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!