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How to earn and keep a customer's trust online

First impressions matter even online.
By Aimee Milwood |


The number one reason customers do not purchase is not price— it is trust.


A survey by Taylor Nelson Sofres found that customers cancel 70% of online purchases because of lack of trust. What is the deal? When shoppers come to your store, their trust is not a given. They do not know you. They do not know your products.



When you are shopping in a store, you can see the product before your eyes. You are not worried that it will not fit right, because you can try it on. You do not need to wonder how big it is or what the quality is like, because you can run it through your hands, touch it, and smell it.


In a store, you can understand the product. When it comes to earning customer trust online, it is not so easy.


In order to succeed for e-commerce brands to succeed at earning customers' trust, they need to understand how customers make judgments about brands throughout the buyer journey. Factors that influence trust the first time customers land on an e-commerce site are not the same as what moves them to checkout.



How to measure customer trust online

Okay, so you get it. When customers trust you, they are more likely to buy. But trust is subjective - so how do you measure it? Countless academic studies—like "How Reputation Impacts e-Commerce Stores' Chance of Success" and "Factors Influencing Customer Trust Online" –have tried to get to the bottom of what plays a part in perceived customer trust online.



The conclusion?


There are thousands of factors that impact customer trust online, from professional website design and displaying trust seals to customer reviews and product photos.


Related: What's Next for E-commerce in 2016?


Just check out the stats from VWO. This graph deals with initial trust–the trust that is formed when customers are first assessing a brand.


Just at first site, visitors are sizing up brands in a variety of ways. The initial assessment stage is important, but what happens during the rest of the buyer journey?


After initial assessment, customers then make even more subconscious judgments about your brand that influence whether they purchase or not. If you do earn their sale, you have even more opportunities to earn their long-term trust and turn them into a loyal returning customer. 


Customer retention is enormously profitable. Returning customers spend nearly three times as much as one-time customers— and they are likely to become brand advocates who can bring you even more customers. But, in order to grow a base of returning shoppers, you have got to convince new shoppers to trust you enough to make that first sale.



Here is a look at how trust is formed throughout the customer journey.



Stage 1: First impressions.

Consider this: 60-80% of e-commerce site visitors are first-time visitors. The average conversion rate for these visitors— just 2.5%. It takes just 2.6 seconds for visitors to form an opinion of your brand, according to researchers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology. And once you have lost those visitors, the chances of getting them back are minimal. So what do customers see when they first land on your site?


When it comes to first impressions, there are three main factors: professional design, good UX, and a quick-loading site. Brands can improve customer trust on their site by improving design, UX, and optimizing their site speed, mobile compatibility and domain authority in Google. As far as design, this means using images, fonts, and layout that looks professional as well as paying attention to color scheme and organization. Demonstrating knowledge of good UX and making customer navigation and checkout easy and intuitive also builds trust in your brand.



When visitors first get to a site, they absorb design. After that, a UX Matters heat map study shows how their eyes move towards parts of the page where trust signals are located.


Showing off coverage in well-known publications, trust marks, and advertising familiar payment methods make customer feel comfortable.


Related: The Top 5 E-commerce Trends You Should Look Out For


Out of the most popular trust badges, Commerce Sciences identifies which impact visitors most.

Remember, this initial assessment stage is all about first impressions. Think of what customers see when they are making split second decisions about your brand— do you look like someone they can trust?



Stage 2: Social proof.

This is the most important stage in trust assessment. Plenty of sites can have great design and make stellar first impressions - but are they able to push customers to the next step in assessment?


In this stage, research from Crazy Egg indicates that recommendations are the most important trust factor—and 92% of people trust recommendations from people they know, and 70% trust consumer opinions posted online. So this is where reviews come in. Shoppers are looking for real customer opinions on third-party sites like Facebook or searching on-site to see what other shoppers have to say.



They are also examining user-generated photos and videos to see if the product matches what is advertised. People are becoming much less trustworthy of brand advertising, and much more trusting of other consumer opinions.



Stage 3: Risk assessment.

After a customer has started to believe a site is trustworthy, they begin the risk assessment process. In this stage, they key issues of trust are how secure their personal information is and how reliable it is for them to make a purchase.



The first step is to reassure them you will protect their personal information and offer purchase security: 23% of respondents felt threatened by hackers and 16% were concerned about people or firms obtaining and abusing their personal information.


Another way to build trust during this stage is to offer comprehensive, easy-to-find contact information. The last thing a customer wants is to hand over their sensitive information and money and never see their product. Lessen the risk of purchasing by including multiple options to contact you, like live chat, phone number (preferably toll-free) and an email address. Also, include FAQs, return policies and package tracking in a highly visible area.


Make sure you show that you accept well-known payment methods (like major credit cards and PayPal) and while they are in the checkout stages, continue to show off site testimonials that emphasize your customer service in order to encourage them to trust you enough to purchase.




Stage 4: From customer to repeat shopper.

After you have earned a customer's trust and they have purchased from you, the journey is not over. In this stage, you want to turn that customer into a brand advocate who can help you earn new shoppers.


The key to this is providing an excellent first buying experience. Make sure you give service customers will want to rave about and that will bring them back.


Encourage past shoppers to leave reviews and submit photos of them with their product, so you can repurpose these in marketing to attract new shoppers. You can also offer coupons as an added incentive for them to then share these reviews and photos on social. Offering a coupon also brings them back to your store—increasing the chance that they will purchase from you again.


Related: 3 Fatal Ecommerce Mistakes You Must Not Make


Earning customer trust online is not easy, but if you pay attention to how trust forms throughout multiple touch points in the buyer journey, you can encourage more customers to buy—and continue to return—to your e-commerce store.





Copyright © 2016 Entrepreneur Media, Inc. All rights reserved.

This article originally appeared on Minor edits have been done by the editors.


Photo from Starbucks, Thinkstock

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