On the web, transparency often equals trust. This is a world where credit cards are often used for fraud, where dollars are lost every day, and where identities are stolen. Smart shoppers are wary shoppers, and they don’t want to do business with faceless entities online. They want to know who’s behind the company they purchase from. Here are eight ways to increase your transparency online. Follow these tips, and you’ll increase the level of trust that your customers have in your business.
In a medium as anonymous as the Internet, the concept of transparency means being clear about who you are and your motives and goals. Transparency is especially important on e-commerce sites. Customers want to know that the people behind the site are honest and trustworthy, not someone who’s using the site as a front for fraud. One way to do this is on your “About” page. Identify the person or people behind the business, including a brief background as it pertains to the business (education, career, etc). A picture is a great benefit, because visually-oriented customers can develop a sense of the people they are doing business and communicating with. Video is even better!
Start a Blog
Publishing a blog takes commitment, but it’s a great way to show your business personality to customers, and to show them that behind the site is a living, breathing business. Frequently-updated content also shows commitment, a kind of “TLC” to your audience. Allow comments, too, so that you can start a conversation back-and-forth with readers of the blog.
Use a Dedicated SSL Certificate
They are relatively inexpensive and typically require very little work on your part. When customers see your site go from http://www.yoursite.com to https://site12345.somelargehost.com/yoursite/whatever during checkout, it can be disconcerting. On a related note, make sure that your checkout pages don’t include content that is not loaded securely, because a warning message will appear.
Use Security Badges
Demonstrate security with standard graphics that customers have come to expected. Credit card icons show that you have taken the time to select and integrate true payment-processing into your site, instead of relying solely on Paypal or checks by mail. Many SSL certificate providers offer badges that customers can click to confirm that the site uses standard encryption. Take that a step further by signing up for McAfee or Controlscan, which also offer site testing measures. Traditional businesses often display Better Business Bureau window stickers or Chamber of Commerce plaques; there are equivalent BBB and Chamber images that accomplish the same thing on e=commerce sites.
Phone, Email, Live Chat
Make it easy for customers to contact you using a variety of methods. Publish a phone number – a toll-free one if possible – in a prominent location on all pages, and try to answer calls during business hours. If you can’t always answer it, return voice messages quickly. Use a live chat service for customers who don’t want to interrupt their surfing to look for a phone, or offer contact forms on every page that are quickly answered by email.
Display Customer Testimonials
Gather customer testimonials and publish them on your website. While it’s ok to ask customers for testimonials, don’t make them up; people can spot fakes pretty easily. Offer a single testimonial on your homepage, and link to a page of additional testimonials.
Publish Store Policies
Publish your policies and link to them from your sitewide footer and within your help section. At a minimum, you should publish:
- a return policy outlining what products can be returned and what the process is
- shipping policies that describe what carriers you use, what the lead or fulfillment time is, and whether you guarantee shipping delivery date
After the Sale
Follow up on your promises and thank your customer for their business. A customer’s first order with your store solidifies (or demolishes) any credibility created on your actual e-commerce site. Offers customers a fair price and a good shopping experience, and many will return. When you make a mistake: Explain, apologize, and offer to make amends.