Launching and maintaining an e-commerce site is an expensive endeavor. However, online sales allow small businesses to reach a broader market and cater to a changing clientele (more and more people are making purchases online instead of in-person at brick-and-mortar stores).
By Toni Allen
Online sales, however, isn’t a given, and one of the factors that influence whether visitors to a website will make a purchase or not is whether the site is credible or not. There’s an element of risk involved when purchasing online, so users are highly attuned to things that might indicate that buying from a particular vendor could be problematic.
Because an e-commerce website’s credibility is intimately linked to its bottom-line, site owners should take care that they’re not signaling to potential customers that they are an untrustworthy partner to work with. Here is what owners need to keep in mind when reviewing their websites.
Not Providing Sufficient Information About the Business
When businesses do not provide sufficient information about themselves, customers become skeptical that the site they’re visiting belongs to a suspicious party instead of a legitimate business.
There are many ways for a business to prove its legitimacy. At the minimum, there should be contact details for the company, including a verifiable business address, phone numbers, and email addresses. The website may also include information about the people who own, run, and work for the business. Other options include a regularly-updated blog or links to regularly-updated social media profiles.
Not Providing Outside Perspectives
Customers expect the business to provide accurate details and descriptions of the product they are viewing, as well as samples, images, videos, and other media-oriented displays that help them gain additional information about that product. Because the customer cannot view or handle the product before purchase, they expect the seller to help compensate for the missing information they would otherwise have.
However, providing just the business’ perspective on the product, no matter how objective, is not enough. Website owners should include testimonials from customers who have purchased the item in their product descriptions. They should also implement functionality that allows customers to write reviews and share their opinions and experiences.
Businesses should not fear the possibility of negative reviews; in fact, having some negative reviews for your product will add credence to your site. People are naturally suspicious of products that receive glowing reviews and nothing else.
Not Including Seals of Trust
Because many small businesses are unknown entities, especially to potential customers who are located outside the business’ immediate geographic area. That means that an online business needs additional support to convince a potential customer that they are a legitimate entity.
One way that businesses can earn customers’ trust is to acquire seals of trust, such as those offered by VeriSign, McAfee, PayPal, the Better Business Bureau, and more. By earning these badges, customers see that there are reputable third-parties who are willing to vouch for the business.
Not Using Cohesive Branding or a Professional Design
First impressions matter, especially since visitors form opinions of a site within 50 milliseconds. Websites that do not make an excellent first impression face a loss of credibility, and if the visitor leaves the site, then they have lost the sale entirely.
To prevent this loss of credibility, businesses should take care to present a unified brand using things like consistent color schemes, uniform logos, and so on. They should also invest in a professional design. It can be tempting to save money and use budget-friendly templates or website builders that make development easy for even beginners, but hiring a professional can result in a website that yields a higher return on the investment.
It doesn’t matter what the problem is–broken links, glitches with the search box, slow page load speeds–technical issues leave customers distrustful of a website. Visitors are already taking a risk by choosing online shopping (what if the product doesn’t meet their expectations?), but technical difficulties make it difficult for people to overcome their aversion to potential loss. Businesses need to test their websites, choose a fast web host, and respond to any issues immediately.
In an era where even enterprises with customer familiarity and trust (such as Target) have seen costly data breaches, small businesses need to be even more proactive in reassuring a skittish customer base that it’s safe to work with them.
An e-commerce site’s credibility can make or break a sale, so website owners should do all that they can to reassure customers that their businesses are legitimate and that working with their organization won’t be problematic.