IntelliPay™ Special Report

Building Trust: Encouraging Your Customers to Buy Online

Millions of people shop online. Millions more do not. Some are still nervous about shopping online because of recent hype related to rumored or a few actual security problems or credit card fraud.

Here are some tips for Internet Merchants to help overcome shopper reluctance, build customer confidence and get more more online orders.


If You monitor your web site page view statistics or other reports related to your web site activity, you may find that many people view your products, maybe even stay around the site quite a while, possibly even add items to your shopping cart, but don’t complete the purchase. There can be many reasons for this, including a confusing or unfriendly site, but one of the reasons will undoubtedly be that your prospects didn’t gain enough trust in your site, products or business to complete their order.

They might have been nervous about entering their personal or financial data into your systems. In fact, these privacy issues and security issues are known to be major concerns of Internet shoppers.

So, what are some things you can do to build more trust in your prospect’s and customer’s minds so they’ll feel more comfortable shopping at your online business?

Here are a few items to stimulate your thinking about things you can do to help build trust and overcome shopper reluctance and build their confidence that the Internet isn’t as dangerous a place as they may be feeling.

“Being There” Continuously Matters. Sounds silly, but being on the web at all is a crucial first step – but how you’re there matters. Remember, your prospects and customers (and suppliers) are all wanting to know how “real” you are. So everything you can do to enhance your “real-ness” will go a long way. Some of that is discussed below, but another trait that is paramount is persistence. Do you keep being there? Is the site maintained? Do you answer your emails, phones and faxes? Do you do things to keep putting yourself “there” in front of your prospects? It sounds naive and silly to say, but you must stay in business – and look like it!

Oh, and, are you listed with all the search engines? Does your company show up when someone searches for related keywords, products or services you deliver? Better yet, does your listing show up in the first page of the search results?

“Being there” also means being where your prospects are. Are they on the search engines looking for someone like you? Are they on specific niche sites where you can advertise or trade links with the site owner?

Can They Contact You Easily? Make it obvious how to find your contact information. Putting your physical business address, phones, fax, email addresses for various departments and any other contact facts will reassure them. After they use them, if they don’t trust you more than before, something’s seriously wrong. They don’t have to buy from you to trust you, and buying from you doesn’t mean they’re not skeptical. However, after they interact with you directly, they should trust you more.

The First, Best Customer Reassurance is that credit card companies protect their cardholders against fraudulent charges and from merchants that don’t fulfill their orders. They can request a refund from you directly, but if that fails they can contest the charge with their bank and the system will go to work for them immediately. You can find ways to remind your prospects of this on your shopping pages, policy pages or payment pages.

Display Success Stories from Happy Customers. This shows your prospects that others are happy with you and your service. If you can display a letter from a prominent customer, so much the better. Remember, small groups make bigger groups; small crowds become bigger crowds. So, build a crowd.

Site Design Plays a Major Role in Customer Trust. If your site design, graphics, layout, fonts, navigation and other traditional web site elements look bad then your customers will think you’re a small, thoughtless company. Web users today have come to expect a reasonable level of sophistication in web sites. Especially important is the first page they see. This is their first impression of your business, and on the web, it’s crucial.

Make Sure Your Site’s Content is Fresh, Accurate and Alive. By itself, site design can only build so much credibility. An over-designed site can actually kill sales. But the heart of your online relationships with customers at your site lives in what you say and how you say it.

Remember, your site is a living thing. Change, improve, add and otherwise keep the site alive as often as possible. A non-changing site may bring a repeat visitor back – once. In your text, be enthusiastic about your company and it’s products and be certain and forthright. Admitting weaknesses in certain products emphasizes your honesty. Provide quick overview content but give them the ability to view deep details if they want.

Make sure obvious errors are corrected instantly. Misspellings, typos, dead links, etc. If you’re out of stock of an item, say so.

Update your product or service discussions. Add new products and promote the “New!” products in obvious places on your most visited pages.

Remind Your Customers That Shopping Online is as Safe as Giving Their Credit Card to a Restaurant, where the staff can see the card.

Post Your Refund, Return and Privacy Policies Prominently. Buying from someone you don’t know and can’t see feels risky enough. Most shoppers want to know what to expect if something goes wrong with their order. If they’re uncomfortable with what can happen after the sale, they’re gone.

Display Emblems, Icons or Logos of Your Site Partners. Better Business Bureau and Chamber of Commerce logos, the logo of the company providing site security for you, the logo or Powered By badge from IntelliPay™, logos showing any awards you’ve won, credit card graphics and many other items build trust by showing you’re making use of industry standard, or advanced, tools and processes. Be sure to honor all copyright and trademark laws when displaying the names and other properties of other companies.

Emphasize That Their Data is Being Transmitted Using Encryption for Security. If you’re collecting any personal or sensitive data from site visitors, be sure to get a secure site certificate so you can serve secure pages. This will turn on the little lock or key icon in their browser, the data they send will be encrypted, and they’ll know it. When collecting credit card numbers, you must collect that data securely. If you can’t, or don’t want to go to the trouble of instituting your own security, use a payment provider that will do it for you, such as IntelliPay™.

Encourage Users to Upgrade to the Latest Browser Versions. Newer browsers support 128-bit encryption, the highest level of encryption generally available, providing more secure transactions for users. Provide links to the browser’s update pages to make this process easier for them.

Create an “About Us” Page. This page will describe your company and it’s goals, as well as communicate stability and trust in other ways. Tell them how old your company is, show pictures of the staff or physical facilities, show credentials of key staff, and more.

Describe Your Shipping or Fulfillment Policies in Detail. Simply describe what they should expect from your company in filling their order. Don’t be misleading or uncertain. Tell them when you’ll ship, how long it will take, and what to do if it doesn’t arrive when you say it will. Then be absolutely certain that their order arrives before you told them it would. Startle them at the fulfillment stage.

Emphasize and Deliver Top-Notch Customer Support. Whatever support options you offer, make them obvious on the site. When you or your staff are delivering support, remember that the support interaction may be one of the only “in person” contacts you have with that customer. It’s a vital opportunity to impress, build satisfaction and trust, ask for success letters and detect upsell possibilities. Don’t waste it. But above all, you must answer and handle their support needs – and that must begin by listening, not talking.

Communication Builds Trust, so the more you can communicate to and with your prospects and customers the more they’ll come to trust you and your company. Email newsletters, post-sale follow-up mail, letters or calls, post-support surveys, and many other items can, if not offensive, enhance trust and build sales.

Realistically Emphasize What Makes Your Company or Products Unique. Don’t try to be all things to all people. Most shoppers are unimpressed with “universal” solutions. They’re more likely to trust a specialist or someone with the appearance or reputation as “the” solution. You must know what differentiates you, tell people what that is in a memorable way, and it must be realistic to them.

By no means is this a definitive treatment of trust building. Each of the suggestions above can, and have, been the subject of study by many authors for years. There are as many ways to build trust as there are people and you must find the combinations of actions that are appropriate for your company, products and goals.

Failing to build enough trust has only one sad result.

Building trust, even slowly, opens up the future.