When you take your business online and ask new visitors to hand over their hard-earned money, it's the equivalent of asking them to open their wallet to a complete stranger.
Websites for major retailers or established brick-and-mortar businesses don’t have to worry as much about gaining the trust of their visitors. They’ve already earned it. You wouldn’t hesitate to buy from Macy’s or Brookstone online, because you know the company behind the name.
Companies that began as online businesses or local companies looking to expand have the burden of proving themselves to skeptical visitors.
The ones that succeed do so by working to gain the trust of visitors and then justifying that trust by delivering on their promises.
So how do you earn that trust?
Quality products or services
Like any business, you can’t succeed if you aren’t good at what you do. The best website in the world—like the fanciest store in the world—won’t do you any good unless you have something of value to offer. That’s why it is so crucial that you present what differentiates you in a clear and compelling manner.
If you can’t convince a site visitor that you have something special to offer—and get that message across in a matter of seconds—then your website is going to fail. That’s why it is so important to deliver a message of differentiation on your homepage. If you don’t make it the first thing your visitors see, you put your business in jeopardy!
Videos are a great way of telling new visitors who you are and what you are about. They provide an opportunity to demonstrate your passion as well as your expertise. People like to do business with people they like. Among other things, videos can:
- Put a human face on your company.
- Explain your specific expertise.
- Demonstrate or show off your products.
- Provide insight into the business’s origins and philosophy.
- Show off key staff members.
If you are asking people to buy your products and use your services, they are going to want to know why they should do business with you.
If you can get sincere testimonials from satisfied customers or clients, it can go a long way toward gaining your visitors' trust. The key here is that the testimonials must be strong and convincing. Even more importantly, it creates an greater level of trust when you have testimonials from many satisfied customers.
Some of the most effective online testimonials come in the form of video.
Positive press is the Holy Grail for many small businesses. A single story extolling the virtues of your business or products can make sales go through the roof.
Thanks to the proliferation of blogs and online publications, there are many more opportunities to get noticed.
If you sell unique products, put them in the hands of the appropriate media or influencers in your field. Let’s say you have an educational toy for young children, send it to the “mommy bloggers” or education writers. If you roast gourmet coffee, then put the beans in the hands of the many online “foodies.”
They are always looking for new products to share with their audiences. If they like you, they’ll write about you. On the other hand, make sure your products are great—because if they don’t like you, they’ll write about that as well.
Once you’ve garnered positive press and blogger attention, post it prominently on your website. Basically, it tells your potential customers that your products have been given the proverbial seal of approval from a legitimate source.
When it comes to gaining visitor trust, customer service may be the most important thing of all.
You want people to feel comfortable buying from you or choosing you as a service provider. Zappos became an enormous online success because customer service was the principle “product” they were selling. Amazon became a force of nature because of the awesome job they do with customer service.
You need to prominently feature your customer service on the homepage and the internal pages of your website. Make your customer service phone number large, easy to read and prominently displayed. If you have the budget and manpower, provide live chat (preferably 24-hour service).
Show your shipping and returns policies clearly and make those policies as customer friendly as possible.
First-time visitors have thousands of alternatives to your site and are always a single click away from abandoning you. Winning their trust isn’t easy, but it can be accomplished.
- Have something worthwhile to offer.
- Use video to get your message across.
- Have plenty of quality testimonials.
- Get some positive press.
- And, by all means, deliver top-tier customer service!
OPEN Cardmember Gabriel Shaoolian is the founder and CEO of Blue Fountain Media, a results-driven web design and online marketing company based in Manhattan.