How To Build Trust Online To Increase Sales And Get Customers

Remember how retailers and service providers used to work? They’d get settled in physical premises, advertise, and wait for people to visit. Not only does visiting a brick-and-mortar store or office push you to do business there (or else feel that you wasted a trip) but it also leaves you vulnerable to all the tricks in the book of elite in-person selling. Great eye contact, enthusiastic smiles, reassuring nods… even the biggest skeptic can be won over by a pro.

Selling online is much tougher, because you don’t have that vital tactical freedom. Visitors to your website can relax, take as long as they need, and slowly come to their own conclusions — even visiting other websites at the same time for comparison. Your charming demeanor and practiced patter won’t get you anywhere.

This is a problem, because in-person communication is great for building loyalty, and loyalty is even more important online than offline. Offline, you can keep returning to a mediocre store because it happens to be nearby. Online, there’s nothing binding a customer to your store — not unless you’re able to earn their trust.

So if you’re going to make the most of your business, you need to do just that — and we’re going to help. Let’s set out some essential tips for building trust online and boosting your sales:

Embrace all forms of social proof

We habitually take cues from society about almost every part of life (what to say, how to act, where to go) and given the sheer breadth of choice available to us online, it’s entirely understandable that we take direction from other shoppers. Social proof is evidence that something — a product, service, brand, offer, or concept — has been chosen and rated by another person, and when it’s positive, it drives us to follow suit.

You might overlook reviews when you’re ordering known quantities (products of set quality, like basic supplies) but whenever you’re branching out or buying a high-price item, you’re going to be checking the reviews. What are the pros? What are the cons? The more information you can gather, the more likely you’ll be to avoid ending up with a negative customer experience.

This is why it’s a huge red flag when a shopper arrives at a commercial site that doesn’t mention social proof. It suggests that the brand doesn’t have the quality to earn strong ratings, so it ignores ratings altogether — or that it’s simply indifferent about how it’s perceived, which is also very concerning. To earn trust, you must show transparency and care by adding social proof including, but not necessarily limited to, the following things:

  • Aggregate review ratings. Every product (or service) should have an average review out of 5 or 10, formed from genuine customer reviews. You can use structured data to make that average review visible in search results, which will attract more visitors and further add to the trustworthiness of your brand.
  • Highlighted reviews (good and bad). While you shouldn’t curate your reviews in terms of removing any, you should pick out notable reviews to present — just be mindful that balance is important, and there’s value in highlighting bad reviews. Not only does it show that you’re not trying to hide any problems, but it also gives you a chance to respond to them and earn plaudits for looking to improve.
  • Rich media provided by customers. Through reviews or otherwise, customers will sometimes send along pieces of rich media regarding their purchases: for instance, someone who bought a set of garden furniture might send a video of people enjoying said furniture at a garden party. This media is great to include, because visuals are always compelling and voluntary praise is far more likely to sell.
  • Relevant expert testimonials or stats. Is your product 15% more effective than the leading competitor? Did a notable figure in the field choose to switch to your brand? Wherever possible, you can offer the social proof from industry authorities and appraisers to make your argument much weightier. There are said to be 6 principles of influence, and this draws from two: social proof and authority.
  • Customer satisfaction metrics. It may be that a given product only has a 0.2% return rate. If so, that’s social proof: it’s evidence that 99.8% of the customers choose not to return their purchases, likely because they’re satisfied with them. Look out for any powerful metrics, and find ways to work them into the copy.

Provide a comprehensive live chat service

Responsiveness is an important part of proving that you’re invested in the happiness of your customers. When they reach out to you for assistance or advice, you should be there, armed with the information they need and a winning manner. Otherwise, they might get the impression that you just want them to buy from you and go away without asking for anything else.

The ideal would be to replicate the experience of being in a physical store by being able to consult an in-store assistant. Now, while you can’t fully replicate it without a physical presence, you can provide an exceptional live chat service for your site visitors to use. This will make it easier for them to find what they’re looking for, and to view your brand positively.

Of course, this isn’t possible without service representatives who are both great at what they do (knowledgeable and compassionate) and happy in their positions. Even the most support workers can get worn down, so keep them content: offer them perks and bonuses, use helpful software (a live chat chatbot to deal with basic queries, payroll software to ensure they get paid on time, etc.), and provide relevant and interesting training courses.

Consider the future ambitions of your business, too. If your company is already beginning to expand into international markets, you might need to consider hiring internationally alongside all of the aforementioned aids. This way, you won’t have to burden your local team with the responsibility of working night shifts in order to maintain response times, or risk the embarrassment of translation mishaps. 

Consistently provide valuable content

It isn’t really enough to just sell products these days, no matter how good the products may be. To get attention, you need to work on your brand — become established as something larger, an entity that can draw people in for various reasons before selling them things. Just think about how many people feel good about the Nike brand regardless of anything to do with its products. That’s the power of the “Just Do It” branding, having now been built up over decades.

Accordingly, one of the best sales tactics for an ambitious online brand is content marketing. By steadily producing content for your followers that entertains them, informs them, inspires them, or manages some mixture of the three, you can earn a lot of goodwill. Great content isn’t easy to create (you need to know how to write content that produces leads), but it’s worth the effort.

If you set up a blog with a consistent upload schedule, you can make your website a regular destination, with every visit presenting a new opportunity for a reader to drift over to your main store and start looking at products. You can also openly recommend your products in your content, if you’re reasonably subtle about it). Of course, the main goal is to build trust, so always focus on the value you’re offering before trying to get value back.

Listen carefully to your customers (and prospective customers). What do they want? How could you help them? They might want a guide to using a particular product effectively, or a set of specific recommendations in the form of a buying guide. They might want some expert insight into your industry. They might even want some behind-the-scenes content to show them what kind of company you’re running.

Prove to your audience that you’re invested in being helpful however you can, and they’ll slowly come to trust that you’re committed to the quality of your brand. That’s absolutely key to earning customer loyalty in the digital marketplace, and it’ll pay off enormously.

There are so many things you can do to build trust, but these three in particular are central to success in today’s online world. Without social proof, you’ll appear careless. Without live chat, you’ll appear distant. Without content, you’ll appear indifferent. Cover them all, though, and you’ll have a great shot at proving your value and reliability.

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Adam Roger

CEO and Founder of Magetop. A friend, a husband and a dad of two children. Adam loves to travel to experience new cultures and discover what is happening with ecommerce all around the world.

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