Online businesses want to be trusted. And this requires a combination of good reputation and sense of security. Being trustworthy is big when talking about online presence.
If we are new online and our track record is unproven, it may be hard to win the hearts of our target clients or customers especially if we have nothing much to show. As we start providing outstanding experience to our first online clients, we may have withstood the most critical part of doing business online. But even to win these first clients requires covering the basics.
Since our websites only have visual design and content to prove our being trustworthy, these elements must contain hallmarks of good reputation.
1. How long have we been in the industry. Being in the business over a longer period of time often connotes experience, enduring brand presence and assurance of high quality product. No wonder watchmakers often mention years they have been perfecting their craft. So if we are in the business for a long time, let’s make it a selling point and display that in the homepage.
2. Who are our customers. If a data center has been serving giant companies like Google or Apple, that speaks a lot of its capability of handling blue chip companies that require high-performance servers in large volumes. So it helps to do a bit of name dropping to get this message assurance sent across.
3. Who are endorsing us. If I am a marketer with multiple connections (thousands of Twitter followers or hundreds of LinkedIn recommendations) I would probably have easier time convincing people than those with inferior numbers. So if someone speaks well about our products, our manner of delivery or how we handled mishaps like product defects or failure to reach promised milestones, put that into writing and let everyone know about their testimonials. If we have good number of social media followers, add a widget that displays the number of fans and followers.
4. Who are talking about us. Being quoted in the press is somehow an indicator of trust; I won’t get interviewed about a topic I am not well-versed about. So when I had a short contribution at South China Morning Post’s news article about Hong Kong’s adoption of social media, I mentioned it (although less conspicuously) in the about page.
5. What Awards Have We Received. Whether we won the Most Promising Online Retailer of the Year, Outstanding Customer Service Award or Whatever Award, such accolades bring positive vibes to our website and needs to be brought up, especially if it was given by a prestigious award-winning body.
6. What Proof Of Good Quality Service / Products We Obtained. In Hong Kong, there is the Quality Tourism Scheme, No Fakes badges or Caring Company certification that signify positive views from third-parties (notably government agencies). In the United States, there’s that Better Business Bureau that certify a business is practicing in good faith. So if we receive such certifications, let’s show them in the website.
7. What Content Do We Have. If we can’t get any of the items listed above, this one should be taken cared of. Content doesn’t only have to be comprehensive, they should also be presented well. Minute but crucial details like punctuation, spelling and grammar can make or break someone’s reputation online. On a wider scale, this also includes how the website is laid out since people tend to offer bias towards well-designed websites.
8. How We Handle Clients. Different services provide different ways of delivering them. But one thing has to be consistent: transparency. If someone bought a pair of shoes on our website, we must assure him or her that the transaction is proceeding smoothly (or not). Like Amazon or DHL which allows tracking of products while on transit from warehouse to buyer’s address, or simply sending an acknowledgment email informing the buyer that transaction has been successful and delivery is expected within X number of days, managing clients well is a recipe for a long-lasting business relationship.
9. Who We Are. Since our website becomes the front-liner, there is a need to build a human side of it. This can be done by placing a comprehensive information of who we are such as profile photos, short bio and information like what we do and our background that even a little bit of ourselves (“loves fishing”, “a Diamondbacks fan” or “father of three kids”) helps. One example is the team page of Executive Homes HK website.
All those morale-boosting content are useless if we don’t assure customers that transactions are secured, privacy is protected and free from threats of malware and harmful distractions.
10. Secure Environment. E-commerce sites need to ensure that shopping experience is secured through implementation of secured http environment. This can be reinforced with placement of “Secured” badges by Thawte, Verisign or McAfee across all shopping cart pages. While not all customers may not be aware of this, there are those who are savvy enough to figure out the safety, or the lack thereof, of our website. Explain how security is enforced and mention the name of our security providers.
12. Clear Returns or Exchange Policy. If product ends up failing to impress the buyer, is there a way it can be returned for refund or replacement? If not, buyer will assume that the shop enforces a “no return no exchange” policy which may influence their decisions. Or what about if service fails to meet expectations? How much of the contract cost needs to be paid? By making this clear, we put minds of customers at ease.
Building a trustworthy website is a long process and entails plenty of efforts. By taking care of both content and security aspects of the site, traditional roadblocks of doubt are conquered and customers are more likely to complete a transaction. Which means good business.