The Website Trust Ladder: 6 Ways To Develop Trust on Ecommerce Websites

Level 1: Being Open

The biggest disadvantage that websites have – when compared with human salespeople – is the lack of social interaction.

Having a human who could establish rapport, ask questions, and be responsive is a hugely valuable sales tool. It’s the reason why the typical human performs far better as a salesperson than the typical website. According to analysis by Hubspot across 8,900 companies across 28 industries, the average close rate among all salespeople is 19%.

The typical Ecommerce close rate (according to Wordstream) is just 1.91%.

But as the role of websites in the sales process continues to rise, and the percentage of people who are avoiding “pushy” salespeople altogether (or, only involving them towards the end of the sale after their decision has already been influenced by websites) rises – it’s important that we overcome the “social weakness” of websites if we plan to be effective at selling – now, and in the future.

So how do you make your website more “social” and trustworthy?

Well, the first step is to demonstrate you have open lines of communication with customers – via social media, customer service and support, and/or phone (just as in the case study above).

Although we look at websites as an “automated” way of making sales – like a digital vending machine – the evidence suggests that companies who are open to communication with their customers make far more sales.

Again, this is one of the reasons why the previous case study led to a 35.3% increase in sales. By demonstrating that humans were willing to speak with customers via phone – by showing a phone number, name, and photo of a staff member – the ecommerce checkout went from being a “vending machine” that replaced human interactions, to being a tool that supported human interactions.

Another powerful tool for opening up lines of communication with customers is a responsive social media presence.

The British telecommunications giant, BT, invested heavily into its social media presence on Twitter and Facebook – and it’s a decision that has proven to be highly effective.

In addition to delivering over £2m in annual savings in 2014, by deflecting 600,000 contacts per year away from phone-based customer service, it has led to increased sales through greater customer loyalty and spending. Through BT’s own metric around how easy it was for a customer to interact with BT as a brand (the Net Easy Score), BT found that opening easy channels of interaction led to a 40% reduction in “churn” (loss of customers).

A similar strategy is to use live chat on your website. Analysis by KISSmetrics suggests that having live chat on your website can lead to a 50% to 650% increase in leads acquired through your website.

Marketing expert and growth hacker Neil Patel uses live chat with clients to halve support costs, and increase ecommerce conversion sales rates by 45%.

Level 2: Beginning Conversations

Going beyond simply being open to listening to your customers – skilled marketers will develop ways to actively begin conversations with their customers.

Doing this actively demonstrates our dedication to customers: showing interest in them, asking questions, listening to the answers we receive, and being open to improving our actions in service of our customers.

In a study by Harvard University (It Doesn’t Hurt to Ask: Question-Asking Increases Liking), researchers examined data from online chats and face-to-face speed dating conversations.

The research suggested that people who ask questions (and in particular, follow-up questions) were more likely to be better managers, land better jobs, win second dates, and make more sales.

One of the researchers on this paper, Alison Wood Brooks, explained in an interview with Forbes, “Compared to those who do not ask many questions, people who do are better liked and learn more information from their conversation partners.”

So skilled marketers who develop excuses to ask questions of their customers will establish deeper trust.

If you’re running an ecommerce website, the easiest place to ask questions is to follow up with customers via email after they’ve purchased to seek feedback. This might help to build rapport to gain repeat sales, but won’t help with the initial sale.

Being more proactive on social media and live chat is one way to begin conversations with customers earlier in the sales process.

Level 3. Learning from Conversations

Asking a question is a great way to establish trust, and show interest.

But if it’s simply used as a “trick” to engage the customer and make a sale, you’re missing out on some of the most valuable benefits of asking questions: to listen.
Oscar Trimboli is an expert on the positive impacts that deep listening brings to workplaces and the home. However, his insights are equally applicable to sales and marketing.

To borrow from the insights from his book Deep Listening: Impact Beyond Words, and apply them to sales and marketing

Level 4: Addressing Questions and Concerns

Having listened to your sales prospects and customers deeply, you will have taken note of:

  1. What they said;
  2. What they haven’t said, or was left unsaid;
  3. And how they’ve acted (in your data).

In essence, you’ve now identified the anxieties, questions and concerns that are holding them back from committing to purchasing from you.

How can you overcome these blockages?

Trust icons, guarantees, risk reductions and more can overcome these sales obstacles on your website – and gain the sale more easily.

Level 5: Speak The Same Language

Next, make sure your website speaks the same language as your customer.

Take the words that your prospects and customers used when describing problems, issues, decisions and considerations – and reflect those words back through your marketing.

  • What are your customers’ problems?
  • What was the thought that they had, immediately before they began looking for a solution to their problem?
  • What outcome are they hoping for?
  • Why did they begin looking at your website?
  • What concerns do they still have, that are keeping them from making a purchasing decision right now?
  • Who else is involved in the sale? What are those peoples’ concerns?
  • How is your prospect weighing up your offering against your competitors’ offering? If they choose your offering – what factors are the deciding factors?
  • And – most importantly – what words do they use to describe these concerns and considerations?

If your customers talk about wanting to buy an existing software solution because they didn’t want to waste money reinventing the wheel – don’t talk about your “premier end-to-end solution for the widget industry”. Talk about how your solution ensures your customers don’t waste money reinventing the wheel.

The benefit of having listened to dozens of customers with the same problems is that you’ll have heard all the ways customers think about these problems. You’ll understand their concerns and considerations. And – when you reflect these concerns and considerations back to potential customers, using the same words you’ve heard – you’ll be able to articulate your prospect’s problem more clearly than they can themselves.

If you can articulate your prospect’s problem more clearly than they can themselves – they’ll naturally believe your solution is the best fit for their needs.

You’ll develop trust, rapport, engagement and a connection that is difficult for your competitors to outsell or outmanoeuvre.

Level 6: Sharing positive experiences

One of the strongest social signals human beings look for, when deciding whether we should trust a company, is social proof.

It’s a quirk in the way we think.

When we hear of a restaurant that has long queues, we assume its popularity must be because the restaurant is good.

And – oddly – Social Proof signals such as long queues actually enhance how good we perceive a product is. So we enjoy popular restaurants, wines, movies, books, and products more when they’re enjoyed by plenty of other people already.

Social proof is a signal that something can be trusted.

Imagine you’re one of your evolutionary ancestors, considering a refreshing swim in a river. How do you know that the water is safe? That there are no alligators hiding in its murky depths? That the water is not contaminated with bacteria or microbes that might make you sick? That fish in the water won’t bite you? That hidden objects under the water might cut, stab, or impale you?

If you’re alone in making the decision, you’ll feel hesitation and doubt.

But the presence of a few dozen of your tribe members shouts a clear message:

“Come on in! The water is warm!”

On a website, it’s hard to show social signals like long queues. But we can show happy crowds of past customers.

Star ratings, product reviews and testimonials are the way to do this.

A 2016 BrightLocal Local Consumer Review Survey found that 92% of consumers read online reviews and testimonials when considering a purchase.

Interestingly – even though there’s the potential they might be faked – we tend to trust online reviews.

The same study found that 84% of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. And the evidence suggests the more reviews, the merrier the customer.

A 2014 version of the same study asked “How many online reviews do you need to read before you feel that you can trust that business?”

35% of people responded that they would need up to 3 reviews; 67% would be convinced after 6 reviews; and 85% by the time they’ve reached 10 reviews; and 93% by the time they’ve read 20 reviews. So if you have 20 trustworthy reviews, chances are you’ll convince up to 93% of people that you can be trusted.

Analysis by Northwestern University of over 400 million consumers who interacted with reviews on the PowerReviews platform confirmed this.

They found that the more reviews there were for a product, the more likely it was that someone would purchase the product in response to seeing those reviews.

In a practical sense – how effective are reviews at making sales?

Well, in my own Conversion Rate Optimisation codex (a document containing the lessons learned from past split tests), there’s a simple test that involved adding three one-line testimonials to the homepage of a site. This simple tweak led to a 34% increase in the number of leads this education provider attracted online.

Other case studies point to 7-20% increases in number of people buying.

But it’s not just the number of sales that can increase. It’s also the value of sales.

According to a report by BigCommerce, when a customer interacts with your review, they become:

  • Up to 58% more likely to become a customer;
  • Up to 62% more valuable as a visitor, and;
  • Purchase up to 3% more per order.

Tiny tweaks can make a huge difference to your sales. Want help working out which tiny tweaks will lead to the biggest increases in sales for your online-facing business? Get in touch here for a free strategy session.