17 Ways to Create Trust on E-commerce Sites

15 min read
created Feb 16 2023
17 Ways to Create Trust on E-commerce Sites

The internet can be a scary place for shoppers, so building trust with your customers is essential.

In the run-up to Black Friday 2022, Check Point Research found that an astonishing 4% of all new e-commerce websites were malicious.

Meanwhile, an analysis of Federal Trade Commission figures by Atlas VPN revealed that American consumers lost almost $184 million to online shopping-related scams in the first half of 2022 alone.

Shopping scam statistics.

So it’s no wonder consumers have trust issues.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to build trust in your e-commerce store. We’ll talk through 17 of our favorite tips and strategies in this article.

But first, let’s dig into some theory.

The Importance of Consumer Trust in E-Commerce

Given the prevalence of cyber attacks and scams, consumers are understandably wary when it comes to online shopping.

If your website doesn’t look legit, they’re not going to buy from you.

But building trust in your e-commerce site isn’t just about winning over new, unfamiliar customers.

For starters, it seems that trust carries a price premium. Research from Salsify found that nine in ten shoppers will pay more for a product sold by a trusted brand, while a survey from Deloitte Digital and Twilio discovered that consumers spend, on average, 25% more on trusted brands.

As if that wasn’t enough, Adobe’s Future of Marketing Research Series revealed that when consumers trust a brand, they:

  • Make more purchases from the brand in question (cited by 71% of respondents)
  • Recommend the brand to friends and family (61%)
  • Join the brand’s loyalty program (41%)
  • Post positive reviews or social media comments (40%)

The Impact of Distrust

Whereas trust leads to more sales, higher-value orders, and lots of positive word-of-mouth, distrust does the exact opposite.

It’s easy to see why.

E-commerce is a competitive space. There are likely thousands of websites selling similar products to yours. If a consumer doesn’t trust you, there’s nothing to stop them looking elsewhere.

Importantly, building trust is about more than creating a fantastic first impression. According to The Baymard Institute, the average e-commerce cart abandonment rate is 69.99%. So even if a consumer trusts you enough to start the checkout process, there’s still an extremely high chance they’ll drop out before converting.

And don’t forget that trust isn’t permanent. It can be built — but it can also be lost.

Trust goes both ways. See our How to Block Customers on Shopify guide to learn how to prevent untrustworthy customers from shopping in your store.

Adobe’s research found that 71% of consumers will stop buying from a company if their trust is broken, with 54% admitting they had ditched a brand after a breach in trust within the last year.

How To Build Trust On Your E-Commerce Website [17 Tips]

As a retailer, it’s clearly in your best interests to build and maintain trust with your audience. Make it happen with these 17 tips and strategies.

Spruce Up Your Website Design

Foodies love saying: “The first bite is with the eye.”

When a burger looks good — plump brioche bun; melted cheese; crisp lettuce — we’re already savoring the taste before we tuck in.

The same is true in e-commerce. If we land on an unfamiliar website that looks bad, chances are we won’t stick around. Indeed, research shows that “poor design” is one of the top factors influencing consumers about website trust.

To some extent, design is objective. What looks “smart” to one consumer may appear “hideous” to another. But repeated studies from Nielsen Norman Group have shown that while aesthetic trends change over time, the way humans evaluate trustworthiness in website design has remained largely the same.

Key design-related trust factors include:

Site Organization

Make it easy for shoppers to move around your site by adding meaningful navigation labels.

For instance, sustainable clothing brand tentree has a top navigation menu incorporating links to its key product categories:

Tentree top navigation menu.

Mouse-over those categories and you’ll see a drop-down menu featuring relevant subcategories:

Tentree top navigation drop-down.

Visual Design

Design trends change all the time.

To make matters more complicated, different audiences have different preferences. For instance, Nielsen Norman Group found that younger adults find “flat” website design more attractive than their older peers.

Nielsen Norman Group Attractiveness Ratings.

That’s why understanding your audience is crucial to designing an effective, trustworthy website.

Website Credibility

A typo here; a broken link there. In isolation, these common issues don’t seem like a big deal.

But combined, they can be highly damaging to the credibility and trustworthiness of your website.

Indeed, research from Reboot Digital PR named spelling and grammar issues as the top factor affecting website trust, while broken links ranked at #5 on the list.

Use Great Imagery

You might have the world’s smartest UI, the snappiest copywriting, and the most glowing reviews.

But if your products look terrible on your website, people aren’t going to buy them.

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  • Use product labels to help products sell faster.
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According to Etsy, image quality is the biggest “influencer” on consumer buying decisions, outweighing other key factors like product cost, shipping fees, and review quality.

Purchase influencers of Etsy shoppers.

There’s no silver bullet when it comes to optimizing e-commerce images.

Instead, showcase your products through a combination of image types, such as:

  • Studio shots. Well-lit product images taken against a light background, like this example from Adored Vintage.

Example product studio shot.

  • Lifestyle shots. Images of your product “in the wild,” like this example from The Rainbow Vision:

Example product lifestyle shot.

  • Detail shots. Close-up images that highlight specific details of your product, such as this example from Suta:

Example product detail shot.

Show Social Proof

Social proof” is a term that describes how we replicate other people’s actions to ensure we behave “correctly” in a given scenario or environment.

If all your friends start wearing plaid shirts, there’s a good chance you’ll buy one too. And you’ll make sure to wear it next time you all meet up.

E-commerce marketers can use this phenomenon to their advantage by adding various social proof “factors” to their websites, including:

Product Reviews/Testimonials/Logos

Reviews, testimonials, and logos from trusted third-party organizations are worth their weight in gold when it comes to building trust in your e-commerce store.

This is particularly true for reaching and converting new customers who haven’t heard of you before. Indeed, research from Trustpilot found that 93% of consumers read reviews before buying online from an unfamiliar company.

Trustpilot research findings.

But while glowing recommendations from consumers and professional organizations are clearly valuable, don’t be tempted to “cook the books” by weeding out negative feedback.

According to Power Reviews, 46% of shoppers are suspicious when products have a 5/5 rating, rising to 53% among Gen Z consumers.

There’s even evidence that negative reviews can increase conversion rates. Indeed, Power Reviews also found that shoppers who filter for one-star ratings convert at a 108.8% higher rate than the average page visitor.

Displaying Statistics on Product Adoption

Social proof is ultimately about convincing shoppers that everyone else is onto something — and they need to get involved, too.

One way to do that is by demonstrating how many people are buying and using your products.

On a simple level, you could add messaging to landing and product pages, saying something like: “One million people trust our product.”

Or you could create a more time-sensitive hook by displaying recent sales notification popups, which tell website visitors when someone has just purchased a product:

Example recent purchase popup.

Image source

Media Mentions

Fortunate enough to have your brand or products mentioned in the press? Don’t be afraid to shout about it!

As a minimum, you should be sharing positive feedback from credible publishers via your social media channels.

But if a big name in your field says something nice about you, you might even want to add their testimonial to relevant product or landing pages.

Ensure Important Information is Easy to Find

Without wishing to state the obvious, online shoppers can’t pick up, inspect, or try out a product before buying.

If they have doubts about how it’ll fit, feel, or look “IRL,” they’re not going to buy.

For that reason, you should make it as simple as possible for potential customers to find all the information they could possibly need about your product.

Bedding brand Brooklinen does this by adding a product-specific FAQ section to its product pages:

Product-specific FAQ.

Image source

As you can see, the page also features information about product dimensions, materials, cleaning, and returns.

Include Human Photos/Pictures

Another way to establish trust in your website and brand is to show real people using (and, hopefully, enjoying) your products.

One approach is to add professional shots to your homepage and other landing pages, like this example from Yeti:

Example professional human shot.

Alternatively, ask your existing audience to submit images of them using your products. This tactic is favored by action camera brand GoPro, which has an entire web page dedicated to user-generated content:

User generated content.

Sure, it takes time and effort to build a consistent stream of high-quality UGC.

But the results are worth it, with research from Stackla revealing that four-fifths of consumers say user-generated content “highly influences their purchasing decisions.” In contrast, only one in eight say the same about brand-created content.

Be Easily Reachable

Consumers feel reassured when they know they can get in touch with you.

Sounds simple. Yet many businesses are missing the mark, with research from Drift revealing that:

  • 34% of consumers feel frustrated because they can’t get answers to simple questions from brands
  • 25% struggle to find basic business details, such as addresses, hours of operation, or phone numbers

Do your customers a favor: display your contact details prominently so they can reach you if necessary. Even if they never call or message once, it’ll make you look more trustworthy.

Ensure Your Site Has an SSL Certification Installed

According to The Baymard Institute, about one in five online shopping cart abandonments happen because customers don’t trust websites with their credit card information.

Research results for checkout abandonments due to trust.

Fortunately, this trust issue is comparatively easy to tackle: protecting your site with an EV SSL certificate reassures visitors that they’re dealing with a legit business, giving them the confidence to buy.

Be Consistent In Your Branding

On the face of things, inconsistent branding might not seem like a trust factor.

But imagine a new customer finds you via Instagram. Your Insta presence is all bright colors and emojis. Then they click through to your website and find a black-and-white homepage devoid of personality.

They’d likely think they were on totally the wrong website — so they’d bounce, never to return.

For that reason, it pays to maintain consistent branding across your marketing channels, taking into account your:

  • Color palette
  • Tone of voice
  • Brand logo
  • Fonts

Provide Convenient Delivery

Remember: just because a shopper trusts you enough to add a product to their shopping cart, that doesn’t mean they trust you enough to buy.

We’ve already noted that over two-thirds of all shopping carts are abandoned.

Research from X Delivery and the Retail Management Institute at the Leavey School of Business revealed that almost three in five of those abandonments are caused by shipping-related issues.

Research results for checkout abandonments due to shipping-related issues.

In short, if customers don’t trust you to deliver their purchase on time and at a reasonable price, expect them to look elsewhere.

Set Up Strategic Content Marketing

Often, we look for practical ways to build trust — like gathering more reviews and improving our checkout process.

But there’s also a creative element to trust-building. The content you create can have a huge impact on how prospective customers perceive your brand.

Indeed, research from the Content Marketing Institute found that building trust and credibility is one of the top goals for B2C marketers.

Research results showing B2C top goals including building trust and credibility.

In other words: if you invest in high-quality content marketing, audiences are more likely to trust what you say.

Personally Respond to Emails and Inquiries

Consumers are a demanding bunch — especially when they have questions to answer.

According to Super Office, 46% expect companies to respond to customer service queries within four hours, while 12% expect a response in 15 minutes or less.

Sure, meeting those expectations is tough. But consumers rate “fast response times” as the most important element of a high-quality customer experience. Reply quickly and you’ll build a ton of trust.

Research results showing fast response times as the most important element to consumers.

Also, take a look at item #5 on that list: “A person to speak with.”

It’s fine to use chatbots to provide a speedy response, but be sure to pass the customer onto a real human as quickly as possible (if necessary).

Respect Your Customer’s Data and Privacy

Privacy and data security are growing concerns for consumers.

Research from Adobe revealed the top three brand behaviors most likely to cause a breakdown in trust are all related to data misuse and privacy:

  • 49% hate being tracked online or contacted without permission.
  • 39% dislike when brands send too many communications and aren’t clear with their privacy policies or how they use customer data.
  • 39% lose trust when brands keep targeting them even after they opt out.

Sure, data is valuable.

But so is trust. And no one’s going to trust you if you fail to respect consumers’ privacy preferences.

Be Upfront About Charges

By this point, it should be clear that transparency is crucial to building trust in an e-commerce store.

That extends to your product information, review scores, and contact details — and also to your pricing.

According to The Baymard Institute, unexpected extra costs — like shipping, taxes, and fees — are the most common cause of shopping cart abandonments.

Research results showing shipping and other fees the most common cause of shopping cart abandonments.

The lesson here is clear: be open and honest when it comes to additional costs.

Don’t promise free shipping if it’s only available to a small subset of your audience. And don’t exclude compulsory fees from product prices in a bid to close the deal — it’ll only make you look dishonest and untrustworthy.

Tap Into the Power of Word-of-Mouth

Nowadays, marketers can leverage social media ads and PPC to target millions of customers worldwide.

Yet they’ll never be able to surpass the power of word-of-mouth. A few positive words from a friend or family member mean more than a thousand adverts.

Nielsen’s latest Trust in Advertising report revealed that word-of-mouth is comfortably the most-trusted channel among US consumers, with 89% trusting recommendations from people they know.

Rather than simply hoping your customers will recommend you to their loved ones, get proactive with word-of-mouth by:

  • Starting a refer-a-friend program
  • Asking customers to review your products online
  • Incentivizing customers to share user-generated content

Make Social Media a Central Part of Your Strategy

Whoever you are and whatever you sell, it’s a safe bet that the vast majority of your audience uses social media.

While social channels used to be about sharing pictures of your dinner and cringing at celebrities, they’re playing an increasingly important role in the path to purchase. In the US, three-fifths of Gen Z consumers and half of Millennials have bought a product after seeing it on social media.

Survey results showing social media driven purchases by generation.

But that’s not going to happen if your social media presence is untrustworthy.

You don’t need to be ultra-professional; brands like Wendy’s and MoonPie have seen a ton of success by being plain weird on social media.

As always, the important thing is to understand audience expectations. Create and share content that speaks to their needs and interests. And don’t be a one-way street; take the time to respond when people reply to you.

Go Beyond Pictures (And Even Video)

“Visual content” used to mean photos, animations, videos, and infographics.

But times — and technologies — have changed. Today, a growing number of e-commerce stores are leveraging augmented reality to build consumer trust and confidence.

For instance, Glasses.com allows customers to virtually “try on” glasses from the comfort of their screen:

This gives consumers the confidence that they’re making the right purchases. And it also helps reduce returns by providing a clearer impression of what a product looks like in real life.

Offer Alternative Payment Options

Time for one final, juicy statistic from The Baymard Institute: one in 11 cases of shopping cart abandonment are caused by the e-commerce store offering insufficient payment methods.

Especially if you serve multiple markets or demographics, it’s important to remember that payment preferences can vary widely from one customer to another. For instance, research from Experian shows that Gen Z consumers have less than half as many credit cards as Gen Xers and Baby Boomers.

The solution is simple: offer a wide choice of payment options. And replicate ASOS by clearly displaying all the payment types you accept:

An example of a wide choice of payment options.

Image source

Final Thoughts

There’s no single action that’ll guarantee trust in your e-commerce store. Rather, it’s about a combination of factors. Take the time to generate high-quality reviews and testimonials; optimize your website design to ensure a friction-free path to purchase; offer shipping options that meet the needs of your audience. Do all that — and more — and you’ll be on your way to reassuring potential customers. And more trust ultimately means more sales.

Looking for more ways to boost sales and revenue? Check out our guide on 25 ways to increase conversion rates on Shopify.

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