Does your website include them all?
Creating and maintaining a business website is a strategic, proactive task. It is your shop window, through which your online customers will peer and decide whether to have a browse around. Like a tangible, high street shop, you need to avail yourself to your customer, without ramming a sale down their throat as soon as they walk through the door.
It takes skill. It takes the ability to know when to leap, and when not to leap. It takes credibility.
And this is the topic for today’s post – what makes customers run for the hills and what is it that makes them stay. Like a tangible shop, you website has a lot of boxes to tick… and this is BEFORE potential customers have made an enquiry, left a question or, better still, decided to make a purchase.
The online world can be a malevolent place
Like ‘real’ life, some people out there are not as nice as you or I. They are wanting to secure their money, goods or whatever it is they want, by means that are underhand, illegal in many cases.
With the Internet being full of scams, malicious websites and scoundrels, potential customers are growing in suspicion. The website needs to look and feel right; you may be one of the best producers of a certain product, your products may be the best in the business BUT, if your website does ooze this same quality, appearance and credibility, you are on a hiding to nothing.
This needing to look ‘alive and kicking’ is something we have talked about before; the regular addition of new, quality and informative content. The links with social media, the links with other websites, all these things meld together to create the ‘right impression’. The impression that the website is monitored, looked after and valued. It is not an online presence that has been dumped there to entice people to part with their cash.
What is credibility?
No, really; what is it? We all have different yardsticks to measure website credibility but B.J. Fogg, Stanford University defines it as this;
…credibility is defined as believability. Credible people are believable people; credibly information is believable information. In some languages, they use the same word to describe both of these characteristics: credible and believable.
Sounds all well and good but, as some of us are aware, the most convincing of con artists are believable but, what can happen is we think of credibility in a one-dimensional way. It is important to remember that credibility is:
- A perceived quality, overall – is isn’t necessarily embedded in a person, object or a piece of information; it is the overall impression
- It is multi–layered – other emotional factors come in to play, such as trustworthiness and expertise
Fogg also points out prominence & interpretation system – you notice something (prominence) and make a decision, or a judgement about it (interpretation).
Thus to give you a helping hand, here are the 10 crucial ingredients that lend credibility to your website:
It is no great surprise that we judge a business by its website. The better this design, the more we seem to trust it. Studies show that consumers are naturally less trusting of websites that a tangible, on the high street retailer – 30% less trusting thus, as online retailers, we are a step behind the high street shop.
BUT… websites that are ‘pretty’, designed well, with trimmings and the like, make up for this shortfall. A study of 2,500 online shoppers conducted in 2011, found that nearly half of them trusted a website based on the design and look of a website.
Clearly, a BIG lesson for us all.
Security and seals
There are many different security seals and certification we can display on our e-commerce websites and it seems these marks are also important in impacting on the judgement that consumers make about websites and credibility.
Increasingly sassy, consumers are looking for ticks that say ‘we have jumped through hoops, and your can shop safely with us’. People are realising that the need to put in bank details is not always something we should be doing… we admit to always looking for PayPal or Sage Pay, knowing that our details are not data and information that the website business will have to store or keep safe, for PayPal do all that anyway.
For authenticity, use seals and marks that are highly recognised; in a 2011 survey, consumers recognised the logos for MacAfee, Verisign and PayPal. Familiarity seems to ooze credibility.
Clearly visible contact details
The basics like a physical address, contact phone and email contact are the three top credibility signals for you website. Various studies also go on to suggest that photos of ‘the team’ can also be a useful tool for lending credibility. If people have to look too much, for hidden information that they consider ‘basic’, you may find that your website credibility takes a sub-conscious nose dive.
If nothing else, have a prominent ‘contact us’ button!
OK, potential customer may not read your 2,000 word diatribe on the effects of poor quality screenwash on a car’s paint work BUT, if the content is relevant (clearly not if you sell bags, hats and scarves), informative and engaging, then it all adds to the credibility of you and your website.
Customers tend to ‘scan’ information and thus, they may not devour every word but the fact that it is there and the fact that you add content regularly to your website is also important. And customers DO scan the dates of when things were added…
Returns, FAQs, terms & conditions etc.
Again, at this mid-point in our list of 10 things that add credibility to your website, the policies of when you will and will accept returns, the terms and conditions of trading, FAQs etc. may not be the most exciting pages of content but, it seems, that when they are clearly visible, customers feel they can trust the company and website. Remember the ‘perceive – interpret’ equation?
One of the biggest bug bears, it seems to customers is the lack of information about a product. If two websites sell exactly the same product – a white mug – but everyone is ordering from one and not the other, the answer may lay in the product description.
Which one would you buy…?
A white mug, with a handle. Great for all hot beverages. Order 2 and get a third free!
A white, porcelain mug, great for everyday use. Holding 16oz of your favourite drink – hot or cold – the mug can withstand the rigours of the dishwasher too. Standing at 12cm tall, it is a mug that is simply perfect
Delicate, but not flimsy so why stop at 1? Buy 2 and get the third free!
Don’t underestimate details in product descriptions; 60% of shoppers said they used the product description as a cue of whether to buy, or not…
When there are genuine testimonials on your website, they attract attention. Experts, for some time now, have been telling companies that stories to content is a key factor is adding credibility to a website, and now, after various studies, it seems that this is the case.
Make sure they stand out; give them some whopping quotation marks to help them stand out!
Testimonials are when people love you… reviews are when people are commenting on the product. So, let’s go back to our “white, porcelain mug, great for everyday use”. If the reviews looked like this, would you be so keen to buy…?
3 out of 5 stars – relay poor quality, cracked when washed… [read more]
79% of customers trust online reviews; think of it as the online version of ‘word of mouth’ – we all know how strong that can be.
Reputation & recognition
Not strictly an online element but, worth mentioning. Reputation and recognition are both important in helping the customer decide if your website is credible… or not. Now, for new businesses this can be difficult to establish thus, you need to make sure that your online presence covers as many bases as possible.
People, if they like your products, may do a separate search on your company thus, you need you social media stuff to pop up, you need some business listings etc. and they all need to be consistent (see Part 1 and Part 2 of better search engine results for local online businesses for a helping hand on this!)
And finally, customer service
This is not last because it is the least important but, in the steps that potential customers take in ‘whether to make a purchase or not’, this one of the last… but, customers of online retail websites have higher expectations of customers service, far higher than when they approach any other industry.
We expect brands and businesses, or so it seems, to not only be grateful for our business, but value it too.
Credibility of a website is directly linked to interest; if you garner the interest of a user, this lends to your credibility and, it seems, as consumers, we are more likely to use it.
Is your website credible? Are you sure…?