The internet is crowded. With hundreds of thousands of other online business vying for a customer’s attention, the World Wide Web is quickly becoming a high street with far too many shops and far too little foot traffic to keep everyone afloat.

Empty Highstreet

The vast amount of choice available is overwhelming our customers. This has led to a situation in which a handful of household name brands have earned the public’s trust and as a result now have a digital monopoly within their industry. The situation has got so bad that in 2012, 77% of the $198 billion US e-commerce market was shared between just 500 individual retailers.

The remaining revenue was split between the 90,500 (as estimated by referral candy) US based online retailers earning more than $12,000 a year and the innumerable number of lower revenue retailers who operate online. If “we are the 99%” is the slogan of the Occupy movement, then small online retailers across America stand behind me and chant: “we are the 23%!”

Chanting over? Good. Because the fact of the matter is that we can chant statistics and occupy public parks as much as we want, but the only thing that is going to improve our business’ situation is hard work, great marketing and constant optimization. Bummer.

So what can we do to win potential customers trust and tempt them away from big name retailers? We can optimize our website so as to make them as trustworthy and authoritative as we can.

Part of the reason people are more inclined to shop with household name retailers is the “why take a risk” mentality. Why take a risk on an unknown brand when Amazon has been delivering reliable results for over 10 years?

Here we take a look at five ways you can change your website to encourage your customers to spend their cash with confidence.

Third-party badges

Google Partner

Are you affiliated with any household name companies in any way? If so, be sure to ask them if you can display their logo on your site.

One type of third party logo that most online retailers would be able to leverage for their site is the logo of their delivery partner. Using a reputable delivery service like UPS (in the US) or Royal Mail (in the UK) can send a message to your customers that you are serious about the service you provide, and are willing to use premium couriers to ensure that they get their items promptly.

Also, be sure to include the logo of the payment services you support (PayPal, Google Wallet etc.) and any industry awards you might have received or been nominated for, even if they aren’t known nationwide.

Leverage your physical presence

physical address

A 2013 study by ResponseTap discovered that online retailers who can clearly demonstrate to their websites visitors that they can be reached over the telephone are favoured by 57% of consumers. It was also found that 57% of consumers are more likely to frequent an online business if they know that said business has a real word presence (high-street store, head office etc.) supporting their online activities.

This is because a fixed address reassures people that the business they are dealing with couldn’t simply disappear into thin air at any second. It helps customers to visualise an office full of employees, a dispatch warehouse and all the other trappings of an established company, even if that is not the case.

Customer reviews and testimonials

Plane Cat Playhouse review

In 2014 there really is no excuse for not including reviews and testimonials as part of your website. 2013 research by BrightLocal found that 79% of customers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends and family, which have been regarded for many years as one of the most important factors that would influence someone to take a chance and buy a product or service.

To boost the effect these reviews will have on your customers you can use a third party review verification service. This will reassure your customers that your reviews are by genuine recent customers.


Blog for trust signals

Internet users are much more likely to trust a website if they are offering valuable and unique information, and a company blog is a great place to make this information available. Not only will a blog have a positive impact on your customer engagement, but it will also do wonders for the amount of organic traffic your site is receiving through search engines.

If you don’t feel that you have the time to maintain a regular blog, don’t be afraid to outsource. Sites like Elance  connect writers with businesses who require content for their site and the rates are typically very reasonable, especially considering the ROI a blog can bring.


Partnerships for trust signals

Another great way to build trust within your user base is to partner with other brands and services. For example, a company who sells painting supplies might partner with a national painting and decorating services provider. This would bring the painting supplies company authority within their industry and trust from their customers (as the products are favoured by actual decorators), while the painters and decorators would benefit from a discount on supplies.

Reach out to local businesses or other businesses in your vertical and see if there is a deal to be done, but don’t be pushy. Remember, these deals have to be mutually beneficial, so approaching direct competitors or companies with tenuous links to your industry should be avoided.

Let us know in the comments below if there is anything you personally look out for when deciding if a site is trustworthy or if you have had a great idea that has boosted the trustworthiness of your own page.

Free to use images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons