Five Steps To Building Online Trust

By Martin Lindstrom | Posted March 18, 2003
The war, uncertainty, job losses, a draining economy. All are part of a new business environment, revising itself amid daily uncertainty. Needless to say, the volatility takes its toll on brands.

Brands are about trust. Have I mentioned that before? Let me mention it again. Brands equal trust. Brands are promises, a guarantee of expectation fulfilled. Consumers instantly recognize a host of significances in any given brand. They buy into them as they do into their own beliefs. At least, that's what happens when you can align your needs with the signals the brand sends you. That's the challenge for brand-builders.

The pressure on brands to deliver expected quality and performance has never been so great. We're in an increasingly wary social and economic environment. Suspicion and doubt are rampant. What can you do to create even greater trust in your brand online? Well, here's my take on it.

Make Your Site Simple but Informative
The simpler your site is to use and the more complete the information offered, the more readily people will place trust in your brand. Unnecessary complexity confuses and irritates. It makes them suspicious: "What is this company really trying to say?" It makes them doubt the process: "Have I missed something here?" It wears people out: "What a waste of time. I give up."

Use Endorsements and Testimonials
If your brand isn't well-known, use the power of reported opinions to prove the trust others place in your brand. The better known the opinion-owners, the more respected their opinions. Honestly, you can't have too many testimonials or endorsements. People read and respect them, providing they're honest and credible.

Anticipate Every Question
Open your brand's doors to visitors. Satisfy every likely query. Candor and a welcoming attitude are appreciated by new and old customers alike and contribute to building trust. Any impression of secrecy or preciousness, anything that makes a customer's visit to a site difficult, can annihilate trust.

Confirm, Confirm, and Confirm
It's said the most important time for car manufacturers to advertise is within four weeks after purchase. Why? This is the period during which consumers need confirmation they've made the right choice. The principle's the same online, but the reality is more important than in the brick-and-mortar world.

If a customer asks a question, answer within 24 hours. If a customer places an order, confirm it immediately. Confirm again later. Keep customers in touch with their transaction's progress. Once the customer has received the product and had a chance to use it, follow up. Check on her satisfaction. As long as the approach is professional, your message helpful, and your intention clear, you can't confirm too frequently.

Add Real People
Add real people to your site and the customer's impression of your brand. On the Internet, no one knows you're a dog (as the saying goes). Reveal the people behind your brand. Include pictures of service center staff, greetings from technicians, short anecdotes about employees. People trust other people more than Web sites. If you can see the personalities — names or some biographical data — you can develop a greater sense of reliance and trust in the brand. I'd feel more comfortable dealing with, say, LisaNielson@company.com than Order@company.com. What about you?

Building brands means creating and maintaining trust. Look at your brand's site. Consider the five factors: simplicity, endorsement, information, confirmation, and personality.

Is your site trustworthy?

Adapted from ClickZ.com

Martin Lindstrom is recognized as one of the world's primary online branding gurus. His latest best-selling book, "Clicks, Bricks and Brands," written in partnership with the one-to-one expert team of Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, Ph.D., is the world's first DualBook , a clicks-and-mortar subscription-based book concept.

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