How many online businesses do you trust? There’s an enormous difference between carefully and occasionally choosing to buy from a particular site and purchasing from one on impulse. The former is easy for a merchant to achieve (it’s mainly down to having the right price at the right time), but the latter is challenging — as well as incredibly valuable.
Think about how many sales Amazon picks up every day purely because people know they can trust it to deliver quickly and conveniently. It doesn’t always have the best price, or the largest selection options, or the most generous guarantee, but it’s carved out a niche as the default option. You don’t need to second-guess an Amazon order.
In the case of Amazon, this is largely down to name recognition, something that small brands can’t dictate (and thus can’t count on). But they can dictate the quality of their websites, improving them until they provide exceptional user experiences. Key to this is taking every opportunity to show trustworthiness — and that calls for great visual elements.
This is because visuals catch attention far more quickly and consistently than text can. Trust indicators in text can be missed by those who gloss over the content, so imagery is the best bet for getting a message across. So how can you best deploy visuals to encourage your website’s visitors to place their trust in your brand? Let’s look at 7 visual trust indicators you can (and should) add to your site to enhance your UX and win more conversions:
There’s a basic impact to a strong out-of-5-stars rating that can’t be denied. Assuming you’ve done a good of catering to customer demand and encouraging happy customers to leave reviews, you should at the very least be able to boast a rating above 4 out of 5. If so, including your aggregate review rating in a prominent position above the fold (along with a caption clarifying the number of ratings involved) — and ensuring it’ll show up in the SERPs — will go a long way to assert the value of your brand.
Be mindful when you do this that your aggregate review must be fully believable. If it’s a flat 5 out of 5, it will seem shady: too few ratings will sap the significance, and a healthy number of ratings will make the perfect rating seem implausible (you’ll never satisfy every customer). Don’t waste any time trying to curate your reviews. Leaving in the negative reviews will show that you’re not afraid to admit that you’re not perfect, after all.
By trust badges, I’m talking about any kind of badge intended to make the site visitor feel more confident about proceeding. A trust badge could relate to a brand accreditation, adherence to a particular standard, or an award (or similar incident of recognition). Common examples include the PayPal verification badge, the VISA verification badge, and an SSL certification badge (this will vary depending on the SSL provider being used).
The reason that trust badges matter so much is that they neatly communicate elements that are utterly vital to the online buying experience. Much ado has been made about securing personal data, with customer data leaks getting a lot of public attention, so it’s understandable that shoppers would be wary about providing their details (financial and otherwise). Having trust badges for payment gateway services will reassure visitors that their information will be safe.
And if your business operates in a more specific industry niche (or if you want to make a broader commitment to some kind of social cause, perhaps through supporting a specific charity or environmental standard), there will presumably be various schemes and partnerships you can join to attest to your expertise, quality, and responsibility. If you’ve gone to the trouble of joining a particular scheme, you might as well make mention of it on your site.
Social media dominates the internet these days, and shoppers often take cues on where to buy (and what to make of particular brands) from what they see on social media channels. More significant for brands, though, is the potential of social media coverage to destroy reputations.
Look at it this way: back before social media hit it big, a customer who had a negative experience could complain about it to their friends, but it wouldn’t affect the business much. Now, though, that negative experience can be shared on social media within minutes — and though it’s more likely than not to be overlooked, there’s a solid possibility that it’ll get some attention and spark a trend specifically around how bad your brand is.
Fearing the power of social media, plenty of brands that aren’t overly confident in their ability to impress will choose to avoid it entirely, not creating social media accounts and not pushing people to post about them. Consequently, if you scatter social sharing buttons throughout your site (ShareThis will give you the code you need), encouraging people to talk openly about your brand on social media, it will suggest that you have nothing to hide and are willing to be placed under public scrutiny.
When you’re selling physical products online, you face a difficult situation relative to traditional brick-and-mortar retailers. The higher the asking price, the more important material quality and specific dimensions tend to become, and the more eager a prospective customer will be to physically inspect the item they’re considering — something that can’t be done over the internet (the closest you can come is with a try-before-you-commit system).
You can tell them that your product is made with premium ingredients, but they might not believe you, and for good reason. Plenty of sketchy retailers make inaccurate claims about their products to tempt unwary shoppers, particularly through marketplaces like eBay, and returning a mis-sold item isn’t straightforward even when the financial side is covered.
Because of this, you should make every effort to provide high-quality product images. They should be high-resolution, well-lit, and spanning all relevant angles — if possible, you should throw in 360-degree views that can be manually rotated (services like WebRotate360 can make this relatively simple). It’ll never replicate the in-store experience, but it’ll show that you care about helping the shopper make an informed decision.
What if you offer an electronic product? In that situation, what you should try to offer is a visual essentially consisting of a vertical slice of regular use: a composite screenshot that neatly displays all the relevant elements in limited space.
Lastly, there’s the possibility that you don’t sell any products at all. Perhaps you offer a service, for instance. If so, you want to focus on images of your team, your office, and — to whatever extent possible — your business in action. Show what you do, because it will hit home far harder than simply describing it ever would.
Supposing you do sell products, showing a photo of a member of your staff holding a product and beaming with happiness isn’t going to prove very convincing. You have a vested interest in encouraging people to buy whatever you’re selling, regardless of its actual quality, and shoppers are going to be keenly aware of that bias.
User-provided media, however, is much more compelling. If someone purchases your product, takes a photo of the product in use, and sends that photo to you, you can add it to the product page to significantly increase the perceived quality of the product. As with the aggregate review rating we began with, it’s all about the power of social proof.
And if you can encourage people to submit video, that’ll be even better. You can see this with Amazon (it can only skate on brand recognition because it set the benchmark for service), which routinely fleshes out its review sections with customer-submitted photos and videos. The most helpful reviews are generally those with videos that either review the items or provide instructions to help new buyers use them. Do what you can to drive feedback, and it will greatly benefit you in the long term.
Getting a physical location for an online business is very reassuring for a lot of shoppers, because they don’t trust enigmatic online entities. What happens if you place an order, the payment is taken, and the website goes down? Whom do you contact to pursue an explanation? If there’s just an email address, you’ll have no way to escalate the matter if it goes wrong.
When you know that a business has physical premises, it feels infinitely more stable. You can feel confident that it won’t simply disappear overnight, and isn’t some contrived throwaway brand created to exploit trusting shoppers for short-term profit. Since a visual map is extremely easy to provide through Google Maps (there’s even a site that will give you the HTML embed code for your chosen location), there’s really no reason not to offer this.
When I arrive at a store site from which I’m considering buying something large, expensive, or both, a live chat icon is one of the first things I look for. Why? Because I have to anticipate the worst-case scenario of placing an order, which is that I need to get in touch with the store to deal with some kind of problem, whether involving the payment, the delivery, or a potential return. And if that happens, the last thing I want to do is deal with a sluggish ticketing system, or need to find a good time during the day to make a phone call and be left on hold for hours.
Live chat systems aren’t ideal, of course — you can still have to wait for someone to be available, it can be challenging to get certain things across in text alone, and you can’t be sure when you’ll get a person or a chatbot. In general, though, it’s great to know that a site has a live chat system, because it means there’s a commitment to maintaining a certain level of service.
Ideally, a live chat icon should be visible in some form at all times (on all types of device) without being overly intrusive, and should fit with the broad aesthetic of the site. If you don’t already have a live chat system, or you do but it’s only accessible through a dedicated support page, it would definitely be worth your time to make a change.
Used well, each of these 7 visual trust indicators can make a significant difference, helping the site visitor to have a better experience and consequently view your site and your brand as trustworthy. If you don’t feel that your brand is performing as it should, perhaps you’re coming across as untrustworthy. If so, it’s time to fix that.