Does your e-store inspire trust?
“Can you inspire customers’ trust?” In my opinion, this is one of the most important questions an owner of any business should ask. Why? Because the success of many undertakings depends on it. People make many decisions based on trust – they spend time with people they trust, buy petrol at stations they trust, go to the dentist they trust, vote for parties they trust, and even buy in stores they trust, choosing the products they trust.
So what is this trust? According to the Polish Language Dictionary, trust is:
- belief that one can trust a person or an institution;
- belief that someone’s words, information, etc. are true;
- belief that someone has some skills and can use them properly.
In order for the transaction to take place with a client, and to maintain a longer relationship, there must be confidence that a product or service being sold is of adequate quality to the price, and the seller praising your product is also absolutely honest. Trust contains an element of risk because the consequences of decisions can be both positive and negative. When people trust, they accept this risk because they believe they will avoid negative consequences.
In my opinion, it is worth to learn more about trust, different ways of generating it and its importance for business.
According to Tooby and Cosmides (1996), the mechanism of trust has evolved in humans to help assess the intentions of others. It is also important in human development – research shows that a higher level of trust in childhood is the basis for a happier life in adult life and more skillful creation of relationships (Simpson, 2007).
As trust is so important in everyday life, it translates directly into economic decisions (Eans, Krueger, 2009). A consumer trusts that he buys a car rather than a ball, an employer trusts that his new employee is responsible, and an investor that the accountants provide reliable information about the company. It would seem, therefore, that trust is a rational premise for making decisions.
According to classical economic theory, consumers strive to maximize their benefits, most often perceived as financial benefits (Evans, Krueger, 2009). Therefore, trust is irrational because it works against these benefits, causing products or services to be selected based on emotions rather than financial benefits.
Although in conflict with classical economic theories, trust plays an important role in customer relations. And getting customers to trust is not an easy thing. As shown by Dan Ariely, a researcher in behavioral economics, people, perhaps taught by experience, are very distrustful (Ariely, 2010). To test this, he and his colleagues performed an experiment in which they set up a stand in a large shopping center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Above the stand he placed a large sign with the words “Free Money”, and the information below with the amount offered (depending on the condition, it could be $1, $5, $10, $20 or even $50). As it turned out? When $1 was offered, only 1% of passers-by approached the stand to find out what was going on. There were not many more people in the other variants. Even the offer to receive free $50 interested only 19% of people passing by.
Of course, in today’s world, it is hard to expect people to believe that they will get money for free (although that’s the way it was). People may have suspected that they would have to give something in return, e.g. complete a questionnaire. However, 19% of those willing to take the opportunity to receive $50 testify to the very high level of distrust of the public towards offers addressed to them.
How high? The next experiment of Dan Ariel (Ariely, 2010) helps answer this question. Together with their colleagues, they presented unambiguous statements to the subjects, such as “the sun is green”, “the camel is bigger than the dog” and they asked if they are true or false. Of course, 100% of respondents identified them as real. Then, the researchers repeated this procedure on another group, informing the respondents that these statements are expressed by Proctor & Gamble, the Republican party or the Democratic party. In this case, the respondents questioned the veracity of these statements, expressing doubts such as: “What if the dog is a mastiff and the camel is just born?” As you can see, when a brand is involved, for example, Proctor & Gamble, the participants approached them so suspiciously that it affected their ability to identify undoubtedly correct statements.
As you can see, research shows that consumers are distrustful, as if from nature. Is it the same on the Internet?
Trust in e-commerce
Due to high distrust of consumers in general, sellers are faced with a difficult task of convincing them that it is worth using their services. In my opinion, this is particularly difficult on the Internet, where competition is high and possibilities to gain trust are limited. There is no extremely charismatic sales person here who will patiently explain all advantages of a product and the store. You also cannot touch, watch, try, or turn it on. So how to design a service that will inspire confidence among users?
Many scientists have decided to ask users through various surveys and questionnaires, which factors in websites inspire confidence in them. Among them, one can mention Al-Dwairi (2013), who distinguished the following confidence indicators:
Gustavsson and Johansson (2006) came to similar conclusions, presenting security and privacy as the most important of them. What exactly should one pay attention to in the context of the above-mentioned markers? I will deal with them now in turn.
Security and trust
One of the most important factors that inspire the confidence of website users is security. When shopping on-line, a lot of information that should not be available to outsiders is involved. This certainly applies to personal data, including addresses and emails. In addition, in many cases, customers give their credit card information or information about their bank account. That is why it is so important to convince them that using the site is safe. In addition to online stores, it is necessary for online banks, which, after all, give access to financial resources.
One of the ways to enhance the security of the site is the use of certified keys for encrypting the connection between the server and the user (SSL). They provide secure data transfer, i.e. they guarantee that sensitive data during transmission will not be available to third parties. Users in their browsers see the information that the site is secure, as evidenced by the address starting with https, and the appropriate designation appropriate for the browser. If there are problems with the applied certificate, an error will be displayed to the user.
Not all owners of Polish e-stores remember this. According to CertyfikatySSL.pl report (2011), as many as 79% of e-stores did not have SSL certificate implemented, and an additional 7% had an invalid SSL. In addition, only 59% of them have been configured correctly, which corresponds to 10% of all surveyed e-stores.
In order to additionally convince users about the security of providing information, it is worth to put appropriate security signs on the website. A good place for them is the footer of the page – it is easy to find if someone is interested, but it does not attract attention, scaring users with security problems. Regarding key information, such as giving credit card information, it is also worth using a padlock symbol to confirm the user’s belief that the store is concerned about its data.
Security in web browser
Privacy and trust
Privacy on the Internet is related to security issues. Just as users expect the data they provided on the Internet to be secured, they expect companies not to hand it over to third parties. If a company can convince users that they will protect their privacy, there is a greater chance users will provide their data when required.
When gathering data, it is a good idea to inform users how it will be used. It is a good practice, for example when signing up for the newsletter, how often it will be sent and what it will contain. When gathering questionable data, it is always worth ensuring users what is it needed for. Also, do not ask for unnecessary information. When ordering without creating an account, you can ask for a phone number, which will be forwarded to the courier to make it easier to arrange delivery, but names of parents or place of birth are clearly unnecessary.
The website should also contain a guarantee that personal data will not be abused or sold by the company to other entities. It is a good idea to inform users how they can gain insight into their data, change it or even request deletion from the database.
Thanks to these measures, users can feel that their data is being taken care of and is used in order to best accommodate their orders.
Appearance and trust
In my opinion, the appearance of a website is a factor that should be taken care of first. On the Internet, for lack of other options, you buy with your eyes. The orders are made through an aesthetic, usable interface. As shown in the research cited in the work of Alsudani and Casey (2009), the assessment of website credibility is in 75% based on its aesthetics, and these judgments are already issued even in 3.42 seconds! Therefore, often the first impression that the user has after seeing the page, may affect his assessment not only of the store’s credibility but also its usefulness and intention to make a purchase.
For me, these results are not a surprise. From my own experience I know that if the site does not look modern, there are errors in displaying the resolution that I am currently using, I avoid going through the purchase process. I often prefer to choose a different store, even with a more expensive product, than to risk contact with a shop that looks neglected.
According to people surveyed by Alsudani and Casey (2009) there are general indicators of appearance, which are worth noting. The most important, according to the authors, is to vary the website by using the dominant contrast on the page, both by color and size ** ** (eg By adding a large and colorful image on a website that uses few colors, eg on Apple websites). Such a procedure allows you to direct the user’s attention to important things and does not give a boring, monotonous impression. 100% of respondents found websites using these indicators more reliable than more subdued websites.
Appearance and trust Apple is a good example of inspiring trust through appearance
The authors also pay attention to the harmony of elements placed on the page and the balance between them. Harmony, understood by them, is the compatibility between the attributes of objects on the page, such as color, size, shape, font, and texture. The balance, on the other hand, represents an even distribution of elements with different attributes on the page, both symmetrical and asymmetrical (as in the Apple store visible above – text appeared on the left to balance the larger monitor on the right). If these elements interact with each other, creating an ordered whole, users are more likely to convert into customers.
Content and trust
This is probably the most obvious indicator of a website that inspires confidence. If an online store’s products do not have photos, have poor descriptions, and any information about the company or return policy is effectively hidden, you cannot expect that it will be successful.
Gustavsson and Johansson (2006) point out that important aspects in terms of page content include:
- easy to understand language,
- an easy to navigate menu,
- adaptation to people with disabilities
- placing important information in visible places.
The level of complexity of a page is also important. If a user finds it complicated to use the website or the account creation procedure, he will not buy anything.
I hope that I managed to convince the readers that when designing an e-commerce website it is worth considering whether they inspire trust, and would they make a purchase on such a website themselves. What can they do to make a website appear to users as trustworthy as possible. Of course, the aspects of trust I have mentioned do not fully cover the topic, I chose these because I think it is worth remembering them.
Al-Dwairi, R., M. (2013). E-Commerce Web Sites Trust Factors: An Empirical Approach. Contemporary Engineering Sciences 6(1), 1 – 7. Alsudani, F., Casey, M. (2009). The Effect of Aesthetics on Web Credibility. People and Computers XXIII Celebrating People and Technology, 512-519. Ariely, D. (2010). Predictably Irrational. The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions. HarperCollins e-books. CertyfikatySSL.pl (2011). Bezpieczeństwo zakupów w polskich sklepach internetowych. Evans, M., Krueger, I. (2009). The Psychology (and Economics) of Trust. Social and Personality Psychology Compass 3/6, 1003–1017. Gustavsson, M., Johansson, A. (2006). Consumer Trust in E-commerce. Bachelor dissertation, Kristianstad University. Simpson, J. (2007). Psychological Foundations of Trust. CURRENT DIRECTIONS IN PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE, 5(16), 264-268. Słownik Języka Polskiego. Strona internetowa http://sjp.pwn.pl/sjp/zaufanie;2544487.html (stan na dzień 21.02.2016) Tooby, J., & Cosmides, L. (1996). Friendship and the banker’s paradox: Other pathways to the evolution of adaptations for altruism. Proceedings of the British Academy, 88, 119–143.