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Trust is the foundation of every successful organization — in terms of having a successful business online this, too, is no exception. With the many options served to shoppers today, customer loyalty is harder to attain.

If you’re just starting How does trust develop for shoppers when they purchase a new product online or buy from an online store they’re unaccustomed to? What elements of an online store’s experience are trust builders or trust deal breakers?

What makes for a trustworthy website?

Last year, the teams at Shopify conducted a series of in-depth interviews with a diverse set of North American shoppers, asking them to walk us through their recent online purchase experiences.

The Shopify team sat with each shopper for one hour and asked them to review a recent purchase, involving either a product they’ve never bought before or a store they’ve never bought from before. We also asked them to make a real purchase of up to $40 on a Shopify store they’ve never bought from before.

The aim of the study was to understand what makes a new shopper comfortable purchasing a new item or buying from an unfamiliar store. Specifically, Shopify wanted to find out:

  • How does trust form for shoppers assessing a purchase of a new item on a new store?
  • Which pages or elements in your store are most important for building trust with shoppers?

After analyzing their actions during these purchases, they noted a few patterns which allowed them to pinpoint design elements that are trust breakers and trust builders in online stores.

Trust builders are elements or design details that reassure shoppers — they quell doubts and help shoppers feel relaxed about making a purchase. Trust breakers fill shoppers with apprehension, making them question the validity and authenticity of the business and creating doubt as to whether making a purchase is a safe choice.

Here are what the study found:

1. Ace the first impression with your homepage

What the customer is asking: Does this website feel safe? Can I find what I’m looking for and navigate this site easily?

Business goal: Create a welcoming homepage and establish the overall look and feel of your store on the first visit.

We found shoppers are more critical of a store’s design and layout on their first visit, regardless of whether they’re looking for an item they’ve never purchased or a product they’re already familiar with. Since your homepage often serves as a digital welcome mat, it’s a vital location for building customer trust and should focus on acing the first impression, as well as providing guidance for where shoppers can head next.

Our findings show there are essential must-have elements that shoppers seek out when evaluating a homepage, along with nice-to-have details that can further tip the scales in your favor — though only after the must-haves are in place. Throughout this piece we’ll separate these two groups so you know what to prioritize.

Must-have

  • Content that is consistent and polished, with high-quality photography and error-free copy present across the site
  • A layout that is clean and uncluttered (important for North American shoppers)
  • Category navigation that is easy to understand and use across all devices

Nice-to-have

  • Category names in your navigation that are clear and easy to understand (e.g., Shop, Women, Men, About, Contact, etc.)
  • When selling internationally, copy and content translated into the shopper’s language and prices listed in the local currency
  • Fast-loading pages across your store, with no errors (shoppers usually only notice performance issues when pages are slow or broken)

2. Provide customers with essential information

What the customer is asking: Does this product solve my problem?Is it well made and the right size or dimensions? Is the price fair, and can I afford it?

Business goal: Make product information easy to discover with detailed product pages, accurate search results, and collection pages.

Once a new shopper navigates away from the homepage, we found they typically head straight to a product page. The product page is where shoppers evaluate a product’s value, whether they’re visiting a new store or a store they’re familiar with.

The right layout and design elements on your product page make it easier for customers to determine if each product offers the value they’re looking for. Images, descriptions, sizing charts, stock and inventory details, and information about shipping and taxes draw outsized attention from customers. 

While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to designing the perfect product page, our findings once again show there are cardinal details to consider for building trust, regardless of your industry.

Must-have

  • A variety of product photos for each product page
  • Product descriptions organized into distinct sections for readability
  • A size chart, preferably with size conversions, on your product page, when appropriate
  • Recent product reviews on the product page

Nice-to-have

  • Return policy and shipping information included on the product page
  • A product video included on the product page
  • Desktop only: a “quick view” option on collections that allows customers to view the product without opening the product page

3. Share your story and why the business started

What the customer is asking: Is this an upstanding business? Does it treat its customers fairly?

Business goal: Help the shopper feel reassured this is a legitimate business. If you have a mission or values, share your brand story and why the business was started.

We found that shoppers want to navigate to an About Us page to learn more about the brand — and the people — behind the products. An About Us page should offer up answers to quell the two curiosities that shoppers have.

First, interest in a brand’s About Us page piques when someone is suspicious about whether the store is real or authentic. Shoppers often are trying to make sure a business will be around for the long term and won’t suddenly close up shop. This is why a Contact page can be useful: by listing a contact phone number, email, and retail location (if there is one), it offers shoppers reassurance.

Second, many customers are interested in the business’s mission and purpose and if they share any values with the business (e.g., sustainability). They will turn to the About Us page to learn more about who they’re buying from and, for more socially conscious customers, how the business is run.

Must-have

  • An About Us page
  • A Contact page
  • A phone number included on the Contact page
  • A detailed story of the brand included on the About Us page 

Nice-to-have

  • A professional email associated with the store domain included on the contact page (e.g., info@yourstore.com and not yourstore@outlook.com)
  • An option to contact support via an online chat
  • When appropriate, the address of the merchant’s physical location(s) included on the contact page

4. Show current customer satisfaction

What the customer is asking: Do other customers think the product is as described? Does the business treat its customers fairly?

Business goal: Provide customers with the social proof they’re looking for about your brand and its products.

Our research found shoppers greatly value the reassurance they get through impartial customer and store reviews — unsurprisingly, they pay close attention to what previous customers have to say. 

When considering a purchase on a new website, shoppers want to read reviews on product pages, external sites and marketplaces, and social media before completing the transaction. Specifically, shoppers look for any inconsistencies or explicit warnings from previous customers, or feedback that contradicts what a business says on its website. On social media, shoppers may, for example, use mental math to figure out if the ratio of Instagram followers to likes feels authentic.

It’s essential business owners understand that community sentiment can be what makes or breaks the decision to purchase a product.

Must-have

  • Positive product reviews that have a rating of 70% or more
  • Product reviews posted on social media that are mostly positive (e.g., reviews shared on Instagram, YouTube, etc.)
  • Product reviews that are descriptive and with customer ratings
  • A social media following on Instagram, Facebook, or other platforms
  • Positive store reviews on external websites like Google, Facebook, Yelp, Trust Pilot, Amazon, eBay, etc.

Nice-to-have

  • Product reviews on product pages that include photos
  • Product reviews for clothing/accessories/health and beauty that include the reviewer’s description of themselves (so shoppers can relate to review more)
  • Product reviews that include a video of the product
  • Links to the store’s social media profiles that are easily visible in the store

5. Ensure the transaction is transparent and easy

What the customer is asking: What is the cost of delivery and how much are taxes or duty going to be? Are the payment options familiar and secure, and do they function well? 

Business goal: Remove customer doubts and risk when calculating the total cost at shipping and payment.

As the saying goes, “Price is what you pay, and value is what you get.” While high-quality photography and compelling copy help communicate product value, shoppers also want to easily access the total price they’ll pay — with all discounts and fees included — as early in the purchase as possible.

Price is fairly straightforward, but there is lots of subjectivity to what a product costs and how valuable a customer feels it is. That means adding context around price, and reducing unnecessary surprises, is a valuable way to build trust.

Must-have

  • A return policy that is clear and easy to understand
  • When shipping internationally, a shipping policy that clearly states who pays duties and taxes

Nice-to-have

  • Surface shipping costs on the online store
  • Ability to apply discount codes in the cart
  • Ability for the shopper to edit the cart’s content
  • Familiar payment methods (such as PayPal and Shop Pay)
  • Optional order status tracking 
  • Rewards and discounts for future sales, surfaced on the order confirmation page
  • Easy access to the contact page in case order editing is needed
  • For international stores, a language and currency switcher

Customers reward businesses they trust

Customer trust is frequently a blind spot for businesses — especially newly formed businesses — because founders don’t question their own trustworthiness. And when you’re fulfilling promises made to customers and telling true facts and stories in your marketing, why would you ever consider yourself “untrustworthy”? But it’s important to remember that trust is a matter of perception and something every business has to earn.

Over time, your business can build trust by way of many satisfied customers and positive word of mouth. By then, your reputation will precede you and the finer details of your site may not have to do such heavy lifting. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t incorporate proven best practices to make your site feel familiar, reliable, and clear. Doing so will put shoppers at ease, make it easier to buy from your store, and potentially unlock step level growth for your business. 

Source: Shopify blog

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