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Help the Podcast
Hello and thanks for listening. My name is Scott Austin and I'm the host of the Shopify Solutions Podcast. This is the fifth episode of the podcast and I want to thank everybody for the responses that I've received so far for the first four episodes. Without any promotion, these episodes have already been downloaded hundreds of times.
Currently, my episodes are just me where I go deep on a specific Shopify topic and try to share as much knowledge as I can on that topic. These episodes take a lot of time to create as I need to put my ideas down in writing and organize a script. It takes a lot more prep work than if I was doing an interview for an episode. As such, I've created a rhythm of shipping, a new podcast every other week. And I think that's the pace I'm going to keep going for a while. I do have a backlog of topics that I plan to cover and I'm also open to your suggestions for topics to cover. Please send your ideas to me at email@example.com. I'll work your topics into my episodes.
And now onto this episode's topic.
The topic for this episode is establishing trust. In this case, trust is the trust that visitors have or gain for your store. I'll explain why trust is important and list different techniques that you can use to establish trust with visitors to your website.
So let's start off with why trust is important. Remember that you are asking visitors to your website to pay for a product that is not in their hands and have you deliver it to them. So visitors want to know that their personal information and credit card information is safe. Data breaches have become commonplace these days and having your credit card or identity stolen, is quite the hassle. Your customers also want to know that their order will be received by someone and processed in a reasonable amount of time, that the product is of high quality and that your company will be around to support the purchase down the road.
With large corporations. Much of that trust is already established as those companies have built their brands over the years. For example, no one worries about Amazon being able to deliver orders in a timely fashion. But with your company, the visitor may know nothing about you. So you'll have to start building your credibility with the customer from scratch.
And because it is very easy to start a new online store these days, there are a lot of bad players out there. Many e-commerce customers have been burned at one time or another with things like:
- products that don't live up to the expectations set on the website.
- or shipping times that are ludicrously long by today's expectations. For example, items that are drop shipped from overseas and shipped across the ocean taking weeks or sometimes even months.
- email addresses being sold to spammers or worse yet, credit card numbers being stolen.
- and companies that aren't around after selling that product for returns or support questions.
That said, customers are becoming increasingly savvy in identifying sites that can be trusted and those that can not. So let's talk about how you and your business can establish trust with your customers.
The methods to establish trust can be bucketed into these four groups:
- First - show that your business is real and legit. The Internet has enabled a vast assortment of scams and schemes. You need to show that your business is real and not a fly by night scam operation.
- Second - show that the business is active. This means showing that the store is actively staffed, so that potential customers know that they can get answers to any questions that they may have and that if they place an order, there's someone there to process it and get it quickly shipped out.
- Third - show that you care about your customers. In today's hyper-connected world, people expect a very high level of quality, service, and responsiveness. So you want to show your customers that you care about their needs and will provide them with respectful service.
- Fourth and last - provide social proof. Gone are the days of the customer solely relying on marketing or mainstream media to assess your company. The Internet allows each of us to learn, in detail, about other customer's experiences with brands. Making it easy for your site visitors to see this information will help you establish that desired trust.
The goal here is to be sending your site visitors signals of trust throughout their time on your store. There's no one tactic or silver bullet. It's a long series of details that need to be performed throughout the entire shopping experience.
So let's go through some tactics for each of these four buckets.
Bucket One - show that your business is real and legit. Our goal here is to have our store look established, real, legit, or however you want to say it. Of course, the best way to look legit is to also be legit. Many of the following best practices can be summarized by showing that you are investing time and money in your company. So here are some ways to show that your business is legit.
- Item One - have a real company name versus an SEO optimized name. By a real company name, I mean something that you're using to build a brand. Let's use my agency as an example. The agency's name is JadePuma. So I didn't name the company something like SanDiegoEcommerceExperts.com. Instead, I'm establishing a brand and building a story around it.
- Item Two - have a logo. Create a graphic to support the company name and brand. Something that can become a visual identifier throughout all of your touch points with your customers. Having a text-only logo shows a lack of investment or concern in building a brand.
Item Three - quality of photography. Your store's curb appeal is largely driven by the quality of your photography. That's both the product and the lifestyle photography on your site. And also on your social presence and ads that are used to drive traffic to your site. I frequently recommend to my clients that they first invest in better quality photos for their store before adding advanced features to their site. And good photography is not easy. It takes skill, time and money to create, which is why it's so good at helping customers know that you are investing in your business.
Here's an example. Imagine two stores that sell handcrafted jewelry. In Store A, the product photography is done with a phone and poorly staged on a table. And the lifestyle photography is shot with family members in the backyard still taken on a phone. Imagine what that home page looks like. It's not hard to imagine as we've all seen the stores that do this. Now in Store B, they've invested in two levels of photography. For product photos, they've got a mini photo booth with good lighting and an SLR camera. So the photos are clear and crisp and easy to remove the backgrounds. For the lifestyle photography, they hired a photographer and models and went to a glamorous local location for a photo shoot. Now that site is going to look a lot more professional and give the impression of a profitable established company.
And one last thing on photography, most customers can identify stock photography. While stock is better than nothing, it's not as good as your own photography. So be careful when adding stock photography and try to be more authentic if possible. Here's a real example. I have a client that's target customer is firefighters. So on the homepage banner, we wanted a photo of a firefighting crew in front of their fire truck. And this store is in the United States and just targeting firefighters in the United States. When I looked for firefighter product photography in the stock photo services, most of the photography was of European or Asian firehouses. And the colors and firefighter gear there are different than they are in the United States. So I did an exhaustive search until I found photos from American firehouses and made my banner from that.
- Item Five - have a published address. A site that doesn't show where it's located is suspicious.
- Item Six - write your own copy. And I guess that also means to have copy. You don't have to personally write it, but you should not use copied straight from your suppliers. We've all seen the website that is a list of products and product descriptions are just product specs. That store looks like a fly by night drop shipper. Not a long-term e-commerce brand. And one other point about your copy. Do not have grammar or spelling mistakes. It just makes the site look amateur.
Item Seven - trust icons or badges. Most store owners understand the best practice of having icons near the add to cart button that address common concerns that customers may have when purchasing your products. Humans are very visual, so icons are a great way to get a message across and allay customers' concerns at that crucial add to cart decision point. There are two pieces of advice that I have for trust icons.
The first trust icon best practice is to have icons that are unique to your business. So don't have generic SSL, secure checkout or payment type icons. Those are a given in today's ecommerce world. Instead communicate more relevant things. For example, if you have a food product, an applicable icon could be "GMO free" or "Vegan" or whatever's appropriate. If you sell clothing and have free returns, call that out in your icons. If you have free shipping, let your customers know that with an icon.
The second trust icon best practice is to have them visually support your brand and site design. It's easy to find images or vectors for common icons like free shipping. But if you gather an existing icon for each of the items that you want in your trust badges section, then they will look like a random collection which they are. They'll have different fonts, shapes, and colors. So it's best to make your own icons. Even if you start with stock vectors, make sure the shapes, text, size, fonts and colors all match and fit with your brand. That consistent display shows that you're willing to invest in your brand and makes your store look that much more professional.
Let's move on to Bucket Two - show that the business is active. I call this the business heartbeat. You just need to show that there's actually a staff, even if it's one person, that is working at the business on a regular basis. That way customers will have the confidence that their orders will be shipped in a timely fashion and that they will get answers to any questions they have. Here are a few ways for your store to show a heartbeat.
- Item One - show some social feeds on your store. Instagram and Twitter work well as they have small bite sized posts that the visitor can easily look at. Some Shopify themes like Turbo come with built in a homepage sections to connect with social networks. If your theme doesn't have built in sections for social feeds, there are plenty of apps that can connect to your social feeds and place the content on your Shopify store pages. Now remember, the purpose here is to show a heartbeat, so it's important to post regularly on whatever social channels you're showing on your site. Say at least once or twice a week.
- Item Two - be current in your site promotions. For example, if it's January 15th, your site should not be showing holiday promotions and should instead be promoting Valentine's Day.
- Item three, engage in your community. Most stores are a piece of a larger community. For example, if you sell wrist guards for downhill skateboarders, you're part of the longboard skate community. So engage with your community, follow others on social, engage with their posts, do guest blogging, etc. This shows that your store and staff is alive and breathing and also helps establish your street cred with that community.
That brings us to Bucket Three - show that you care about your customers. One way to think about this is ask yourself if your policies are optimized for you and the business or are they optimized for your customers. Here's what I mean.
- Item One - show a phone number in several locations on the site. And if you have voicemail, have a professional message stating company name and set an expectation on when the customer will hear back from you. Stores that don't publish a phone number are sending a clear message that they see their time as more important than their customers' time.
- Item Two - have a clear, easy to understand shipping policy that lets the customer know expected shipping times and shipping costs. Spending the time to document your policies and share them with your customers helps establish trust. It also reduces support questions.
- Item Three - similar to shipping policy, publish a return policy that clearly explains what can and cannot be returned and the policies around returns.
- Item Four - have a contact us page with more than one way for the customer to contact you. There are a multitude of different communication options available. By providing the customer many choices, they can choose the method they're most comfortable with.
- Now I'm going to show you a real example of the above best practices with a company by the name of Titan Survival. You can find them at TitanSurvival.com. They publish a phone number, shipping policy and return policy. And they go one step beyond by including it in their site header. So it's clear and at the top of every page. If you look at any page of their website, you'll see these three things in the header right next to their logo. The first is their phone number. And the cool thing is that they have some logic that shows the phone number when the phone lines are staffed during their business hours. Outside of that time, an email link is provided instead with support hours listed so customers can know when to expect a response. Next to that is a simple "Free shipping on all orders over $30" promotion. And lastly, their lifetime guarantee and easy returns policy is listed. And all of these elements have links to the fully detailed policy pages. All of this makes new visitors to the store, not only aware of these key policies but shows the customer that the store cares about them.
And lastly, Bucket Four - use social proof. It's one thing to send the right message to establish trust. Taking things to the next level is having people other than you and your staff share their confidence in your business. We humans are very social and use other people's decisions in making our decisions. So here are some social proof tactics.
Item One - customer reviews. Add a review app to your store that solicits product and store reviews from verified customers. There are plenty of review apps in the Shopify APP store. Most of the apps now have a generous free level and then start charging your business grows. And here's one thing along the line of free versus paid. If your store has a high number of sales per month, you should pay to send email solicitations to all of those customers. One reason is you want to show recent reviews on your store. If you run out of your free review allocation by the third day of the month, by the time it comes to the end of the month, it looks like no one's bought a product on your site for over three weeks because that's the most recent review. And the number of reviews is also powerful. A product with a thousand reviews is more impactful than a product with a hundred reviews.
Also with reviews, it's important to avoid the empty room syndrome. That is having no or very few reviews in your store. Because then it looks like your store has no customers. The way I handle this is to expose the review content in the store in steps. When you first start out and have no reviews, you can start soliciting reviews but not post them in the store yet. And then when you have some reviews in place, you can start showing them on product pages. Finally, when most products have reviews coverage, you can expose the star rating on collection pages.
- Item Two - testimonials. Get testimonials to include on your site from influencers or experts in your space. These testimonials should include a photo if possible. For example, if you sell glassware etched with a company's logo, you should get some testimonials from the top restaurants that use your glasses.
- Item Three - a gallery of customer photos. Show your happy customers using your products. Those photos can come from reviews, if you review APP supports it, or from Instagram, if you promote a Hashtag for your business.
- Item Four - have a Hashtag and encourage people to use it. In your order confirmation, shipping notifications and review emails. Make your customers aware of your Hashtag and encourage them to use it. Encouragement can be something like a monthly drawing for everybody that used your Hashtag in the past month.
Item Five - recent sales APP. If you don't use this already, I'm sure you've seen them in other stores. Those little notifications that say "Betty in Melbourne, Florida just purchased our purple spatula" or something to that effect. This can be a useful tool to let customers know that they are not alone in this store and that other people are also shopping and buying from you.
Now a word of caution here, you need to have a good flow of sales in your store before you implement a recent sales app. You don't want a customer to come into your store and then the recent sale that they see is from four days ago. So my recommendation is to use the recent sales app once you consistently have five or more sales per day. If you have less than that, focus your efforts on getting more customers to the site.
- Item Six - press. Let your customers know all the good press that your store has gotten. Either post articles and videos right in your store on Press and As Seen In pages or link to that content so that your customers can see what others have said about you. Also showing the icons on the top five media outlets that have covered you right on your homepage helps reinforce that respected companies like your store.
Now, I've just given you 19 different tactics for establishing trust in your store. You're probably already doing some of them. You don't have to immediately add the ones that you're not doing. First, you're too busy to do all of that work at once. And I'd recommend that you think about which tactics would be best for your business. Not all these tactics are a good fit for every store. You know your business and can determine which ones are right for you. Stack rank the most impactful ones. Then implement them one at a time as you can fit them in. I see the building of a store's trust as an evergreen process that you're always working on and improving. And each new effort builds on the work that you've already done.
That's it for today's topic of building trust. I hope that was helpful to you. Thanks for listening.