This is How You Build Trust Online

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Over the past 5 years I’ve stayed in 29 different strangers homes, all around the world.

I’ve jumped into hundreds of cars with drivers I’ve never met.

And most of my restaurant choices hinge on recommendations from people I’ll never cross paths with.

It seems illogical to trust not only in these people, but in the institutions that facilitate them, like Uber and Airbnb. And yet we do.

Why? Because these companies have gone to great lengths to build trust with their customers.

For many of us, our websites are the very first place that we start to build trust with our audience. And so, it's crucial that we show our website visitors that they can feel confident buying from us.

So what can we do to help people to make this massive trust leap*? Here are 6 ways you can prove your trustworthiness to potential customers online.

*Side note: If you want to hear more about trust and technology, including more about what a trust leap is, Rachel Botsman’s TED Talk is worth a watch!

1. Reviews and Testimonials

One of the strongest ways to build trust is from customer reviews and testimonials. These can can be collected by you, or on external platforms (e.g. facebook, yelp, tripadvisor, trustpilot or google). While written testimonials can be really powerful, video testimonials add an extra layer of credibility, so definitely consider using both!

Testimonials can be especially powerful when they are used to address a common objection your customers have about your offering.

For example, if you've identified one of your customer's concerns is lack of one on one support then you could collect a testimonial that addresses this. “I've tired many gyms before and I've always felt like a number and struggled to maintain consistency. I was afraid that GymFriends would be the same but I was pleasantly surprised by the ongoing, personalised support…”

2. Step-by-Step Plans

Giving customers a step-by-step plan is one of my favourite ways to reduce risk and build trust on a website. Imagine you’re new to working with or purchasing from a company, and you don’t really know what to expect. You’ll probably have questions about how it all works— will it be hard to implement? How much of my time will it require? When will I receive my purchase? What happens if I don’t like it?

Questions about your process or how you work that aren’t answered on your website can breed doubt and fear in your potential customer’s minds. And, if faced with an equal choice between purchasing from someone who tells them exactly what to expect, versus someone who doesn’t, they’ll probably choose the one who’s given them a clear plan.

Even if you’ve purchased something similar in the past, knowing the process will be a comparable experience is comforting and feels less risky. Generally a 3 step or 4 step process works best to ensure it doesn't seem overwhelming.

Plans come in a few varieties that can be used throughout your website—

The ‘getting started plan’

This tells your customers what their first few steps should be if they’re ready to work with or buy from you. Burrow makes the overwhelming task of ordering a couch really simple with their 3 step process.


The ‘promise plan’

This is a promise of what customers can expect when they buy from you. Check out the example from Bellhops below.


The 'agreement plan'

This tells your customers what they get when they buy from you and gets more specific about exactly what your purchase includes. Couple does a great job of showing their beautiful unboxing experience on their website.


The ‘guarantee’ plan

This tells your customers what happens if they’re not satisfied or happy with their purchase. I love how Casper mitigates the risk of buying a mattress online with their 100 night trial guarantee.


4. Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently asked questions are another great way to help people understand more about what they can expect from your business and reduce the risk or unknowns about how you operate. You can use frequently asked questions to address common customer concerns and help people get the answers they need quickly. As an added bonus, FAQs usually mean fewer email or contact form questions asking questions which can eat into your time.

5. Visual Appeal

Think about the process of selecting an Airbnb property to stay in. Do the photos impact your choice of where to stay? In my opinion, the aesthetic appeal of accommodation matters, and according to this study I'm not alone. They found the simple act of switching out low quality for high quality photos on an average listing can increase their annual revenue by over $2000.

Much like Airbnb, your visitors form an impression of your business via your website visuals. This is why a polished, consistent look and feel is crucial for building trust. Every detail, from colours and photography selection, font choice and layout are signals of the quality and legitimacy of your business. This is especially important if you're trying to sell products or services at a higher than average price point. And, if your visual identity is missing polish, give us a bell, we specialise in branding.

6. Bragging Rights

The final way you can build trust and credibility is by sharing the logos of brands you’ve worked with, the number of customers you've served, or of publications you’ve been featured in. If people can tie your business together with one they already know, they’ll be able to more easily trust you by association.

And with their powers combined...

Trust is built through a series of small interactions, over time. It can take several engagements before someone is ready to take that next step and make a purchase or even get in touch, but the elements mentioned above definitely help to reduce risk and establish your credibility.

Do you use all of these methods on your website? Will you be adding any of them after reading this article? Let me know in the comments! And, if you enjoyed this article, don’t forget to share it around with your friends and followers!

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