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Avoid the E-Commerce Low-Trust Tax

by Justin Palmer - September 16th, 2008

What’s one thing that all successful e-commerce sites have in common, regardless of their industry, technology, or experience? Their customers trust them.

E-commerce in particular lends itself to a low trust environment. After all, when you make a purchase online, you’re giving money to someone you can’t see, for a products that you can’t touch. Needless to say, trust is a crucial aspect of transacting business online.

Duct Tape Marketing recently interviewed Steven M.R. Covey on his book The Speed of Trust. Covey speaks of a “low-trust tax” which makes all business processes less efficient. Inspired by this concept, I came up with 10 ways to avoid paying a low-trust tax with your e-commerce site. If you have any ideas of how to inspire trust on your website, please leave a comment below.

  1. Have a Real About Page: I’m not talking about a vague paragraph describing what you do. I’m referring to a personal, detailed explanation of who you are. Share your mission, your passion, and your vision with customers. This information becomes a powerful word of mouth tool when customers are telling friends and family about your products or services. Consider even showing pictures of yourself and your staff to add an extra personal touch.
  2. Ability to Reach Management: Customers love to know that they can influence the management of a company. Providing an email address to reach a manager or even the owner shows you are committed to listening. But don’t stop there, why not publicly thank customers who have recommended new site features that you added. Even better than a company who listens is a company who responds to customer feedback.
  3. Security Logos: Simple, yes, but having a few trusted logos from the BBB, McAfee, or your SSL provider inspire confidence for your customers. For first time visitors, these logos may be the only thing they recognize, and the trust they have with these brands spills over in favor of your company.
  4. Professional Design: Even if customers don’t have any artistic inclinations, they intuitively know if your website design sucks. Your website doesn’t have to do a fancy song and dance, it just needs a professional, clean design that instills confidence in your brand.
  5. Unfiltered Customer Reviews: This means allowing the bad reviews, not just the 5 stars ones. Negative product reviews serve to establish the credibility of your website. Sure, you might lose a sale on that product but you gain credibility when customers see your review system is unbiased.
  6. Logical Navigation: If the information architecture of your site doesn’t make sense, customers will doubt your ability to serve them. In the same way that cleanliness and layout affects a brick and mortar experience, problems such as poor navigation, broken links and broken images erode customer confidence in your brand.
  7. Tell them Who Else Buys: Social proof is a timeless persuasion tactics that just plain works. In addition to traditional testimonials, try using a real-time display of who’s ordering like Aweber’s “Who Just Ordered” feature.
  8. Lenient Return Policy: Zappos has mastered the art of using the return policy as a marketing tool. Yes, its expensive to pay for 365 day return shipping on refunds & exchanges, but the confidence this liberal policy gives customers is priceless. Take it one step further by showing how few customers actually do return products using a tool such as Shoeline.com’s Return-O-Meter.
  9. A Ubiquitous Privacy Policy: Having an effective privacy policy means not just burying the page in the footer of your website, but rather linking to it anytime you ask for personal information.
  10. Check the Other 9: When was the last time you checked the other 9 Google search results below your website for your brand name? If there’s negative information, have you tried to resolve these complaints? If all else fails, try pushing the negative results to the second page with these 10 tips.

About Justin Palmer

Justin Palmer is the owner of Palmer Web Marketing, a strategic web marketing and e-commerce consultancy. Justin also runs MedSaverCard.com, a medication discount card program offering a discount on prescription drugs not covered by insurance.


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One Response to “Avoid the E-Commerce Low-Trust Tax” by Justin Palmer

  1. eCommerce Advice - Top 10 eCommerce Startup Mistakes Says:

    [...] security, and privacy are rarely top concerns for customers. eCommerce, however, is inherently “taxed” with a low-trust environment, causing visitors to doubt the legitimacy of your site. You must go the extra mile to assuage these [...]


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