The events of the past year have taught business owners many important lessons. One of them is that, when a crisis hits, customers turn on their computers and look to their phones. According to one analysis of U.S. Department of Commerce data, consumers spent $347.26 billion online with U.S. retailers in the first half of 2020 — that is a 30.1 percent increase from the same period in 2019.
Although online spending moderated a bit as the year went on, the fact remains that people’s expectations of most companies’ websites have soared. In fact, a June 2020 report by software giant Adobe indicated that the pandemic has markedly accelerated the growth of e-commerce — quite possibly by years, not just months.
Whether you sell directly to the buying public or engage primarily in business-to-business transactions, building customers’ trust in your website is more important than ever.
Among the simplest ways to establish trust with customers and prospects is to convey to them that you are a real business staffed by actual human beings.
Include an ‘About Us’ page with the names, photos, and short bios of the owner(s), executives, and key staff members. Doing so will help make the site friendlier and more relatable. You do not want to look anonymous — it makes customers suspicious and less likely to buy.
Beyond that, be sure to clearly provide contact information. This includes a phone number and email address, hours of operation (including time zone), and your mailing address. If you are a small business, use a street address, if possible. Some companies will not deliver to a P.O. box, and some customers will not buy if you use one.
Keep contact links easy to find. No one wants to search all over a site looking for a way to get in touch with someone at the business. Include at least one contact link on every page.
Add Trust Elements
Another increasingly critical feature of business websites is ‘trust elements.’ Examples include:
- Icons of widely used payment security providers such as PayPal, Verisign, and Visa
- A variety of payment alternatives, as well as free shipping or lower shipping costs for certain orders
- Professionally coded, aesthetically pleasing, and up-to-date layout and graphics
Check and double-check the spelling and grammar used on your site. Remember, one of the hallmarks of many Internet scams is sloppy or nonsensical use of language.
In addition, regularly check all links. Nothing sends a customer off to a competitor more quickly than the frustration of encountering nonfunctioning links. Such problems also may lead visitors to think they have been hacked.
Abide by the Fundamentals
Of course, the cybersecurity of any business website begins (and some would say ends) with fundamental elements such as a responsible provider, firewalls, encryption software, and proper password use. Nonetheless, how you design, maintain, and update your site will likely have a substantial effect on your company’s profitability.