Helen Ross 02 May 2018 7 min read

How to engender trust among your eCommerce users

I was watching a webinar on eCommerce recommendations the other week. Excited to hear about concepts I may not have found on my own, I had my notebook in front of me, a fresh coffee on my desk, and my pen in hand. I was ready to be wowed!


Aaaand then one of the presenters recommended using a full-page interstitial to present all users with a coupon/promo code offer. I watched my pen hit the desk in slow motion like a bad arthouse film trying to get an acknowledgement at the Sundance Film Festival.


Alright, so it wasn’t quite as dramatic as that, but my trust in the presenter was completely broken in that moment. Regardless of whether every other recommendation he provided was spot on, I could no longer view him as a credible source of information. His perceived position of authority was now shaky at best.


For those who aren’t aware, Google addressed this practice in 2015 with a pretty blunt “don’t do it” message. An update to their algorithms also meant that Google now treated any site using disruptive interstitials as non-mobile friendly (regardless of whether the site was optimised or not).


The good news is that this presenter’s dodgy recommendation got me thinking about trust in the eCommerce space. I got to pondering the question of what, specifically, you could do to engender that all-important trust amongst your customers and potential buyers (translation: I did some research). The even better news is that this kind of grassroots work is effective across both B2B and B2C engagements.


If you’re not convinced of the importance of fostering trust in the online space, here’s a great breakdown of reasons for cart abandonment during checkout from the Baymard Institute that highlights it nicely.


reasons for cart abandonment


Of course trust, like most emotions, is not as black and white as the graph above implies. Yes, in an obvious example, it can affect your cart abandonment rate. However, a lack of trust can also have flow-on effects on things like online adoption rate amongst your existing customers. They trust the process that exists now because there’s familiarity, a level of reciprocity, and human interaction in the process.


Reciprocity: they indicate they’re willing to spend money with you by emailing their order, you confirm the order and ensure it gets to them on time and in good condition.

Human interaction: that order confirmation and any follow-up actions come from someone they’ve dealt with previously (so have an established level of trust in).


Take away that reciprocity and human interaction and people can get uneasy. You may see this manifest in small ways like customers calling to confirm the order they’ve placed online or waiting until a rep walks in the door before they pay their account. None of these behaviours in isolation are time-consuming. But if more customers than not call to confirm their online order, those 10-second interactions start to add up. And they’re all time you’re spending on transactional conversations, rather than adding value or enhancing the customer experience.


So let’s break down the ways your site can bridge the trust gap.



SSL certificates and security in the eCommerce space go hand in hand, but so do Trust Seals. For those who aren’t sure what they are, these may look familiar.

SSL and Trust Seal examples

Research from 2013 (with a follow-up study in 2016) suggests that users are more likely to respond to badges that make them feel secure, rather than verify a purely technical encryption. Of the seals tested in the study, the second, third, and fourth best-performing seals were Trust Seals, as opposed to just SSL seals.

trust seals by user confidence graph

Appealing emotionally to a customer’s sense of trust and backing it up with third party verification like a Trust Seal encourages both existing and potential customers to accredit your site with the same kind of authority as the rep that walks in the door (to use our previous example). Those calls to confirm online orders? Not necessary if they trust your website and the processes that support it.


Be helpful

Do you know why I like the Bunnings website so much? Spoiler alert: it’s not because of their mega menu. It’s because a huge part of their brand identity is built around helping people. Whether you walk into a store (how does every employee know exactly where to find every product?!) or you’re on their site, the content they serve you is designed to help you.


Let me show you an example. I’ve found this raised garden bed kit. I have a short video that tells me the information I might want to know, as well as a written product description. But here’s the cool bit. If I scroll down a little further I see DIY advice:

 Trust encouraged by additional advice

It’s all related to my current interest (determined by the product I’m viewing). Most importantly, it engenders that feeling of trust because not only does Bunnings have what I need, they’ve also gone out of their way to generate content that might be useful for me. The knowledge they’re sharing encourages me to look to them as a voice of authority when it comes to gardening and landscaping, which is exactly what I’m interested in right now.


Worth noting is that each of these videos and guides may feature products available at Bunnings, but they don’t “hard sell” the idea of buying them FROM Bunnings. The products listed on the idea page are positioned as a handy list of what to buy, but the wording is gentle and allows the user to decide for themselves whether and where to purchase.


A similar approach, depending on your industry, could encourage existing customers to step outside their standard buying patterns. Yes, they may normally buy three brands of toner from you to stock. However, if you’re also able to supply the ink cartridges that they’d previously gotten from your competitor (and it’s obvious from your site that this is a standard part of your offering) why wouldn’t they treat you as a “one-stop shop”?


Be human

Like I said previously, trust is an emotion. It doesn’t always come from logic; it can be a “gut feel”. Positioning your company (and as part of that, your website) as being not only secure from a technical standpoint but also trustworthy as an entity, can certainly influence how customers feel about you.


Consider showing your company’s face through things like a humanising ‘About Us’ page. Introduce the people, convey the emotion that shaped the company’s foundation, and highlight what continues to inspire the people behind the brand. This blog has a great breakdown of some ways you can prevent your content from sounding like it was written by a robot and more like a human being actually put pen to paper.


Ain’t nobody got time for that? The condensed version for you:

  • Sound human.
    • Quirks of humour and all. People empathise with other people, so BE people to them.
  • Sympathise.
    • Help people not because they’ll immediately buy your product, but because helping them is the right thing to do. People remember when you go the extra mile.
      • This will have the flow on effect of engendering trust and increasing the likelihood of them buying your product, but don’t make that your primary end goal.
  • Be transparent.
    • Own up when you mess up, or just when you could have done a little better than you did. Especially in this day of information overload people are really good at picking up when a company isn’t being 100% honest.
      • Social proof can be a big part of this. Both the good and the bad. How you respond to a negative review, for instance, can have an even bigger impact than those ten positive reviews you got before it.
  • Be consistent.
    • This is a shift in culture, not a short-term strategy. If you’re doing it purely to ring the cash register and not to become a customer-centric company your users will know (see above point).


Yes, trust is a fickle thing, and your particular customer base will no doubt have their own expectations. As always, I encourage you to do your research and find out what it is that makes your customers tick.


On a personal note, this is my final blog and week with the Commerce Vision team. I leave you in their excellent hands and say a heartfelt thank you, my eCommerce explorers, for giving me five minutes of your time every week. Onwards and upwards!



In case you’d like some light bedtime reading, here are a few additional resources:

  1. 15 Ecommerce Trust Drivers You Can Set up Right Now to Make People Buy
  2. 5 Ways for Ecommerce Websites to Build Trust
  3. Building Trust With E-commerce Shoppers Is All About Emotions and Trust
  4. New E-Commerce Checkout Research – Why 68% of Users Abandon Their Cart
  5. 8 Ways to Build Customer Trust in eCommerce


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