Ideas & musings about consumer behaviour

Trust

By Jeremy Weinstein, Client Advisor, Global Reviews @drjezza

The headline of an article published in ‘The Age’ the day AGL was fined for misleading customers was ‘AGL fined $1.5m for door-knocking lies’ and the first thing I thought of was trust: it takes years to build it and minutes to take it away. But what about trust online? How can brands build trust via their websites?

Trust is often difficult to measure due to its ephemeral nature, so how can you tell if you trust something or not and can it be viewed on a simple five point scale from I don’t trust this at all to I trust this a lot? The answer is broadly no, but it’s also not that simple. However, there are some sound principles that we here at Global Reviews can point that can help web sites build trust amongst its visitors.

The first thing is the look of the web site, if it looks like it was designed in 1995 or by a 10 year old then it’s unlikely that new customers will believe, and subsequently trust, that your brand can deliver on your promise. So making a site look professional, or at least appropriate for the industry, is the first important step to building trust.

The second aspect to trust is transparency – and this is where AGL ran into some trouble – if it seems like you’re hiding something then you probably are, and customers can sense that right from the home page. One practical instance of that is contact details, if the contact details are vague or incomplete, visitors to your site will think you’ve got something to hide by being evasive. The master of user design Jakob Nielsen wrote in relation to contact information, ‘it’s one of the leading markers that people use to judge a company’s trustworthyness’ (Nielsen and Loranger, 2006).

In an article by Patricia Beatty et al (2011) that deals directly with the issue of online trust a distinction is made between institutional trust and generalised trust specifically in relation to including logos of well known corporations on your site, she suggested that those companies with existing low levels of generalised trust will not increase trust due to the inclusion of additional logos, rather it will be seen as an overt attempt at trustworthiness. This suggests trust is not an absolute measure, for all people at all times, but throughout her article does confirm the strong principles that can be adhered to ensure high levels of trust overall.

At Global Reviews trust is an integral aspect of any web site’s analysis because it is the first step to ensuring prospects engage with your site long enough for them to consider your products and eventually become customers. Without trust, visitors will flee your site in a flash, unlikely to return to any time soon.

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