10 Crucial Elements for Website Credibility
Your every new visitor faces a tough choice.
He or she has to decide whether to trust you.
Or to run away, fast.
Your next sale depends on this decision.
But you also have the power to influence the choice.
With the affluence of online scams and malicious websites, online customers have become weary about who they buy from. They continuously look for reassurance that they can trust you and that your site is safe to buy from. And the only way to convince them is by creating a sense of credibility on your website. Here’s how.
What is credibility
BJ Fogg, a leading expert on online credibility defined it as such:
“Simply put, credibility can be defined as believability. Credible people are believable people; credible information is believable information. In fact, some languages use the same word for these two English terms.”
He also makes two important points regarding credibility:
- It is a perceived quality. It doesn’t reside in any object, person or a piece of information.
- It’s multi-layered. Our perception of credibility depends on evaluating multiple dimensions simultaneously. It’s two key components however are - trustworthiness and expertise.
When assessing credibility, Fogg concluded, visitors use the Prominence – Interpretation system. This means that two things happen during the process:
- Visitors notice something (Prominence) and,
- They make judgement about it (Interpretation).
Therefore, to be seen as credible, your website must display certain elements users are likely to interpret as such. Here are the most crucial ones:
1. Design - It’s not a secret that we judge businesses by their websites. The better the design, the more credible the business seems to be. Dr Brent Coker in 2011 discovered that shoppers are 30% less trustworthy of online businesses. With one exception, pretty websites. As he points out in the study: “With websites becoming increasingly attractive and including more trimmings, this creates a greater feeling of trustworthiness and professionalism in online consumers.”
This study of over 2500 online shoppers found that participants comment on design and website’s look and feel more than on any other factor, with over 46% of comments addressing design in some way. A separate study called “What Makes Web Sites Credible? A Report on a Large Quantitative Study” found that good design is the second most common credibility factor.
2. Presence of Trust Seals - In 2012, while developing a model for online customer behaviour two researchers from Priyadarshini Engineering College and S. B. Patil Institute of Management identified trust and security as major filtering elements preventing buyers from completing the purchase. In one Econsultancy survey, when asked how they decide whether to trust a site when shopping on it for the first time, 48% of respondents answered: “The site displays trustmarks to reassure shoppers”
A trust mark verifies that a business is authentic. Security seals also confirm that your website has been tested and is safe to buy from. Then which trustmarks are the best to use?
According to one study by Actual Insights, badges from well-known brands are the most effective. In their 2011 survey three companies - MacAfee, Verisign and Paypal - achieved the highest recognition. In a separate study however, Econsultancy discovered that the best trust marks are those your audience is already familiar with.
3. Clearly Visible Contact Details - This study found physical address, contact phone number and email address as the top three credibility signals, followed by photos of the organization’s members. Clearly displayed contact details subconsciously suggest to users that there’s a real business behind a website. Similarly, a prominent “Contact” button can act as a credibility cue.
4. Relevant Copy - Visitors consider websites displaying relevant and engaging information as more credible. According to another BJ Fogg’s study, 25% of respondents rely on the content and information focus as a sign of a website’s credibility. Elements that, according to the study, make copy relevant include:
- Depth / Length
- Potential Bias
However when speaking of content’s depth Fogg comments: “We suspect that in many cases in Web surfing, users may not necessarily read the in-depth information, but simply having it available seemed to produce a sense of credibility, suggesting the site is authoritative.”
5. Clearly Visible FAQ, Return and Refund Policies - FAQ sections allow visitors to solve their potential problems and answer immediate questions they have about your business. According to Econsultancy, 51% of shoppers prefer to find answers to their problems themselves. Similarly, clearly visible return and refund policies reassure visitors that you will help them in case they have a problem or simply aren’t happy with the product.
6. Detailed Product Information - A few years ago Econsultancy found that over 60% of shoppers use “detailed product information” as a cue to decide whether to purchase a product or not. When assessing the quality of a product description, users look at 3 criteria:
- How informative it is.
- Whether it establishes trust in a store.
- Whether it convinces them that a product is for them.
7. Testimonials - Letting your customers speak on your behalf is one of the best ways to overcome buying objections and add credibility to your site / company. First of all, they stand out. As Pat Friesen points, “words enclosed in quotation marks carry implied authority and grab the reader's eye quicker than words that aren't.”
Testimonials tell a user’s story. When customers rave about you, they first and foremost confirm that they had a positive experience with you. They also overcome skepticism. Testimonials skip the sales pitch and present a real user’s story, someone whom you’ve genuinely helped.
8. Reviews - A Dimensional Research survey found that 90% of customers are influenced by online reviews when buying. On average customers read 2-3 online reviews before making a call. And 79% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations (source).
9. Loading time - Probably it happened to you once that you clicked on a Google search result and was led to a page that took longer than 5 seconds to load. What I, and most other people, do is to quickly hit the return button. A slow loading time is killing for the credibility of your website and the trust in your brand. This point is also made in this KISSmetrics post: "Remember that for every second you shave off of load time, you’ll tend to boost customer confidence and trust in your site, and sow the seeds that will make them way to tell others about you."
The first thing that pops in your mind with a slow loading website is: "why is it taking so long?". We've grown so accustomed to low loading times that slowness makes us suspicious. "Isn't this a serious website?" "Has this website been hacked?" "Is my security at risk"? Raise your website speed and you raise your credibility. And also your Google Search Rankings by the way.
10. Customer Service - Lastly, customer service plays a role in a customers’ perception of credibility in ecommerce. The aforementioned research found that comments of customer service were more frequently mentioned in relation to ecommerce than any other industries (16.7% compared to 6.4%). The Dimensional Research study also found excellent customer service to be the number one factor impacting a level of trust in ecommerce companies.
Farah and Casey point out in their research: “Credibility influences a user’s interest in a website. Once users perceive the credibility of a website they will be more likely to use it.” A number of factors affect the perception of credibility. Featuring even the most common ones however can increate the sense of trustworthiness and have an impact on how visitors perceive your site.
Pawel Grabowski is a freelance copywriter and content marketer for hire. He helps businesses connect with potential customers online; turn them into buyers and later, brand devotees. For more info, visit smashingcopy.com