When the concept of the modern internet first filtered into mainstream awareness, it seemed like the outline of a virtual utopia. Access incredible resources, communicate live with people across the world, and express yourself with total freedom: that was the compelling pitch. Things didn’t quite pan out that way, of course. As often happens, a perfect idea became a muddied reality.
For one, pioneers didn’t give enough thought to the monetization process that would inevitably result. Internet ads didn’t appear immediately, but it wasn’t long before banners saturated pages, and the rise of the immense ecommerce industry was an inevitability once the digital infrastructure was in place. With money on the line, the online world was up for grabs.
Today, countless businesses throughout the world have either moved into the online realm or will need to make that move in the near future if they’re to survive. Things were heading in that direction regardless, but the advent of COVID-19 certainly pushed them along — and with that move comes some fresh challenges. Companies need to adapt, and one of the most important things they can do is focus on earning trust through the use of trust signals.
In this post, we’re going to look at what trust signals involve, and detail why it’s so important that today’s digital businesses make good use of them. Let’s get started.
What exactly is a trust signal?
Very simply, a trust signal is anything that provides a reason to trust something, whether it’s a person, a brand, a product, or a service. A classic example is the heavily-promoted money-back guarantee. If you’re unsure about whether you really want to buy something, knowing that you’ll be able to get a full refund if you’re dissatisfied gives you a compelling reason to believe that the seller is legitimate and truly believes that you’ll be fully satisfied with the product.
When there are no clear trust signals to be followed, you can only lean on your own assessment of the situation, and you typically don’t have much to go on. While you can’t know for sure that trust isn’t warranted, you also can’t know that it is, leading you to the only action that makes any sense: backing out and looking elsewhere. Anything else is simply too risky.
Why do trust signals matter so much?
Think about how a regular brick-and-mortar retail store works. You can walk in at your leisure, stroll around, take in the atmosphere and the design, inspect the products, and decide what you make of the place. And if you form any concerns about it, well, you mainly just need to feel confident that it won’t disappear after you buy something — if that’s the case, then you can always come back to the store to issue a complaint in the event that there’s a problem.
Online, though, you don’t have those contextual clues helping you decide what you make of a particular business. All you have is a wafer-thin veneer in the form of a website that can be created (and used to deceive) by just about anyone. Grab a simple website template, add a selection of false claims, and go from there. It’s that easy.
Trust signals matter so much because they allow people to reach reasoned conclusions about the quality of online businesses. If there are enough trust signals to prove compelling, it doesn’t matter that there are no physical premises to be visited. Would you have second thoughts about ordering from a huge site like Amazon? It’s doubtful: realistically, you’d simply trust in it.
How can you use trust signals?
So, now that we’ve been through why trust signals are so important, we can go through some tips for how you can use them. We’ll also look at how they’re used in different industries with distinct requirements. Here we go:
- Update your site on a regular basis. If you provide a service in a fast-paced industry, then issuing regular updates will prove that you care about keeping up. Inactivity will lead people to assume that your business is stagnating. Casino sites are great examples of this. Prospective players research to see which sites keep up with fresh content and up-to-date features, and if they don’t see progress then they steer clear. Lean heavily on social proof. The decisions we make are heavily influenced by what our peers think, and that’s certainly true when it comes to online retail. You don’t need to trust that a company will innovate, but you do need to trust that it delivers a good service and sells strong products, and reviews are key for that. Look at how prominently the top ecommerce sites display aggregate review ratings.
- Use trusted payment gateways. It isn’t a fun experience to issue a payment only to be told that the money is gone and you won’t be getting it back. Accordingly, any businesses that take large payments — those selling high-end electronics, for instance — must use trusted payment gateways that protect buyers (PayPal, for instance). This also applies to many online games, including ever-popular and accessible lottery games (which often require small regular payments). The cash4life page on Lotto247, for example, showcases an active Antillephone operating license, as well as a myriad of secure payment options such as Skrill and Google Pay: these options help customers feel protected when entering draws (and confident their tickets are valid).
- Provide convenient contact options. What happens if you’re having difficulties using a product you purchased? Think about companies that sell flat-pack furniture, for instance. They no doubt encounter myriad issues with customers not understanding how to follow instructions or wondering if they’ve been sent the right things. Knowing that the setup process is lengthy, shoppers want to trust that they can contact stores after buying if they need help — this is why it’s so useful to have a live chat service in place along with plenty of contact options (social media, email, telephone, etc.).