There is a copious amount of evidence to support the notion that concerns over security, privacy, and trust stifle ecommerce, and continue to keep large numbers of consumers from shopping online as much as they’d like to.

The impact is felt even more by small businesses who constantly struggle to persuade consumers that their websites are a safe place to shop and surf. The customer might not always be right, but at least on this call, they are. Most small business websites, just like most small businesses, are inherently insecure. Consumers sense this, and it has become a barrier to trust.

Whether it’s a lack of awareness, resources, or simply care, small businesses have been notoriously lax on cybersecurity issues, and nowhere is that more evident than on their websites. According to website scanning firm SiteLock, the company is now detecting up to 10,000 new small business websites every single day that either have major vulnerabilities or have already been compromised by malware.

So their customers have a right to be worried. And so do small business owners. But there are steps small business owners can take to reduce the risk and worry, and create a simple Trust Map that can help build customer trust in online businesses.

A Trust Map is simply a trail of clues and cues that any small business owner can build into their website and which will give comfort to visitors that the site, and business, is a safe place to visit, browse and buy.

  1. Give them what they expect – the website should have all the usual things in all the expected places. A website is like telling a story, and you know in advance how you want it to end. Don’t make the chapters hard to find or out of sequence. And weird should be avoided unless you’re certain that appeals to your specific customer. Have the pages and sections where they should be, have all the links and menus that are expected etc. And of course if you can afford it, invest a little money in a site design or template that looks as professional as possible.
  2. The site must work – All functioning links, pages should load quickly, media should be seamless.
  3. Put a face on it – Include bios and photos of all key employees, as well as the warehouse manager, the bookkeeper, and even the forklift driver. It not only personalizes and humanizes the business, it reinforces the point that you have nothing to hide. Even your faces.
  4. Provide a physical address, phone number, and fax- If you can’t have someone answer live during work hours, at least publish a cell number that answers in your name and promises to get back to the caller ASAP. Or pay for a 1-800 customer answering service.
  5. Add security and verification seals, and start with scanning- Website scanning services are now very affordable for even the smallest businesses, and have been proven to increase confidence, trust, and business for companies that use them. Most scanning services will provide a seal that will confirm your website has been scanned and is safe, and will even go beyond that to help you with security compliance and even fix any security problems it finds. Other trusted seals include the Better Business Bureau (BBB), Truste (for privacy) and even your local Chamber of Commerce.
  6. Have a clear statement of privacy– Privacy is very important to most consumers and is often connected with issues of trust and security. It’s important that you create a complete and professional privacy statement, and there are plenty of places where you can get a free privacy statement to put on your website. Make sure you put the link to the privacy statement in a prominent place – if it’s part of the trust map it has to be clearly signposted. And of course, make sure that your business lives up to its privacy promises and commitments.
  7. Make sure you have SSL- You should have an SSL certificate for your site and your hosting company should be able to provide one at low cost. For simplicity, your entire site should be secure (https) by default.
  8. Customers and testimonials- It’s always helpful to be able to name some of your best customers, and even place their logos on your site. Even better if you can get some killer testimonials from happy customers. But a little advice: (1) never make up testimonials, because they will eventually come back to bite you, and (2) encourage your customers to be honest and genuine and not to exaggerate. Visitors will know!
  9. Social media response team- You should have an active social media presence, with polite and prompt responses to valid complaints. The best way to achieve this is to have the best person at your company take on the role of social media guru, someone who understands the basics of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other platforms, and someone who is prepared to make regular and relevant updates to keep the community engaged.
  10. Partner logos- In addition to customer testimonials, consider adding the names and logos of key partners, suppliers, brands you represent, and industry and trade groups you belong to. Visitors will judge you by the company you keep.
  11. The Good Deeds section – Talk about what you’re doing collectively and individually for and in the community. Little league, Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce. Include photos and links.
  12. Feedback forum- Have a customer feedback resource or forum, where customers are free to leave any kind of comment, and ideally without having to register or identify themselves. This suggests that you’re confident enough in your reputation that you’re not scared of honest feedback. In fact, you welcome it, and that too increases visitor trust.

Get started on the road to cyber trust by visiting the SiteLock website today. There you can get comprehensive information on the website security measures needed to build customer trust and protect your data.

Google Author: Neal O’Farrell