How to Build Trust Online as a Small Business
Building your reputation as a reliable business is important to survive, but you must also build trust online to thrive (sometimes even to survive) in this digital age.
You may be the most trustworthy businessperson on earth operating the most reliable business, and the rest of the world may not have a clue. That’s where the struggle of how to build trust online begins.
Let me tell you the story of Mike the Small Business Owner, and how he can overcome this very same struggle.
Mike started a small business selling office supplies and worked hard over the years to gain and maintain a good reputation among his customers. Then, came the internet and it has become widespread, bringing a necessity to adopt new ways of doing business.
He was happy for the opportunity to expand his outreach and grow his business by selling products online. However, there must have been something wrong because his well-established business couldn’t get the attention it deserves.
He could have simply ignored the online channels and moved on with his profitable physical store; however, COVID happened! Now, he knows that ignoring online channels is not an option anymore.
Let’s look at Mike’s online presence and elaborate on what he should change to build trust online
Social Media Channels
Mike created accounts and pages for his business on every social media channel to reach as many people as possible. Now he has over 10 social media accounts to manage but little time to spend on them.
Customer questions remain unnoticed for days and weeks, and online complaints are not handled. He also couldn’t catch up with online reviews and hence stopped reading them.
Although his business information is out there, he is not, and this creates a trust issue regardless lack of customer service is unintentional.
Mike doesn’t need to be present on every social media channel! He should select a few that are heavily used by his target audience. He should be present on the number of channels he could manage and be “actually present” there.
Social media presence doesn’t mean merely displaying business information. It requires sharing regular posts, replying to comments, answering questions and handling complaints, or in short, interacting with the audience. This is one of the most effective ways to show that his business cares about the customers and trustworthiness.
A Consistent & Strong Brand Identity
Mike hasn’t thought much over a brand identity for his business. He had a logo designed 10 years ago for his store sign and business card, but he doesn’t have it in high-resolution digital format. He took a photo of his business card and uses it as a profile image on some social media channels. On others, he uses his selfie.
There is not a consistent colour palette or a pre-defined brand image on his website. He also doesn’t have a consistent brand voice, his tone on social media mostly depends on his daily mood.
Mike should acknowledge that building trust online takes more than being his trustworthy self. At his physical store, the store itself shows that it is a legitimate business where Mike can meet customers, have conversations, and show them the products where they can touch and feel their quality. However, you cannot do any of these with your online presence.
If he wishes to convince online customers that his business is well-established and reliable, he should first spruce up his online look. A strong first impression is needed to be perceived as a legitimate business. This is only possible by developing a consistent brand identity reflecting his organizational values and using it through all channels.
A Professional Business Website
Mike built an online store on his own using a reputable website builder specialized on e-commerce. He listed most of his products with competitive prices and product descriptions. It looked great, and he was proud of his work. But why does his online store attract so few customers?
There are multiple reasons for the low sales.
First, his e-commerce website was not optimized for search engines. Lack of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) means that neither his online store, nor his products could be found via search engines. Mike cannot attract organic traffic to his online store via this important channel.
Additionally, he didn’t pay attention to the technical details involving an online store design. This is normal since website design is not Mike’s field of expertise even though he has been good at technology. What he didn’t notice is that online store design involves too many details and technical settings such as responsiveness, user experience (UX) improvements, filters and categories, and third-party integrations. He just displayed his products in a nice looking way, and thought job was done. However, his customers couldn’t navigate the online store properly because of such technical failures.
Mike should hire an experienced professional to design a fully functional online store for his business with all the proper settings, UX enhancements and advanced SEO. This is imperative to get his online store generate sales and revenue.
Mike used a free policy generator to create his website policies which were not sufficient for an e-commerce website. He also used a vague language in his refund and exchange policies displayed on the website.
Mike didn’t pay much attention to such details because he knew that he would always accommodate reasonable customer claims and put the customer satisfaction first. How could the customer know this if all terms are clearly indicated in his policies?
The key to building trust online is to help customers feel safe about their purchase. Although he is dedicated to ensuring customer satisfaction, showing this to customers clearly is essential.
To build trust, Mike also displayed a couple of testimonials on his homepage, but the individual products were closed for reviews. This was due to lack of his technical knowledge but, unfortunately, it caused a negative impression as if he were publishing fake reviews.
Mike should revisit his online policies and product descriptions and clarify every detail to prevent any misunderstandings. He should also add a FAQ section to address potential questions beforehand. It is also advisable to activate customer reviews for each product instead of a testimonials section.
As a bonus, he could integrate a live chat function to answer customer questions real-time, but this is only recommendable if he has time or resources to manage this.
Acknowledging an issue is halfway towards the solution. Mike can now start working on fixing his online presence to build trust by following these recommendations.
There are many aspects of building trust online as a small business with certain similarities and distinctive differences to the traditional ways. Every business might have different case, and their online presence should be evaluated accordingly. However, the above listed aspects are the ones that should be checked first while troubleshooting.
P.S. Mike is a product of our imagination, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. His story, however, is based on common cases and practices we encounter on a daily basis. Written in an effort to provide our readers with useful insights.
Contact us if you need professional help to evaluate and improve your online presence in a way to build trust through digital channels or book a free consulting session to discuss your specific needs.