In the absence of bricks and mortar and a shop front it can be difficult as a consumer to know who to trust online, particularly if you have no previous experience or dealings with a company.
From a business or brand perspective: how do you ensure that you are trusted online, to maximise sales and expand your customer base? Google is the number 1 tool for consumer research with around 3.5 billion searches per day occurring worldwide, so it’s important to understand which factors signify trust online. If your customer has seen your name and searches online for you then the following will apply:
Your web presence
Does your company have a professional website? What information is provided here in terms of address, location, email and landline phone number. An obvious physical business location is reassuring. Do you have a company registration with Companies House, VAT number or any visible accreditations? A complete and optimised Google My Business listing along with a photograph will also help to verify your existence in the real world!
Who runs the business and do you promote yourself and your team? Are you happy to share information, images and personal profiles on your website and across other business listings and social media? Trusted companies tend to be those who share their own personal story; their skills and experience, ethos and the inspiration behind what they do.
Your customer service
What guarantees do customers have in terms of returning an item or quality the quality of your product or service – do you state your returns policy and terms and conditions openly; do you use a secure payment method on your site? What happens if things do go wrong – can you answer your customers’ questions and queries and in a timely and pleasant manner? Do you post back online to confirm when issues are resolved signifying to others that you can and will resolve issues.
Unresolved customer concerns which are ignored increase the likelihood of a negative outburst particularly on social media or an online forum, on sites such as Money Saving Expert and Trip Advisor. These sites rank highly in Google due to the number of daily visitors and comments being added, so it’s worth resolving customer issues and questions in a timely manner. Any comments or threads on these sites regarding your business will remain visible in Google for a long time. Remember, social media has created a culture of immediacy and most of us (particularly millennials) will to expect a response within an hour!
Having identified a product or service, customers will tend to look for secondary reassurance before they buy. We tend to be naturally influenced by products with a good star rating on review sites or positive comments on forums.
If your customers are searching for a product or service, then a listing on Google My Business along with a review strategy is key.
For example, when I searched for “builders in Leeds” (I’m based in Leeds) I was faced with an extensive list of local firms who were listed with Google My Business at the top of the page. I discounted the paid Google ad at the top. As Google only showed me three builders I used the option to expand and was drawn to those with 4 or 5 stars. I selected the first independent builder with 5 stars to view – most didn’t have any. There were on closer inspection only 3 reviews – all with no comments and obscure names, so I wasn’t confident that these were genuine so I discounted this company. The only other builder with 5 stars only had one review, although their website showed photos and a number of recent projects which was reassuring. I can only conclude that most builders are either not great at promoting themselves online in terms of reviews or they don’t need the business.
A search for “coffee shops” in Leeds however, was a different story – hundreds of listings all with 4 or 5 stars and most with in excess of 40 reviews. Here the volume of positive reviews appeared to influence listing position.
Do you have a review policy?
Whilst there are instances of fake reviews and reviews from customers who are difficult to please, in general, when a business is responsive and has a good overall level of feedback then it is to be trusted. Equally no comments or reviews can also raise questions so it is worth inviting customers to review your product or service regularly. Reviews and positive testimonials will continue to influence how businesses are seen online and it is worth dedicating time and resource to monitoring and managing these to build a trustworthy reputation. To find out more have a look at Igniyte’s report on the business of reviews or contact Igniyte to learn about how our partnership with Trustpilot can help you.