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Overcoming Internet Sales Resistance

Posted on 9.07.2005
Building Trust Online  

If you are selling products or services on the Web but not producing as many sales as you want, your site may be experiencing "Internet Sales Resistance" – a common problem wherein Internet users are hesitant to capitalize on any unique selling proposition put forth by the website they are visiting.

Website owners can overcome this resistance by understanding the basic components of building trust and developing a comprehensive strategy to soothe the fears and satisfy the concerns of potential buyers not only during initial contact but throughout the business relationship.

Instant Survey: Building Trust Online
What is the most important step in building trust online with potential customers?

When a prospect does not trust you, your business or your website they will not take the action that you want (e.g. move forward through your website by clicking an affiliate link, making an actual purchase or completing a form). As the majority of consumers simply do not trust web-based businesses, it is the website’s responsibility to do what it takes to build the necessary level of trust with consumers through the accurate disclosure of corporate identity, the relationships that enterprise is engage in and how consumer data is protected. The result is a greater willingness on the part of consumers to share personal and confidential information.

It is important (somewhere between project ideation and analyzing results) for those responsible for the success of Internet endeavors to gauge the degree which visitors actually trust their website to determine if consumers have enough trust to buy products or share personal information. In order for websites to exude credibility online it is essential that they adopt some very basic trust-building tactics and realize that there is no greater investment than focusing on Web consumer’s needs.

Focus on corporate identity
To have consumers trust your website and take the action you want Web companies should clearly disclose their physical location and offer easy one-click access to customer service personnel or sales staff through postal addresses, telephone numbers (preferably toll-free numbers) e-mail addresses, live chat, video conferencing or support forms. Building long term site credibility comes not only from being available for questions or comments but also clearly disclosing ownership information and making corporate and mission statements readily available as those approaches let consumers peek behind the "technology curtain" and into the digital hearts of those they are interested in doing business with on the Web.

Focus on Transparency
Transparency means the full, accurate and timely disclosure of information. With a multitude of well designed websites selling the exact same product, it is easy to understand why many consumers simply do not feel confident doing business online. By being "transparent" when it comes to existing relationships (for example, “this site provides products offered by XYZ Corp.) web businesses foster an atmosphere of transparency in regards to themselves and the relationships they are engaged in.

Transparency also goes beyond relationships and in some instances directly relates to site structure. Sites often extend transparency to sponsored links by clearly distinguishing advertising from news and information through labels or other visual means. By not obfuscating editorial with advertising, consumers feel more confident that sites are providing a valuable commodity.

Focus on Formal Privacy Policies
While most websites do not have a privacy policy, every website that wants to establish credibility with their website visitors should have one. Privacy policies help consumers understand what you as a business can do with their information. More than just legal documents, easy to read privacy policies give consumers peace of mind about who they are sharing their personal information with. Many consumers read these documents in detail before submitting or sharing any information. Usually the most important part of these policies is about what you as a company can do with their information once it is provided. Clearly outlining what information you collect and what you are entitled to do with the information is essential if you intend on being considered a credible online entity by consumers and the Web community at large.  

Focus on Credibility
Tell consumers that others can vouch for you and your online business with seals of business verification.  Nothing speaks more highly than when an independent entity vouches for the credibility and trustworthiness or your company. Utilizing seals of approval on your website help consumers know that you have taken steps to earn their trust. Popular research indicates that sites that display such seals have better conversion rates, lower abandonment rates and higher customer retention than those that do not. There are numerous providers of business seals of approval including TRUSTe (focusing primarily on privacy issues), ValidatedSite (focuses on accuracy of corporate information), Thawte (focusing on security issues) and the Better Business Bureau.

Building "Trust Equity"
Understanding your customers, providing excellent customer service and proving that you are worthy of consumers' business builds the trust you need to be successful. It's not rocket science, but it does take commitment.

There are literally hundreds of reasons why visitors to your website may not trust your organization enough to purchase products or share information. It is your responsibility to determine what those reasons are and take the necessary steps to break down the sales resistance barriers by using any means possible. How do you do that? First, start with research. Conduct interviews, focus groups and surveys to ascertain your prospect’s overall behaviors, as well as analyze and compare your site to others in the same industry. What are the differences and similarities? Not that you have to imitate what your competition does, but you at least want to do what your visitors see that your competition is doing.


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