How to Build Customer Trust in Your Online Business

kathryn by Kathryn Hawkins on August 30, 2012

You’re likely to save a bundle in overhead costs by starting an online business. But the virtual nature of your existence means you’ll probably face another significant challenge: getting people to trust your company.

With so many “Nigerian princes” and other scammers all over the internet, many consumers are wary of online businesses they’re unfamiliar with. In a recent TRUSTe survey, 53 percent of respondents said they avoid doing business with companies that they don’t believe will protect their privacy online.

So how can you make sure consumers trust your company? Here are few tips.

Build partnerships with recognized brands. If people don’t know who you are, work on gaining their confidence by aligning your company with brands they do trust and respect. Consider launching an online affiliate program, in which other site owners earn a commission for sending sales or leads your way, or pay for sponsorships of popular sites in your niche. Paying for accreditation with the Better Business Bureau (and putting its logo on your website) can also help you gain trust from first-time visitors, too.

Put a privacy policy on your website. If you’re collecting any user data, it’s important to create a privacy policy that tells website visitors how their information may and may not be used, which should make them feel more secure when using your site. The policy should serve as an agreement with visitors, who consent to your policy when they browse your site or buy anything. Consider having an attorney review your privacy policy to ensure that you’ve covered your bases, especially if you’re running an e-commerce site. 

Use a reputable payment processor. Customers are the most cautious when it comes to handing over money to a company they don’t know, so consider alleviating their fears by using a popular merchant-services provider, such as PayPal, Google Checkout, or Intuit Payment Solutions. These payment processors offer consumer protections, such as chargebacks, which can give your customers peace of mind.

Boost your PR efforts. When you launch a new business, positive “earned media” from blogs, newspapers, and magazines can help build your reputation and increase your credibility. Connect with reporters and bloggers in your industry, and keep an eye on the daily HARO emails for requests that fit your expertise. If you have the budget for it, consider hiring a PR consultant or firm to jump-start your efforts. If you’re running your company on a tight budget, check out this post for some PR moves you can make yourself.