Tell consumers who you are by helping them focus on your identity: to have consumers believe in you and take the action you want, websites should clearly disclose their physical location and offer easy one-click access to a postal address, telephone number, and e-mail addresses or support forms. Building an heir of credibility can also come from clearly disclosing ownership information and making corporate and mission statements readily available.

Tell consumers the truth by focusing on transparency: With millions of websites online it is easy to understand why many consumers simply do not trust some websites. By being “transparent” when it comes to your existing relationships, web businesses foster an atmosphere of open communication. Successful sites do this by clearly distinguishing advertising from news and information through labels or other visual means. Websites should also clearly disclose relevant business relationships, including sponsored links to other sites – the site’s sponsorship policies should be clearly noted in accompanying text or on an “About Us” or “Site Center” page.

Tell consumers why they can trust you with formal privacy policies. While every website does not have a privacy policy, every website that wants to establish credibility with its 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 you have it.

Tell consumers that others can vouch for you and your online business with a seal of approval. Nothing speaks more highly than when an independent entity vouches for the credibility and trustworthiness of your company. Utilizing seals of approval on your website helps 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.

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. The Internet is like a fitness club – you get out of it what you put into it. Having an effectively designed website with up-to-date content that is relevant to your target audience whose requests you follow up on in a timely fashion takes work. Happy visitors become happy customers who provide lots of word-of-mouth referrals and more business over time. Having a “trust fund” is one of the best investments you can make in your business.

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