Jack Ma, co-founder and former executive chairman of Alibaba Group, famously said, “For ecommerce, the most important thing is trust.” For better or worse, many online shoppers still feel concerned or apprehensive when it comes to making a purchase through a retail ecommerce website, unlike a traditional brick and mortar setup.
It has been said that the entire machinery of ecommerce operates on the “wheel of trust.” As such, establishing substantial customer trust in an online setting must be imperative for the long-term success of any ecommerce retail brand today. A recent article in Forbes summed it up rather succinctly: “Having a credible online presence is critical—it is your virtual store window that all will visit. To build trust online, you need to provide regular touchpoints that are consistent with your value as a company.”
A great way to leverage technology for the purpose of creating a credible and trusted ecommerce business is to humanize an online store along with the entire shopping experience. Humanizing the process with technology—to win and sustain customer confidence—generally involves setting up online trust touchpoints that encourage customers to make purchases frictionlessly. These touchpoints or trust drivers can play an outsized role in boosting conversions and sales.
Three trust drivers that should be given high priority by online retail brands when developing and continually tweaking evolving ecommerce technology should include:
01. Providing an exceptional omnichannel experience,
02. Implementing UI/UX standards for trustworthy ecommerce, and
03. Ensuring proper user accessibility.
01. Providing an Exceptional Omnichannel Experience
According to HubSpot, a major developer of marketing software, an omnichannel experience is marketing, selling, and serving customers on all channels to create an integrated and cohesive customer experience no matter how or where the customer reaches out. The experience should be the same for customers regardless of the platform or method they choose to use—especially mobile.
With an omnichannel environment, the customer or prospect has access to a variety of communication options that are synchronized and seamlessly connected, making it easy for users to move between them. It also accounts for all devices and platforms that a customer might use to interact with an organization—creating an equally efficient and positive experience across all platforms.
So, why is an omnichannel experience important when it comes to ecommerce and retail strategy? At its core, a truly omnichannel approach promotes trust through creating a consistent customer experience wherever a user engages with a brand. It unites the strengths of each communication channel to deliver a more effective and uniform brand message—rather than an erratic and disjointed experience which certainly does not engender trust in a potential customer. Nothing makes shoppers wary of a brand like inconsistency.
Put another way, in a traditional retail environment, a customer generally only has one purchase channel with fewer chances to make a judgement about the reputation of the seller or brand. However, when it comes to ecommerce with online retailers that have a presence in numerous digital channels, there are more brand moments.
These influential brand moments are where a potential customer decides whether to trust a brand or go elsewhere. It is here that consistency is essential to establishing trust. The more that online retail brands can demonstrate a uniform earned reputation across all channels, the quicker they will gain trust and become recognizable in a positive manner to target consumers.
Overall, people trust consistency and appreciate stability. It is psychologically reassuring. This is why providing an exceptional omnichannel experience through the use of tried-and-true technology is a critical trust touchstone or driver when it comes to ecommerce and the digital retailing space.
02. Implementing UI/UX Standards for Trustworthy Ecommerce
The latest generation of consumers places great importance on trust. In other words, how honest, transparent, and authentic a brand is. One of the best ways for an ecommerce brand to exhibit trustworthiness is to achieve a gold standard with its user interface (UI) and user experience (UX).
It is the responsibility of ecommerce brands to prove their credibility through good product design and use of their marketing assets—especially the critically important landing pages and product detail pages. First impressions really matter when it comes to building trust, credibility, and communicating value. The Nielsen Norman Group, a world leader in researched-based user experience, recounted a study on how long users stay on web pages. Users often leave pages in 10-20 seconds; however, pages with a clear value proposition can hold people’s attention much longer. This means that a web page must clearly communicate a trustworthy value proposition within 10 seconds.
One extremely effective way to create a trustworthy value proposition is through the use of visuals. A study released by the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University found that when it came to evaluating the trustworthiness of a website, the average consumer paid far more attention to visual appeal than other aspects. In fact, for ecommerce sites, 46.2% of consumers participating in the study relied on a site’s overall visual appeal to gauge its credibility.
So, to quickly catch a buyer’s attention with a trustworthy value proposition, ecommerce brands should give serious consideration to their most important visuals: product images. The power of the image is undeniable.
Product photos support sales and build the image of the entire brand. Remember, in ecommerce, a great picture may be worth a thousand sales. Also, because humans are visual creatures, well done photos give shoppers confidence in a product they are thinking about purchasing. The better the product photography, the better the product page will convert.
Here are a few general tips and best practices when it comes to creating excellent product photography for ecommerce:
- Select a certain number of high-quality images taken from varying angles/perspectives that provide full and accurate visuals of the product from multiple facets—a general rule, according to numerous studies, is to provide at least four images for every single product
- Carefully choose and optimize the main image which draws shoppers to the listing by accurately portraying the product—remember, a poorly edited main photo will make some shoppers question the trustworthiness or authenticity of a listing
- Always make sure the product photos accurately depict the product to avoid returns and negative reviews—some ecommerce brands even allow shoppers to interact with and comment on the photos, which can help gauge accuracy and trustworthiness
- Make use of the images to highlight or showcase the benefits of the product—a powerful approach is to put the product in context by taking real life shots of people using the product
- Display photographs of all colors and styles of the product—this can make a real difference in conversions because not all shoppers have the same taste
- Be consistent with the number and style of images provided for each product—maintain a consistent style and design for each photo by using the same background, modeling, lighting, and image placement strategy throughout an ecommerce site
- Adjust all image file sizes to ensure that website performance and image load times are reasonable—remember there is a constant dance between page load time and image load that must be recognized, monitored, and maintained to optimize website conversions from hard-earned traffic
- When appropriate, include something in the shot to help show scale—oftentimes, customers will want to visualize the size of the product and better imagine it in their lives
- Provide detail shots that zoom in on a portion or cross-section of the product to give shoppers a better understanding of the construction of the product
- If a product has multiple items that need to be shown, they should be organized in a proper manner that is appealing without a haphazard effect
- When it makes sense to do so, use trust symbols in the image to communicate trustworthiness—these can be energy rating icons, industry seals, quality badges, organic ingredients, sustainability, cruelty-free manufacturing processes, etc.
- Provide shoppers with an interactive image zoom feature that allows users to get a more detailed view of any part of the image
In addition to the product images, online retail brands should also scrutinize the other important elements contained on their product detail pages to build trust and encourage conversions from traffic.
Product Detail Pages
The lifeblood of ecommerce is its product detail page (PDP)—the web page that provides not only product images but specific information on a product that encourages a customer to make a purchase. A comprehensive or trustworthy PDP tells the consumer everything there is to know about an item.
A well-constructed PDP is essential to any online brand’s marketing strategy since it is the page that leads directly to a sale with a button to add the item to the shopping cart. This page typically contains the following core components to start the buying process and generate sales:
- Product images
- Detailed product description
- Product benefits and key features
- Social proof
- Sizes, styles, and colors
- Measurements and dimensions
- Materials and ingredients
- Assembly or installation instructions
- Product availability, scarcity, and urgency signals
- Trust badges and trust seals
- User reviews
- Shipping and returns
The quality of the content on a PDP plays a critical role in the purchasing decisions of today’s online consumers. According to one study conducted by Salsify in its “Cracking the Consumer Code” report, 87% of shoppers rate product content extremely or very important when deciding to make a purchase. It is also well known that ecommerce websites can improve their organic search engine rankings by enhancing PDPs with unique, keyword-rich content.
Yet, given the confidence that consumers place in the PDP to make a buying decision, many ecommerce brands have significantly underperforming PDPs, which may be a sign that consumers have attributed less trust to them and purchased from a competitor instead.
The Baymard Institute, experts in product page UI/UX, has conducted substantial research on PDP elements and concluded that the average site has 24 structural UX problems on its product pages. They also found that 82% or the vast majority of sites studied have a “poor” or “mediocre” performance.
It seems that the lack of quality product pages across the board offers savvy ecommerce brands or online retailers a unique opportunity to craft PDPs that are superior to competitors. The result of doing so could be a significant increase in conversion rates and growth in market share.
To sum up, nearly all users go through a PDP before making any purchase, and it is often on this page where consumer trust is most earned to decide whether or not to purchase an item. This is why leveraging ecommerce technology is crucial to making the PDP the centerpiece of the users’ trust and ecommerce experience.
03. Ensuring Proper User Accessibility
Another area where UI/UX standards contribute greatly to humanizing and creating a trustworthy ecommerce presence is user accessibility. User accessibility is the concept of whether a product or service, such as a website, can be used by everyone however they encounter it. Adoption of accessibility standards enables consumers with disabilities or challenges to perceive, understand, and more easily navigate an ecommerce brand’s website.
The goal of accessibility is to increase user trust by applying technology to design ecommerce experiences for a diverse set of users who will interact with an online brand. This can include consumers with:
- Blindness, color blindness, and low vision
- Deafness and hearing difficulties
- Mobility impairments
- Cognitive disabilities
When leveraging technology for user accessibility, it is also important to design for people who are young, old, power users, casual users, and consumers who just overall enjoy a quality shopping experience. In other words, focus on increasing the trustworthiness of an ecommerce or online retail brand by designing a website experience for everyone who might be a potential customer.
Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee, the computer scientist, best known as the inventor of the World Wide Web, said it best: “The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.” Unfortunately, brands with inaccessible websites are failing today to accommodate a growing portion of the population. At the same time, the number of people living with disabilities is expected to grow considerably.
So, what are some of the ways that UI/UX technology can be best put to use to make an ecommerce brand more sensitive to and accessible to a wider range of possible customers? Here are some basic best practices to consider when designing for accessibility:
- Don’t use color as the only visual means of conveying information—use color to highlight or complement what is already visible
- Always ensure that there is a sufficient contrast between text and its background
- Use Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) approved fonts (and sizes) such as Tahoma, Calibri, Helvetica, Arial, Verdana, and Times New Roman
- Provide closed captions or transcripts for all videos embedded on a website
- Make sure all images have an “alt text” label that can be displayed or read instead of just viewing the picture
- Be careful when it comes to designing forms to make sure there are defined boundaries and visible labels
- Avoid making users hover with a mouse to find things on a web page
It is also a good idea to consider developing a “low power” or more minimalist version of an ecommerce website for those with lower Internet bandwidth. For a more serious dive into making ecommerce websites more accessible for all users, refer to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) accessibility standards at https://www.w3.org/WAI/standards-guidelines/.
While there are many things that can influence a consumer’s trust in ecommerce technology, online retail brands should pay particular attention to building specific trust drivers. Some of these trust points can be achieved by establishing an exceptional omnichannel experience while implementing the best practices for UI/UX for product images, product pages, and user accessibility.
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