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A Matter of Online Trust

Give customers a reason to trust you over the other guy.

This story appears in the August 2009 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Brick-and-mortar sells. Your customers can see it, touch it and drive to it. Upon entering, they can look around and then look you and your colleagues in the eye and gauge your trustworthiness. On the web, however, most companies--especially startups with no track record--are suspect until they prove themselves dependable. Rather than take a chance on a startup, potential customers will often pay more for identical products and services offered by a business they feel they can trust.

The Gold Standard
Because trust is such a valuable commodity, building trust online is crucial to gaining a competitive edge. When it comes to features and a design that engender trust, I recommend the following.
An attractive and professional design: If you've never designed a website, don't start now. Hire a pro instead.
Clear and simple navigation: Your site's navigation should meet the needs of your customers, not your organization.
Engaging, informative content: Content is king and includes graphics, video and images.
Error-free copy: This is a must.
"About Us" page: Complete with bios and photos allowing potential customers to "meet" you
Physical address, telephone number and e-mail address: Each is essential to building trust. Don't make visitors have to search for them.
Testimonials from real customers: Include first and last names-always.
Privacy policy: Assure customers that their information is safe.
Ad-free: and ads cheapen the appearance of your site and call your integrity into question.
When battling for , imagine competing against the Amazons of the world. If I'm looking to purchase a blender and have the choice to buy it from you or from , chances are good I'll buy it from Amazon, even if it's more expensive.

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