If people like you, they listen to you; but if they trust you, they will do business with you – Zig Zaglar

Ecommerce’s scorching pace of growth is for us all to see, even as adjacent ecosystems like payment modes and logistics modernize to match this pace. Consider these quick facts about online purchasing behavior:

43% of global shoppers research products online via social networksBy 2023, 22% of global retail sales (up from 14.1% in 2019) will be thanks to e-commerce
In the United States alone, e-commerce sales are expected to surpass $740 billion by 2023By 2023, U.S. e-commerce revenue will be $740B!

Be it an established conglomerate, an SME or a start-up, there is no escaping customer concerns regarding online transactions. Since the early e-commerce days, people (B2C) and businesses (B2B) have had a cautious relationship with online purchases. It started with being skeptical about providing credit card information on websites/ apps. Today, not just e-commerce, but many more businesses; be it utility payments, insurance premium payments, flight/ hotel tickets; are largely conducted online, thanks to the rapid digitisation of businesses.

What started as skepticism has now turned into full-blown data privacy concerns like data theft, lack of end-to-end encryption, hacking, lack of anonymisation, poor password management, malware, database leakage, etc. The Cisco Consumer Privacy Survey validates consumer need for trusted brands when it reports that 47% of consumers claim to have switched companies or providers over their data policies/ sharing practices.

So, What are Trust Signals?

Trust Signals are elements of a business’s digital assets (website/ app/ social platforms etc.), that provide ‘evidence’ to prospective buyers. Trust Signals come in many shapes, sizes, forms. They require varying levels of investment by businesses. Some are easy and cheap to acquire, quick to deploy on the website/ other digital assets; others are more intensive to acquire and deploy. Trust Signals play a role at all stages of the customer journey:

trust signal customer journey stages

How Having Trust Signals Helps Businesses

There are several benefits to employing trust signals. Not only does it reassure buyers; but it is also important to improve your digital marketing efforts. Many trust signals are a ranking factor in determining your business’ position on Google Search results. SEO professionals use terms like “TrustRank” to ensure that Google sees a site as trustworthy enough, to rank among top results.

Trust signals help increase conversions, by making site/app visitors feel more confident dealing with a business. Similarly, if a potential customer sees that other customers have a positive experience with a business, they are more likely to choose that business. Verification by third parties also builds credibility with site visitors, making them more likely to convert into customers.

How do Trust Signals Work Across the Typical Customer Journey

Broadly, trust signals can be classified into 4 types:

types of trust signal in customer journey
  • Hygiene factors: Do your digital assets fulfill basic requirements expected of online businesses eg. website security protocols like SSL certificate, security badges from Norton/McAfee
  • Appearance: How professional your digital assets are to look and navigate eg: site/app layout, details provided on the ‘About Us’ section on-site/app
  • Social proof: what others are saying about your business, online
  • Nuts and bolts: How thorough are the protocols guarding your customers’ online transactions eg. encryption, tokenization, authentication (like biometric verification), and key management?

Customers’ trust-related needs vary, depending on what stage of the customer journey they are:

Brand Discovery stage: When initially exploring products/brands to buy, their trust-related need is basic – where is this business located, do I know anything at all about it? Is it a serious player in this industry?

Google Maps listing Top-level domain Clean navigation Media coverage
Celeb/ influencer endorsements
Page loading & site speed Professionally designed site/app About/Leadership/Contact us pages Industry/association logos
Industry awards

Brand Evaluation stage: This is when prospective customers are typically comparing among brands. They have some knowledge of offerings available, price points, features and benefits. Hence, their trust-related needs are likely to be more to do with how the business projects itself and whether it is likely to deliver what it claims.

Employee profiles with their SM handle added Personalized experience Frequently updated, quality content Custom photographs (rather than free-sourced images)
Case studies Product/ client/ partner stats Easy-to-find Exchange, shipping & return policies  

Brand Purchase stage: By now, prospective customers believe the brand enough to actively consider purchasing it. Hereon, they are seeking a seamless, trustworthy experience of online purchase. This is where they seek website/app features that enable them to choose the business and reassure them that their transaction and payment data is secure.

Number/ profile of customers Google/ Embedded reviews/ star ratings Social Media engagement stats on company page
Real-time social proof eg. ‘only 1 room left in this category’ Trust badges from payment modes eg. Visa, Master, PayPal  

Post-purchase stage: At this stage, customers have already experienced the brand and at times, need the brand to respond to issues/ questions/ complaints/ feedback. How the brand responds, determines whether customers recommend it further, to other prospective buyers.

Logos of and links to media outlets where brand is featured Social media responsiveness

In conclusion

Building trust is not a plug-and-play event. Instead, brand trust is built over time and across multiple touchpoints in the customer lifecycle. Social media, Reviews, Google Search and a quality website, play a significant role in making your site discoverable and comparable. Technical aspects such as SSL security protocols, password management and range of secure payment options enhance trust at later stages of the customer journey. Thus, when deploying Trust Signals, it is advisable to take a holistic approach; by using those that address customer concerns as and when they arise in the customer journey.

Ushma Kapadia

Consumer Insights professional by training, B2B Content Writer by interest, aspiring Social Entrepreneur, Coffee-fanatic, forever learning.


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