Building Trust Through Transparency

If you haven’t heard trust is important. It’s important in your relationships, it’s important in your business, and it’s important in your website. I can ‘t really help you in that first one, but as for your business and website transparency can go a long way in establishing trust. Transparency if done right will lead to more trust from site visitors and lead to more sales because of that trust.

Trust is important in all business dealings. We’re all more apt to make a purchase when we trust the company selling the product or service. It’s pretty obvious when you think about it. If you don’t trust a site you visit and question whether or not your order will arrive are you going to place an order? But when you do feel like the site and business can be trusted you’re much more likely to give them your credit card information and place that order.

When you have a physical store and someone walks in you can build trust through your conversation with them. From the moment they walk in you answer their questions and make idle chat and develop a rapport with them. Online that give and take isn’t there and so you need to do other things to establish trust.

There are quite a few things you can do to build trust with visitors to your site starting with having a professional look to your design. You can be sure to make your phone number obvious and add a privacy policy. But what I want to talk about here is transparency.

When something is transparent you can see through it. With business transparency the idea is to allow people to see inside the business in ways they might not normally be able to. Thinking of the physical store again for a moment there’s a level of transparency built in by being able to meet the owners (or at least the employees) and getting to know them. Learning a little bit about them and who they are outside of their store helps us know and trust them more. With the physical store you also get to see how they treat other customers. Maybe while you’re there, someone comes in with a problem and wants to return something. While clearly the customer is in the wrong the owner still refunds their purchase completely. How will that make you feel about your own purchasing decision.

Online you can reveal more about yourself than you might think. Most of us tend to think we should appear larger than we are online. We think that by coming across as a larger company we’ll earn more trust from potential customers. It’s easy enough to hide behind our websites and pretend we’re multi-national corporations. Should we though? How many multi-national corporations do you inherently trust? Go ahead and let your site visitors know you’re a one man band. Ok I admit I’m guilty of the appearing bigger than you are syndrome. If you look past this blog and into the main site you’ll see examples of the royal ‘we’ when referring to the business. But I am being transparent with this blog where it’s obvious everything you see here is me. I’ll also be moving away from the royal ‘we’ when I get around to redesigning the site.

If you are a one person company why not say so. I am and because of that I’m more willing to help out a one person company when I can, simply because I understand the struggles you might be going through and want to help. If you have several employees create a page introducing them with a little bio about each. Knowing that Janet handles your billing and sometimes feels grouchy in the morning before she’s had her coffee won’t keep me away from your company. It might make me hold off till the afternoon to call about a billing issue, but it won’t keep me from making a purchase. Many of us aren’t as friendly as we can be first thing. Being grouchy just made Janet human and consequently made your business human and more trustworthy.

Transparency isn’t only about sharing the good. It’s ok to let me know what you don’t do well. Being up front that there are things you don’t do so well will just make me trust you more when you tell me the things you can do well. We all aren’t experts at everything and it’s fine t let others know.

Does that mean you should share everything? Not at all. There are plenty of things we don’t need to know about each other to do business with each other. It’s not important to me what you had for dinner last night and I doubt you care to hear the details of my last trip to the grocery store. However I might reveal a little about that trip if it led me to some marketing insight I thought could be helpful. If the crab legs you had for dinner led you to the idea for a new product feel free to let me know that when you’re introducing the product on your site. Otherwise I really don’t need the details of your diet.

The main idea behind transparency is to allow potential clients and customers to see inside your business and get to know your business and how it operates better by being honest about your business. You don’t need to reveal everything, but humanizing yourself can go a long way in establishing trust with visitors to your site. And if people trust you they are more likely to buy from you.

Download a free sample from my book, Design Fundamentals.

2 comments

  1. When i first started being a webmaster i would always first look into trying to “trick” my visitors into doing things, Things like bookmark the site or subscribe to a mailing list, But i soon found out that this is a great way of ensuring people never come back.

    Trust is important on any site, But more important if you are dealing with sales, purchases and credit cards. Instead of trying to make people do something you should try to make them want to. And you do this by being completely open and honest. Most people woulnd’t risk their credit cards on a site unless they completelly trust it.

  2. I don’t know that asking people to bookmark a page or subscribe to a mailing list is necessarily tricking them, but I suppose it’s in how you do it. I do know that if I question the trustworthiness of any site I’m not coming back.

    It would be great if we coild all trust each other more from the outset, but we simply can’t and earning trust is extremely important for any site. It’s so much more difficult since you aren’t physically there with your customers that you have to work harder at it.

    There’s certainly a limit on how transparent you should be, but opening up more of yourself to your customers can help build relationships and loyalty in ways that a marketing pitch never can.

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