The Importance of Trust in E-Commerce


When someone lands on your e-commerce website they will have the following questions:

  1. Do you have what I am looking for?
  2. What are the variations, options, choices?
  3. How much is it?
  4. When can I get it by?

And a final question which is running through in the back of the their mind whilst they find answers to the previous 4….

Can I trust you with my order?

With the prevalence of search engines, when someone visits your website they could land on any webpage. And they could be there for many different reasons such as:

  • Looking for a specific product
  • Looking for a product of a specific type
  • Just browsing for inspiration

So if your visitor has landed directly onto the page of the product they want to buy, you really only have a few seconds to make a good impression. With the other types of visitors you may have a little longer to develop that trust but then you’ve also got more opportunities to lose it too!

Now think about this for a moment. Who do you trust?

I imagine it’s people who know about their topic, don’t give you false information and more importantly who you feel care about you.

Let’s look at each of those in turn.


For the person who’s landed directly on the product page you only have one chance to show that you are knowledgeable about your product, so you’ll need:

  • Great product photos that show all the important aspects of the product. Consider a photo of the product in use, if applicable.
  • Great product description – and not just the same blurb from the manufacturer that all the other websites have used. This is your best chance to show that you really know this product.
  • Clearly explain the variants and options so the customer feels informed to make their choice.
  • Clearly list out any technical information such as size, weight, instructions, package contents, etc.
  • Related products – don’t think upselling here but genuinely associated products such as the correct SD card for a digital camera.

For a person looking for a product type or just browsing you have another way to show your knowledge and that’s with your website’s navigational system.

A well thought out, easy to use menu system where products are grouped together in logical categories shows that you know your product range. It also shows that you understand your customers and how they will want to browse around your website.

I bet you’ve never thought of your navigational system as a method for building trust before. But it is a great way to create a good impression.

Finally you need to show that you understand the questions a visitor will have before they purchase, such as:

  • When will I get my order? Make your dispatch and delivery time frames clear.
  • How can I contact you if I have a question about my order? Have your email address and telephone number visible on every page. Ideally have your postal address on every page too but at the very least on your contact page.
  • If things go wrong what will happen? Have a simple returns policy only one click away.

Now you’ve demonstrated that you are knowledgeable about your products and hopefully have gained a little trust don’t go and lose it!

False Information

I’m not suggesting that you’ve deliberately misled your visitors but by not having important information readily available can feel like false information.

My biggest bugbear with some websites is that they are not upfront about delivery costs and other charges. So makes this clear along with your delivery time scales and anything else that may be relevant to your customers.

If your product photos show items which are not included in the product (and could easily be thought to be) make it clear that they are not included.

If relevant give a sense of size in your product pictures. Sometimes putting the size in the description isn’t enough.


How can you show that you care about your website visitors? By anticipating their needs.

On an e-commerce website people want a simple way to get about and purchase what they want as quickly as possible.

Your website navigation is once again key. Show you care enough to know how your visitors might browse.

This is not an e-commerce example but I hope it makes my point. I’m currently looking for a pet friendly holiday cottage with 3 bedrooms and I was on a website for a holiday complex with multiple cottages of varying numbers of bedrooms and requirements e.g. baby friendly, pet friendly, etc. This website organised their navigation by cottage name. Perfectly logical to the website’s owner but not to me. I either had to hunt around for a page that listed the cottages and their facilities, take note of which ones applied and then go to the relevant cottages pages, or I had to click on each cottage to find out. A better navigational system would have been – 2 bedroom cottages, 3 bedroom cottages, 4 bedroom cottages, pet friendly cottages. Don’t you agree?

Visitors to your website can be browsers, searchers or a mixture of both (browse first and then search). Accommodate them all. Have a good quality, easy to use, search box.

People don’t like to feel lost and in a virtual store it is easy to lose the sense of where you are. Make visitors more comfortable by giving visual clues about where they are in your product range or in your checkout process. You can do this in two ways:

  1. On your category menu make the active category stand out by having it bold or a different colour.
  2. Use breadcrumbs. A breadcrumb is a series of text links that show you where you are in the website’s hierarchy and make it easier for you to go back up to a higher level. For example:
    Home > Books > Computers > Web Development > Don’t Make Me Think
    (which is an excellent book on website usability by the way).

There are other ways to instil trust on your website (such as displaying security logos or carefully crafted copy in the checkout process). Please share your tips in the comments below.

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Take a look at your website? Have you got trust covered?