Want People to Trust Your E-Commerce Site? Do This.

E-commerce in the United States during 2015 totaled $341.7 billion in 2015, up 14.6 percent from 2014, and businesses who want a piece of the pie need to ensure customers feel safe when buying from their website. Most companies first think about back-end security when it comes to protecting customers’ data, but details from your marketing, web design, image quality and even grammar and spelling mistakes can all affect how your website is perceived and can affect how much customers trust purchasing from your website.

When split-second decisions on trustworthiness can mean the difference between a successfully placed order and possibly turning the customer over to a competitor, you need to be certain that your customers feel absolutely safe when buying from you online. Here’s what to know.

Website Back End

When we refer to the “back end” of your website, we’re talking about the coding, functions and features that aren’t apparent to customers or website users. Most companies will start with the back end features, especially security for customer data, transactions, order, payment, and shipping information. If this is an area unfamiliar to you, you may need to consult your web design company or IT department.

TLS—Transport Layer Security—and its predecessor, SSL—Secure Sockets Layer— are standards that provide customers with security reassurances on several fronts. First, it authenticates that the company operating the website is who they say they are, and TLS and SSL provide encryption methods for transferring data between a server and web browser.

By purchasing the digital certificate from your web services company, it helps to provide your customers with the reassurance they need to make a purchase. This is usually indicated by a small lock symbol on the browser for the customer, verifying that the security certificate has been verified and that information shared by the customer is secure. The SSL Certificate and encryption may be supplied by your web hosting company, or through a third-party web security company.

Furthermore, consider listing your website in as many directories and social network profiles as possible including Google, Yelp, Facebook Pages, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing will crawl these profiles and will help to improve the SEO, or “Search Engine Optimization” of your website over others, further strengthening the trustworthiness of your website.

Customer Database

With multiple high-profile customer database breaches within the last couple years, it has been apparent that even some of the largest companies in the world are unable to prevent attacks by cyber criminals. Not only can data breaches be embarrassing for the company and result in lost customers and revenue, but they can also result in fines and lawsuits, and thus, should be taken very seriously.

Firstly, all employees need to regard customer data highly—it’s not just an issue for your IT department. Everyone from customer service reps to order fillers in the warehouse need to be knowledgeable about how to responsibly use and destroy customer data. Also, consider how much customer data is used. Is it necessary to print the full credit card number on the invoice? Limit as much customer data as possible to prevent unauthorized use.

Read more: The Greatest Security Threat in Your Business Is…

From a data perspective, companies should ensure that customer data is encrypted and take a look at DLP, or Data Loss Prevention technology. DLP makes it possible to enforce specific policies across company networks, such as moving or emailing particular customer files, or any file with customer credit card numbers or social security numbers. If this is an area unfamiliar to you, consult your IT contact.

Furthermore, work with your IT representative in creating specifications in any cloud vendor negotiations. Many of these cloud vendors have very specific security protocols, including disaster recovery (such as floods and hurricanes) and backup, but also have security protocols in place for electronic attacks, as well as physical security (someone walking up to the data center to try to steal data). Your IT representative can help you understand the needs of the business in developing a cloud strategy.

Similarly, your company should also consider retaining server logs as long as possible. In many cases, data breaches can occur without being noticed for weeks. In cases where companies only maintain server logs for seven or 30 days, they may not have enough history to refer to and find a reason for the breach. By maintaining server log for one year, or longer, it is more likely you are able to determine the cause of a data breach to fix it.

With as many as half of employees surveyed saying that they have company information on personal devices, BYOD, or “Bring Your Own Device” can also affect customer data integrity. Applications exist to remotely wipe lost phones and devices that may contain company data, and policies can be enforced to require these apps on any phone that accesses company email. Consider requiring these types of mobile applications for any employee who wishes to keep any customer data on their phones.

Website Front End

Where the website back end was the coding behind the website, the website front end is the layout, text and graphics that customers see. While many small businesses may not have the budget for a slick, fully-featured website, it’s actually much easier than ever to produce a snazzy-looking, easy-to-use website for customers.

Because of the ease in building professional websites, customers are more and more weary of websites with poor-quality graphics, bad grammar and spelling, or otherwise seem less-well put together. Think about that email you received from the Nigerian Prince asking you to help him cash in a lottery ticket. The poor grammar is often a dead giveaway of a scam, and many less reputable websites offer the same level of design and writing quality.

Many web providers offer easy design packages, and still others like WordPress and blogger offer platforms for designing websites and blogs alike. Plus, many e-commerce sites offer pre-packaged and designed sites complete with pre-built shopping carts and catalogs. If designing your own website doesn’t appeal to you, web designers can usually create a professional design for as little as around $3,000, depending on complexity and location of course.

Read more: How to Bring International Customers to Your Site

By keeping an eye on your website back-end security, your customer database integrity, company data policies, and even front-end design and writing quality, customer trust will be increased, and web traffic and e-commerce sales will improve. It may not be an immediate switch to flip, but rather a gradual process to update website features and company policies, but in the end, it will be worth it not just to the business, but more importantly, to your customer.

What are some of the top tips for you to improve trust when buying online? Share your ideas in the comments.

Ajeet Khurana
Ajeet Khurana
Ajeet Khurana wears many hats: author, angel investor, mentor, TEDx speaker, steering committee of the NASSCOM Start-Up Warehouse, Director of Founder Institute, Venture Partner with the seed initiative of a top Venture Capital firm, and former CEO of IIT Bombay’s business incubator, among others. Before all this, he was entrepreneurial twice in the field of education and web publishing. As a lecturer at the University of Texas at Austin, he taught e-commerce back in 1993, when the term "e-commerce" had not yet been coined. An undergrad in computer engineering from the University of Mumbai, and an MBA from the University of Texas, Ajeet is presently an active name in the startup ecosystem. From starting two ventures as a solopreneur, to helping a large number of startups with their go-to-market, he has never shied from getting his hands dirty. At the same time he has helped dozens of startups raise investment. He truly believes that small business owners are driving change in the world, and need to be facilitated as much as possible. Innumerable small businesses have gained from his attitude, vast professional networks, financial acumen and digital mindset.

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