May 7, 2010

Trust Symbols and Shopping Carts


Hostway Team

By Melissa J Luther

Consumers are becoming more comfortable with online shopping, but are also still concerned with online security, and they have no problem aborting the buying process if they feel their personal information may be at risk. A recent poll of online shoppers by the National Cyber security Alliance (NCSA) found that when they abandoned a shopping cart, 63 percent of the time it was due to concerns about security.

Ecommerce sites that don’t make it clear that they take security seriously may risk losing sales. Savvy consumers expect companies to understand the importance of protecting their personal information. A 2009 study by McAfee found that 63% of consumers would not buy from a site without either a trust symbol or a straightforward security policy.

What are Trust Symbols?

Trust symbols are badges or seals, provided by third parties, that show your Web site has been independently verified as trustworthy. If your site uses secure socket layer (SSL) technology, the seal verifies that the site is legitimate and secure. If you don’t use SSL, then it shows that your business is legitimate, and the site is free of malware.

Trust symbols can have a positive effect on conversion rates, but they do cost money. The most trusted seals are also the most expensive.

How Do You get a Trust Symbol?

You purchase a trust symbol from the issuing company. Two popular programs are Verisign seals and McAfee certification. Exact requirements will vary slightly by company, but at minimum, you must prove your business is real and you own the Web site domain.

There are different levels of trust, depending on whether or not you collect sensitive information directly on your site. If your shopping cart is hosted by a third party, then you probably do not collect this information yourself. In this case, Verisign offers a Trust Seal, which indicates your business is legitimate and the site has passed daily malware scans conducted by Verisign.

If you host your own shopping cart using SSL, you need an SSL certificate. If you get this certificate from Verisign, you will receive a Secure Seal as part of your purchase. This tells consumers that your site is legitimate and secure.

Are Trust Symbols Worth the Cost?

As with most things in business and in life, it depends. Your ultimate goal is conversion, so if your conversion rate is good, you may not need a trust symbol. Even if you’d like to increase your conversion rate, you may want to evaluate your cart design before spending money on a third-party badge. If the problem is a confusing cart design, a trust symbol may not help.

Make sure you have a clean, easy-to-navigate cart with a link to a clear privacy policy explaining exactly how you use the information you collect. Ask someone you trust to navigate through the checkout procedure and point out anything that is unclear.

Once you are sure your cart is clean and easy to use, then consider a trust symbol to improve conversions.

About the Author

Melissa J Luther, owner and founder of LookSee Information Solutions, LLC, helps small businesses create and maintain a strong Internet presence. She takes a multi-channel approach, with a well-optimized Web site as the center of an Internet presence that includes content creation, PPC advertising, linking and social media as appropriate.

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