Each week as Smallbizlady, I conduct interviews with small business experts on my weekly Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. This is excerpted from our #SmallBizChat interview with Raj Malik @rajmalikdc. Raj Malik is CEO & Co-Founder of KikScore (@KikScore), a service that enables small businesses to demonstrate trust by displaying verified, interactive and dynamic trust-related data about their business on their website. Raj and the great team at KikScore are passionate about small business success and helping small businesses. Raj is a blogger, past speaker at SXSW and champion of all things Cleveland even though he lives in Washington DC.
*Note: This week’s interview was led by #Smallbizchat co-host Tai Goodwin.*
Tai Goodwin: Why is demonstrating trust important for small businesses doing business online?
Raj Malik: The stats are overwhelming: consumers still have significant concerns shopping and doing business online. For example, a recent study found that 7 out of every 10 shopping carts are abandoned! 63% of shoppers will not complete a purchase online because of security and trust concerns. Still not convinced? A few years back, a study found that consumers fear of online shopping and trust concerns have cost online businesses $21 billion dollars. If you are not showing that you are a trustworthy and reliable business, you are going to lose sales.
Tai Goodwin: Is trust a one time item or is it ongoing and dynamic factor that always is part of your business?
Raj Malik: Trust is a dynamic and ever changing factor in the mind of consumers. That is especially the case online. A website that may look very updated, clean and professional today may look old, tired and suspicious in a few months especially with the way website content and website’s look and feel continually change. That is why businesses should always be thinking about their website from a consumer’s point of view and how they may view not only their homepage, but the key areas of a website where consumers are making purchasing decisions. For online sellers, the shopping cart area has to continually be reviewed to ensure consumers do not have a reason to be concerned about the trustworthiness of a site when it comes to making a purchase.
A good example of the dynamic nature of trust is the rise of social media icons on websites. 12-18 months ago very few websites had social media icons. Now many small business websites have links to their Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn pages and even Twitter streams. The addition of these icons and streams makes a website more personal and therefore increases the chances that a consumer thinks that website is trustworthy.
A website with fresh and recent content such as blog posts, tweets, and customer feedback also helps build credibility with shoppers.
Tai Goodwin: What key factors do consumers use to make a purchasing decision when buying online?
Raj Malik: Almost everyone will say price, maybe location, whether a product is in stock, free delivery is another important factor. But there is one trump card over all of this. That is trust. If your website does not look like a legitimate, trustworthy and reliable website, then its game over. The consumer will move on quickly and may never come back. That is a lost sale…..forever!
Tai Goodwin: How much do those factors differ for B2B sales?
Raj Malik: Many of these same factors are important for B2B sales, but probably more so than anything else. Trust again is a trump card. If a consumer that is making a one time sale is not going to buy due to a trust issue, a B2B sale where someone’s job is on the line just will not happen if the business purchaser thinks the online business may not have a reputation of reliability and trustworthiness. For B2B and especially online small businesses that are service providers like consultants, testimonials, case studies, summary of results (i.e. I consulted with my technology client KikScore and increased their sales 27% in 6 months) and white papers are very helpful to build credibility. The more of these items the better.
Tai Goodwin: What information should be provided on every website to help indicate trustworthiness for a business?
Raj Malik: Answers: 1) About Us. 2) Management information. Actually supply the names of managers and yes, use full names. If you list “Joe A.” as the owner of the store, that doesn’t seem like you trust your website visitors and it also appears like you do not take your business seriously enough to release your last name! Give names, titles and if you can outline experience in a particular field that is even better. 3) Testimonials. Shoppers and website visitors want to make sure that other people have used your service before. Every testimonial should have name, URL and hopefully have the customer say that they will use you again and that they would refer you to a friend.
Tai Goodwin: Can you give us 3 or 4 things that should always be included in the About Us page?
Raj Malik: The goal of every About Us page is to give customers transparency into your business.
1. Every About Us page should tells your story as a business. Consumers like stories and they like underdogs. Tell your small business story. 2. Make it personal (not too personal), but let people know you are authentic. 3. Location. So many people are scared of giving their location. At least give the city and where you are located. 4. Try to include a picture of you and your team 5. Bonus one I have seen is a video story about the business and why the owner started the business. This can be used very effectively to make a personal connection with a website visitor.
Tai Goodwin: What are some common bad practices that can be roadblocks to establishing credibility?
Raj Malik: Lack of transparency and lack of information about a business is an immediate roadblock. Typos look terrible too and reduce the credibility for a business. Also websites that do not have the following may be consider suspicious:
1. No contact information, email address, phone number etc.
3. No return policy
4. No trust seals
Tai Goodwin: What are trust seals and how can they help small businesses convey trustworthiness online?
Raj Malik: Trust seals are badges that an online business puts on their website to convey a sense of trust. There are a variety of trust seals that do a variety of things. Most trust seals out in the market allow your business to take their brand name and say if you put this large company’s brand name on your site people will think your business is trustworthy. Trust by association. Part of that is true. Trust seals that fall into this category are the Verisign Trust Seal, McAfee, BBBonline etc. However, you should also look for a seal that allows you to take information and data about your own businesses and your trackrecord of reliability and show that important data to your website visitors. A very useful type of trust seal is one that instead of using a 3rd party’s brand allows you to use data and information about your own history of financial and business reliability and display that data through a confidence badge on your website. That is called a transparency trust seal!
Tai Goodwin: What types of businesses should use trust seals?
Raj Malik: Most commentators say only online stores should have one. I disagree: Every business, whether you sell online or are a realtor, plumber, blogger or attorney can effectively use a trust seal on their website, especially a transparency trust seal. That means service businesses that just market their services online should consider using trust seals. Here is a post about why Nonprofits and charities should use trust seals. Again, you need to look for the right trust seal, but one common one that every business should use is a trust seal that can be used as a report card for your business. A trust seal can allow you to convey to shoppers that I am willing to be transparent about my business and here is a report card about my business.
Trust seals can also be used in different parts of your website. Online sellers should have trust seals in your shopping cart or as you enter the shopping cart. Service providers should have trust seals and certifications on their homepage, bios and service description pages.
Tai Goodwin: How do social media profiles impact credibility in the eyes of website visitors?
Raj Malik: They can help and hurt at the same time. They help tremendously if you keep them updated, show activity and show engagement or that you are an information source and thought leader. However, a dormant social media profile can also be a red flag or raise questions about are you still in business. My recommendation – if you previously set up a social media profile on Facebook or Twitter, but have let those channels go dormant, either shut them down or focus on the one or two where you will get customers. On the other hand, if you are actively engaged on social media, that can really show shoppers that this is a legitimate and trustworthy business.
Tai Goodwin: How can third party review sites like Yelp help to demonstrate that your site is trustworthy?
Raj Malik: My good friend Shashi B (the Swami from NetSol) always says go claim your Yelp profile! He says there is nothing worse than an unclaimed profile where people are talking about your business and there are no responses from the business itself. So you can gain a tremendous amount of credibility if your business at least goes and not only claims your business profile, but periodically check and respond to customers that post comments. Engagement and transparency together with these profiles helps build credibility.
Tai Goodwin: What 3 things can business owners start working on tonight to specifically communicate trust to prospective customers?
Raj Malik: 1. Create an introduction video and put it on your website to introduce yourself, your product or service to shoppers or website visitors. Check out this post on how to use video for your small business.
2. Put up a recent testimonial. Find one of your customers who loves your business. Approach them about a short testimonial and put that testimonial up on your website now.
3. Create a unique pledge to your customers and put it up on your website. What do you pledge to do for your customers or the community? Whatever it is, put that up on your website. A pledge can help show you are authentic, credible and a business that should be trusted.
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