Checkout best practice 101: trust and security

It’s essential that customers feel they can trust a website with their credit card, but how can retailers build trust during checkout? 

I think, compared to the early days of ecommerce, customers generally trust the security of online transactions, though there have been some high profile data breaches which mean retailers and customers alike should avoid complacency.

Is it just about security logos?

In the past, sites have used security logos during checkout to provide a visual cue that sites are secure.

This can work well, especially for first time buyers who amy be unfamiliar with the site.

However, people seem to respond to logos they recognise, without understanding what they actually signify.

For example, a Baymard survey found that the following logos were the most trusted by consumers.

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There is a difference between the logos though. Some are SSL seals, which verify the actual server security (and should in theory be the most trusted), while others are trust seals, which do not refer to technical security.

So, the second, third and fourth results are trust seals, while the rest are SSL seals. Moreover, the two most trusted are popular anti-virus brands, so people are just trusting familiar logos.

The lesson here is that the appearance of security is more significant than the detail represented by logos. 

home depot security

So how else can checkouts convey trust?

Logos can still be worth using, and are perhaps even more important for new sites, or those that may be unfamiliar to shoppers. However, it’s about all-round trust and retailers need to do more than just displaying logos.

SSL certificates

SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificates authenticate the identity of a website and encrypts information sent to the server. It’s an essential sign that checkouts are secure, though I wouldn’t be surprised if most online shoppers have little idea of what they represent, or even look for them.

macys ssl

Alternative logos

Here, AO.com doesn’t display security logos, but uses Google’s Certified shops scheme.

ao checkout trust

This doesn’t guarantee that transactions are secure as server security logo do, but instead provides reassurance in the form of ratings from other shoppers. Essentially the message is that others have used this site without problems, so you can too.

A further layer of reassurance is provided by the promise of Google’s purchase protection for up to £1,000.

It also provides reviews on shipping, returns and customer service which should help to convince shoppers that the retailer offers a good service.

ao google cert

Customer service and contact details

The AO example above displays a live chat link and a contact number prominently, and this is no accident.

It says to the customer that help is just a click or phone call away if required, while it also says that this is a company that would be happy to speak to customers, rather than one which hides contact details away.

For the retailer, providing customer service at the point of purchase like this allows them to deal with any last minute questions and help to guide customers through checkout.

Here, Schuh presents a clear contact number, as well as a live chat option, during checkout.

Schuh contact

Site performance

The general performance of a site can play a role too. If pages load quickly, and the site works as it should, customers are reassured.

On the other hand, if pages time out, especially during checkout and payment, customer confidence will begin to drain away. If they can’t trust the site performance, many will not trust sites with their payment details.

A smooth checkout

Checkout design is probably as important as any security reassurances or logos retailers add. People will make judgements based on the look and feel of a site.

So, if it looks like it was designed 15 years ago, or amateurish in any way, then customers will wonder about security.

For example, this Playmobil checkout uses a very old ecommerce platform and I’d wager that brand recognition rather than good design persuades customers to trust it.

playmob check

User experience also matters here. If customers continually encounter problems due to poor usability, or are made to work very hard to complete forms, then this can begin to erode trust.

For example, the Boots checkout process contains many points of friction which could deter users, insisting that customers register first for one:

Boots checkout registration

On the flip-side, a smooth checkout process with well designed forms, a professional look and feel, and one which performs well helps to reassure customers.

Brand and social proof

More powerful than any security logos is brand trust. Whereas five to ten years ago, most websites used security logos, the better known retailers tend to do without them more and more.

You won’t find any security logos on Amazon for example, but people have no problems in trusting them with their card details.

For retailers who don’t have the brand recognition of Amazon, then social proof can help to bridge this gap. If you have satisfied customers, then testimonials from them tell potential customers that this is a site which can be trusted.

One example is AO.com. It’s becoming more well-known now, but was a new entrant to the market relatively recently, so it has worked hard on social proof.

On the screenshot below, we can see a couple of examples – the TrustPilot score, a million happy customers, and the results of a Which? consumer survey. It’s persuasive stuff.

ao social proof

In summary

Checkout security can be conveyed in a number of ways. First and foremost, the checkout must be secure. After that, it’s a case of reassuring customers in the ways I’ve described here.

I should note that it shouldn’t be overdone. There is a school of though which says that security logos can increase fear. If customers see such a logo, then they begin to think about payment security. If they see too many, will they think retailers are trying too hard.

There is no shortcut to earning customers’ trust. It has to be worked at over time, and it’s as much about getting the customer experience right as anything else.

For more information, see our new Checkout Best Practice Guide, as well as guides on mobile commerce, customer experience, and social customer service, all under the ClickZ Intelligence banner. 

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