May 3, 2012

Website Usability: Who Are You?

If you’re a super-hero like Spiderman or The Tick, a secret identity can come in handy. When you’re running an E-Commerce website, however, shrouding your company details in mystery can ruin your business.

One of the main disadvantages of E-Commerce is that consumers can’t see, touch or feel the actual products offered on your website. People like to know what they’re buying. Fortunately, it’s a disadvantage that can be overcome to a degree by including plenty of good product-specific content like photos, videos and reviews. Another disadvantage is that consumers can’t see you — or your business — and gain a sense of trust from that contact. As much as people like to know what they’re buying, they also want to have confidence in who they’re buying from.

Trust MeDoes your website represent a real business that will treat them fairly and stand behind the products you sell? Do you appreciate your customers and want to help them make a purchasing decision, or help them sort out a problem they may have? Answers to those questions come easily when you have a bricks-and-mortar business because your customer is standing right there in front of you. On your E-commerce website you accomplish the same goal by providing company details and contact information in locations that are easy to find.

Who are you, and why should I trust you with my hard-earned money? It’s a simple enough question, but I’m always surprised at the number of online businesses that fail to provide an answer. Putting an e-mail form on your website isn’t the same thing as telling consumers how they can contact you. In fact, e-mail forms unsupported by other forms of contact information are more often perceived as a way of avoiding, instead of inviting, customer interaction.

When you plan the content for your website, always start from the assumption that visitors don’t know anything about your business. Include an “About Us” type of page on the site that explains what you do and why you’re good at it — then back up your claim on consumer trust by providing the information people need to contact your business directly. A prominently displayed phone number, along with a physical address will go a long way toward building trust and gaining a new customer.

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