When it comes to online shopping, the single biggest barrier we face in persuading people to buy, is lack of trust [1]. 

In the ‘real’ world, we rely on non-verbal trust cues from face-to-face interactions to inform our decisions, and it’s these subconscious signals that help us make the choice as to whether or not to trust a vendor. Online, stripped of such cues, this process becomes much trickier.

Can I trust you?

If you want to persuade people to buy from you rather than from your competitors, you have to make a good first impression and build some initial trust before you can secure their custom. 

In a study using Taiwanese online bookstores, two researchers devised an experiment to examine how initial trust is formed online, and how it affects intention to purchase [2]. To measure initial trust, they used four major categories of determinants: perceived risk, perceived technology, trust propensity and company competency.

Here’s what they found. 

5 tips to boost your online sales:

1. Be useful

It may sound obvious, but the customers that perceived the website to be useful were more likely to trust the vendor and subsequently buy from them. A great example of a ‘useful’ site is Amazon – with its user ratings and reviews, recommendations and deals, it’s generally perceived as informative and useful, which is why it now dominates a huge corner of the online market.

2. Show that your site is secure

If you want to build trust, it’s important you show your customers that their payments will be secure. You can do this by using a secure prefix for your domain (https://), offering an established, reputable and familiar payment method (PayPal, Visa, Maestro, etc.), and providing the emotional security of a money-back guarantee.

3. Respect their privacy 

Privacy and the protection of our data have always been major concerns online, and it is an area that is attracting growing media coverage and concern – not least because the behavioural advertising and the tracking of user behaviours now mean that it’s easier than ever for companies to track each click, swipe or purchase we make. If you want to alleviate this pain, show your customers that their information is safe with you – disclose your cookie policy, reassure them that you won’t share their data with any third parties, and request the minimal amount of information necessary for them to successfully complete the purchase.

4. Maintain a good reputation

Research shows that over 90% of us say we trust ‘earned media’ (such as tweets, likes, ratings and personal recommendations from our friends) more than any other kind of advertising [2]. Since social media now plays such a huge role in making and breaking reputations, it’s important that you invest in yours by monitoring social media channels for chatter around your brand, maintaining good customer relationships, and creating positive, happy customer experiences from start to finish.

5. Be willing to customise 

Not only is personalization one of the hottest buzzwords du jour, it’s also what we’ve come to expect from our online shopping experiences. If you can show your customers that you’re willing to customize your service to meet their needs, it will show that you care enough about their experience and satisfaction to go the extra mile, which in turn will boost trust.

A closing note

Since online initial trust and familiarity with online purchasing both increase our intention to buy, it’s important that you build these steps into the design and functionality of your online platform.

When it comes to boosting your sales, it really is a question of trust.


[1] P. de Vries and A. Pruyn (2007). Source salience and the persuasiveness of peer recommendations: The mediating role of social trust. Persuasive, LNCS, 4744, pp.164 - 75.

[2] Y. Chen and S. Barnes (2007). Initial trust and online buyer behavior. Industrial Management & Data Systems, 107(1), pp. 21 – 36.

[3] Nielsen (2012). Global trust in advertising and brand messages. Available online at: 

About the Author

Nathalie Nahai

Nathalie Nahai is a Web Psychologist and best-selling author of Webs of Influence: The Psychology of Online Persuasion.

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