Online businesses have a distinct cost advantage over brick and mortar businesses – they don’t need to rent out a storefront at a good location. Their owners can save on rent overheads by running their business out of their homes.

Businesses that have a physical presence, though, have a distinct advantage in another way – people trust them more because they can see them. People buying from physical stores know that they are there for them, should a problem turn up.

They can look at the store assistants and the manager to see if they trust them through the buying process. If there’s a quality issue, it’s always easy to go back to the store for a return or exchange. They know that storefront retailers are serious businesses. They’ve invested money in launching a store and hiring people.

Online stores are reassuring to customers in none of these ways. According to a survey by the Office of Fair Trading in the UK called Findings from consumer surveys on Internet Shopping, nearly 3 out of 4 online shoppers go online with reservations of one kind or another.

About 1 in 5 of online shoppers were found by the survey to be not reassured by the quality of information seen on online websites. Many were particularly concerned about the way online stores provided information about exchanges and order cancellations.

About a third of the population has yet to go shopping online; nearly half use online shopping infrequently. In both cases, trust is the issue. People don’t completely trust online stores to deal fairly with them or to keep their personal or financial details safe.

The question is, then, how do you boost customer trust in your online business?

Considering how much people dwell on the trustworthiness issue when shopping online, it is no wonder that most visitors on online shopping sites head first for the About Us page. When it’s a new and untested online retailer, they wish to find out who the retailer is.

While this is excellent thinking on the part of the customer, it doesn’t usually end very happily for the online retailer. Many treat the About Us page as an afterthought. Others simply turn it into a grandiose mission statement with words like visionary and cutting edge liberally thrown around.

This is no way to treat the one page on your website that can make or break your relationship with each new customer.

  • Whatever you say on the About Us page, back it up with facts and figures.
  • Be honest about what you are. If you are a struggling startup, say it – it’s even considered cool these days.
  • Never use stock photos and icons on the About Us page or anywhere else. People recognize stock photos easily and it takes away from your credibility. Use real photos even if they don’t look as good.
  • Don’t list certifications and accreditations that don’t have a great deal of public credibility. Industry awards that no one’s ever heard of make a business look desperate, too.

Make becoming credible a part of your business plan

Considering that a third of the population simply doesn’t buy online because they don’t trust Internet businesses, your entire business plan needs to aim itself at gaining trust.

Partner with well-known companies and authorities: Signing up for verification with the BBB and placing the logo prominently on your website is a good idea. If the company whose products you deal in offer an authorized dealership certification program, get on it and put that logo your website, too. Using the logos of well-known payment processors and advertising the fact helps in addition.

Don’t ignore the privacy policy: Next to the About Us page, it’s a website’s privacy policy that gets the most consumer attention. Whatever user data you collect from your visitors, you need to consult a lawyer about putting together a policy for what you do with it.

Make yourself heard: Most people trust businesses when they hear of them a lot. They don’t necessarily have to have done business with them. The more you employ PR and social media tactics to publicize your business, the more trustworthy you will appear to your customers.

Elizabeth Garvey is a business strategist. She enjoys sharing her business knowledge through blogging. Visit the site to see how they gain the trust of their customers.