Verisign Symbol: Effective Symbols & Seals of Approval on E-Commerce Sites

You can build it all you want, but if they don't trust you, they won't come. So goes brick-and-mortar retailing, why should the 'Net be any different? It's not, and online customers are fast learning to size up online business. Second of two parts.

The Industry Standard published the results of a study in late 1999 on building trust for online businesses. The study conducted by Cheskin Research found 28 factors affecting whether or not Netizens trust an online retailer.

The study also evaluated the effectiveness of online branding. To conduct the survey, Cheskin interviewed 315 adults online. They caution against extrapolating the findings percentages to the population at large, as only online users were sampled. Yet they found that offline brands still feel more “secure” to online users than Web-originated brands.

However, there was one exception. The survey showed that having the VeriSign symbol on a Web site increased trust among 25 percent of all respondents, and an impressive 53 percent “among those familiar” with it. A few other online-originated brands, notably the Netscape key and TRUSTe logo, scored well.

The most effective traditional symbol for increasing trust that an e-commerce site can have is a spinning Visa logo. The symbol was “familiar” to 83 percent of respondents, and “increased trust” in the site for 24 percent of respondents. Interestingly, the well-known Microsoft security brand “increased trust” in only nine percent of respondents. Even though Better Business Bureau Online was the least familiar brand,18 percent, it scored the highest, 36 percent, for increased trust among those familiar with the brand.

A brand is much more than a symbol, name or slogan, Cheskin writes, “it is a ‘contract’ of trust between a company and its constituencies.” Developing a strong and compelling brand identity can create an asset that provides a distinct competitive advantage through the attraction of more customers and investors, higher prices and margins and employee loyalty.

Time-tested principles of brand don’t cease to be true in the digital world. Given the bewildering variety of almost everything offered on the ‘Net, branding may even be more important. Think about it: For dependable news, would you turn first to The New York Times’s Web site or Billy’s News

Cheskin states their findings of the importance of recognizable — which means offline in most cases — branding on the ‘Net in three parts:

– Consumers new to e-commerce sense a kind of chaos in the Web, in which information is vulnerable to hackers, where technology is unreliable and good intentions may lead to unpredictable results. This perception of chaos leads to a desire for control, particularly of personal information.

– For current e-commerce users control is a fundamental concern. However, for whatever reason — whether it be experience, psychographics or whatever — these individuals can be assured, to their satisfaction, that they retain some control over their own personal information.

– Seals of approval — symbols like VeriSign and Visa — serve to reassure the visitor that control has been established. Once a sense of security has been established, a visitor’s focus changes to the five signifiers of trust: brand, navigation, fulfillment, presentation and technology.

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