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I wrote an article recently about the use of e-commerce trustmarks and how important it was for sites to display trustmark logos. 

Though they may help some sites, trustmarks alone are not the answer, and factors such as brand trust, price, usability and good design all combine to reassure customers about making a purchase. 

A recent post on the FutureNow blog makes this point, and argues that the need for 'costly' security indicators, can be avoided with good cart / checkout design. 

The post cites the example of the Groupon checkout, which avoids the need for security logos, thanks to the overall experience, touches such as the insistence on capturing the card CCV code, visible FAQs which deal with any payment queries, and good form design

I've been looking at some examples from UK e-commerce sites, with and without security logos, to see how they compare to Groupon...

Nabru (click image for a larger version) has decided not to use any trustmark logos at all, and instead relies on a well designed site and forms that are easy to complete. 

While there are no security logos on this page, though the Verified by Visa and Secure Code logos appear next to the payment button, the information about free returns, as well as the clearly displayed contact telephone number and email address, all offer reassurance to customers. 

Another example comes from the Wiltshire Farm Foods site, which doesn't display and trustmark logos at all. 

Instead, there is a written explanation of the fact that the site uses McAfee to scan the site on a daily basis, which is actually more meaningful than a simple logo, especially for a site that is aimed at an older age group. 

Also, the text on the payment page adds to the reassurance, explaining to shoppers that the site uses 'the latest technology to ensure that your credit card details are safe and secure.'

This clear explanation can be more effective than logos which many web users may not be aware of, while the overall look of the site, and simple form design adds to the experience and doesn't give users any reason to doubt the security of the site. 

By contrast, the new Booksetc site seems a bit too keen to provide security reassurances: 

The intentions are good, but it could, as the Lovehoney example in this post demonstrates, be counter-productive and actually give customers 'the fear' by making them think too much about security. 

If you are going to use trustmarks, rather than plastering the checkout process with too many symbols, limiting this to one or two logos would be a better idea. 

Also, since many shoppers may not know what some of these trustmarks actually mean, an explanation about the steps taken to ensure security of transactions, as in the Groupon and Wiltshire Farm Foods examples, may be far more effective. 

Perhaps more importantly, the positive examples I have used all have well-designed checkout processes, with well-designed forms that make it smoother for customers to complete purchases, avoiding the kinds of problems which may give customers cause for concern. 

Graham Charlton

Published 1 March, 2010 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

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Matthew Lawson

Matthew Lawson, eCommerce Director at loveholidays.com

I agree, you have to remember that your checkout is 80% of the usability on your site.
If this area of the site is not intuitive and ticking all the right box in what the customer needs, such as;

-    Itemised summary of their order
-    Ability to clearly see / edit previous fields
-    Clear call to action buttons
-    Inline error messages
-    Reason for information required (Such as why we need you mobile)
-    Followed up with reassurance from your proposition such as your returns policy.

One you start ticking these boxes then the trust marks become secondary as the user will find the checkout to be obvious so less time to start questioning the credibility of the business.

We are currently spec’ing a one page checkout on our site so “checkout” my kitchen appliances site in 3 month or so.

about 6 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Thanks Matthew. I see you have a very prominent Verisign logo (at the top of the homepage). What was the thinking behind this? Have you tested a few different placements? 

about 6 years ago

Matthew Lawson

Matthew Lawson, eCommerce Director at loveholidays.com

Hi Graham.

Based on our focus groups that "Trust" is the biggest barrier to break down to ultimately lead to lots of sales as who has heard of Appliances Online :)

So we have tried loads of things including the verisign logo. The main benefit that we have found with verisign is the address bar changing colour in the secure section of the sit but ultimately it seems to play a small part of building that trust.

One of the biggest wins i have been able to prove was the About Appliances Online video as it instantly shows that the site is not ran by a man in his shed. We saw a crazy increase of 700%+ in conversion of the people who watch the video but its just getting them to watch the video.

Anyone can pay for a sign but a video can speak a thousand (orders) words.

about 6 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

That's a great idea, with impressive results. That explains the prominent 'about us' link then...

about 6 years ago

Chris Rourke

Chris Rourke, Managing Director at User VisionSmall Business Multi-user

Good point about it being more than trustmarks Graham.  I think some retailers think it is a panacea that will instantly remove all checkout fears.  In reality it is a slightly blunt instrument.  We see in usability tests customers referring to the trustmarks  with a vague degree of understanding e.g. "I think is has something to do with security...or, they give you your money back if you want to return it".  

While trustmarks are the overt measure to say "we're OK, really", a good reassuring checkout (through the visual design and text) is a more subtle but no less effective measure.  Successful e-commerce has a lot to do with momentum and there are two halves to that aspect - the persuasion aspects (forward momentum, chasing the carrots, keep them moving forward to the next thing, more information, cross sells upsells etc) and the removing barriers /friction element (such as trust issues or awkward error messages). Typically by checkout the later are the paramount issue. 

about 6 years ago

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Kitchen Canisters

Overemphasizing security can turn a customer the other way but the lack of its presence on a site may turn them away as well. Keep it balanced and make them visible but don't over do it.

over 5 years ago

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