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The effectiveness of trustmarks on e-commerce sites depends on customer recognition of the logo, meaning that they are almost useless if you use a lesser known provider. 

Stats from Actual Insights suggest that just a handful of trustmark logos are actually recognised by consumers.

Indeed, 76% of survey respondents had not purchased something because they hadn't recognised the logo. 

The study tested the responses of users to 20 different trustmark logos: 

Customers recognised several of the logos, but the most well-known were: 

  • McAfee (79%) 
  • Verisign (76%) 
  • Paypal (72%) 
  • BBB (37%)
  • TRUSTe (28%)
Respondents were asked which single logo gave them most reassurance, and the three most recognised ones are clear winners here:  The results showed a chasm between the top three and the rest: 
  • PayPal (29%)
  • Verisign (25%)  
  • McAfee (23%) 
  • BBB (7%)
  • TRUSTe (3%) 

The survey (of 150 mainly US respondents) which accompanied the Usabilia test also reveals much about consumer attitudes to trustmarks. 

  • 76% said that trust logos did affect their sense of trust in a particular website, which 64% said unknown logos affected their level of trust. 
  • 61% had not made a purchase because no trust logos were visible, while 76% hadn't because they didn't recognise the logo. 
The results therefore suggest that
  • Trustmarks do matter. 
  • Only a handful are instantly recognisable. 
  • If your trustmarks aren't recognisable, then you may be better without them. 

How do consumers decide whether to trust a website they don't know? 

As the results from a recent Econsultancy / Toluna survey show, trustmarks are significant, though there are other factors when deciding whether to trust a site. <

If you are shopping from a retailer you don’t know well, how would you decide whether to trust the website?

How else can etailers convey trust? 

Apart from trustmarks, there are many other factors that can show consumers that a site is trustworthy:

Clarity of product and price information

Retailers should be upfront about pricing and delivery charges, and the total price of the purchase should be made clear before customers enter the checkout.

Being coy about extra charges or only revealing them at the last possible moment will not make customers trust the site.

Our recent checkout abandonment survey found that 71% are deterred by 'hidden charges' when they reach the checkout. 

Provide user reviews

Reviews of both products and retailer can provide more credibility and reassure customers that, since others have has a positive experience, they are safe to shop at a site. 

Clear contact information

If customers can see clear contact details, a telephone number or live chat option especially, then they will feel more confident that they can get in touch if they have any problems when making a purchase. 

An error-free process

Broken links, slow-loading pages, roadblocks in the process, or simple spelling errors will all have customers thinking twice about trusting a site with their card details. 

A good online reputation

If I find a site I haven't heard of, I'll often put the brand name into Google and see what comes up.

If customers do this and see any negative comments left on comparison sites, forums, or Twitter etc then they will think twice.

Usability

If your site is easy to use and navigate around, customers are more likely to trust it. 

A professional look to the site

Customers will make a judgement about the site as soon as they arrive. If it looks professional and well-designed, then that will increase the trust factor. 

However, if it looks like it was designed 15 years ago, alarm bells may ring: 

Do all e-commerce websites need trustmarks? 

This is debatable, as brand recognition can play a big factor here. I would argue that trustmarks are more significant for smaller and less well-known retailers, as they offer some form of reassurance to first time shoppers. 

After that, a good customer experience will play more of a part in a customer's decision to make a return purchase. 

If customers are shopping from a known high street retailer's website, then they recognise the brand, and are predisposed to trust the site. 

Indeed, several well-known retailers, (including Amazon and Tesco) don't feel it is necessary to display trustmarks at all. And, as these examples show, good checkout design can trump trustmark logos

Is it worth using some trustmark logos? 

If we assume that smaller online retailers need to use trustmarks to reassurance first-time customers, then which trustmarks should they use? 

If customer recognition of some logos is negligent, then why bother at all? Or should SMEs pay extra for PayPal, Verisign or McAffee logos? 

I'd love to read any feedback from retailers on this issue - do trustmarks make a big difference to your conversion rates? Which are the most effective ones to use? 

Graham Charlton

Published 30 August, 2011 by Graham Charlton

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

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Paul Gailey

I've been looking for research like this, this is superb.

Some insight/research to the perception of the Extendended Validation (EV) versus regular SSL browser experience, whereby in modern browsers EV displays a green address bar as well as https would be really welcome.

And I wonder how a UK centric survey may differ on this, maybe others have a view on this?

about 5 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Hi Paul,

We may look at a UK based survey on this, i think the data would be interesting.

about 5 years ago

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@DaveAnalyst

Good stuff. It would be really useful to do split testing to test these figures

about 5 years ago

Ben Lang

Ben Lang, Optimisation Manager at SantanderEnterprise

Interesting article. We've also conducted MVT testing around the use of award imagery along the same lines as this with some interesting insight into what people think will work and what actually works in reality. Good stuff though, keep it coming!

about 5 years ago

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Mark

The problem with this is we all know that what people say and what they do bear very little resemblance to each other. I was hoping for a split test on different trust marks, now THAT would be interesting. Still useful though.

about 5 years ago

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Richard Sparks

Trust is the biggest barrier that Ecommerce has to try and break in order to unlock its full potential. Using ecommerce trust marks is one way of doing this, as well as indicators that the user is on a secure page. I would imagine that in the UK the result would be similar as McAfee is a very popular brand of antivirus here.

about 5 years ago

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Angelina Foster

What a great insight. If I'm thinking of buying from a site I haven't used before, I'll check for online reviews to see opinions from other shoppers before handing over my credit card details. I'll also use Twitter to see if anyone has tweeted anything about the online store.

Broken links make me close the page straight away, just because it's frustrating more than anything!

about 5 years ago

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Andrew

I think a lot of this has to do with what consumers see a lot of. McAfee by far has the most exposure on ecommerce sites, and I think there is some confusion here between "trust" and "familiarity". Maybe people tend to trust things they see more of, but I don't think what McAfee offers is any more "trustworthy" than some of the other offerings listed.

about 5 years ago

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Serhiy Kolesnyk

We used free PCI scanning service from Comodo's Hackerguarding to pinpoint our server's open ports and outdated SSL certificates.

With that information it's pretty easy to setup hardened environment, but no security badge will save your e-commerce site from a poor admin's decision to rely on easy 'password' and the like passwords.

about 5 years ago

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Raj

Thanks for this summary. We have another point of view and our approach at KikScore. In the end the trust issue is not about a recognized seal it is about a lack of information about a small business or website. Our approach with our KikScore trust seal that is gaining traction is allowing the small business to take information about themselves, their business, their management team, website traffic, certifications, policies (all important components of gaining trust) and giving that information to shoppers so they can make a decision for themselves at the point of sale. We package this information up and provide it in the form of a Confidence Badge and also have a unique and dynamic trust score for a small business.

More information is what helps increase trust thereby increasing sales.

Raj

about 5 years ago

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Jeff Black

Great article. I am a small biz eCommerce owner but also work for McAfee and have this conversation on a daily basis. My team has had the good fortune of working with some of the largest online retailers across the globe to reduce site abandonment and increase conversions. It’s good to see people acknowledging that effectively marketing security and trust with a brand name consumers know does effect sales conversions. If anyone is interested in learning more about McAfee’s solution or discussing this in greater detail I have some great case studies and success stories I would love to share. Jblack99@me.com Or jeffrey_black@mcafee.com

Cheers -

about 5 years ago

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Search Marketer

This is a great post and a study I think e-tailers will really appreciate. I am stunned that 72% trust PayPal - I know its the most famous payment brand but personally having worked in card processing I don't think it screams out 'trust' or 'security'. McAfee and Verisign definitely hold greater trustworthiness for me.

about 5 years ago

Chris Rourke

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

very good insights and validates our experience of trustmarks. The usability of the site is an invisible trust mark, starting from the 1st impressions and thoughts on imagery and layout more definitely more in the interaction of the checkout forms. Where that is not so good, and if it is not a known brand they have dealt with before, it is the next level of backstop to keep the customer on track. Agree that McAffee is more seen as anti Virus in the UK rather than trustmark.

about 5 years ago

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Robin

I'm pretty surprised to see Paypal do so well, particularly with some of the horror stories I've read lately, but then I suppose its ubiquity must count for something

about 5 years ago

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Tim

Nice post and very good to have this insights documented. But how did you got those heat maps, which tools did you use and what question was asked to the participants?

about 5 years ago

Stephen Croome

Stephen Croome, Founder at http://firstconversion.com

hm, heatmaps are all well and good but Id prefer to see this study actually linked to ROI

about 5 years ago

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Clare Brace

I would be interested to see what the average results are when the logo's are re-ordered?

about 5 years ago

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Innes

On the whole, the idea of these trustmarks are a re-assurance to our customers that we really are the real deal, as in we do care about their experience in doing business with us. On our site, for example, we have the Geotrust trustmark.

about 5 years ago

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Robert Leslie

I must declare an interest in this topic first, as our company has just produced a new type of trust seal so my views may be biased but I am doing my best to be objective!
It is really interesting stuff and just goes to prove something I have thought for a long time. People seem to place a lot of trust in "The Brand" rather than the information being presented that underlies that brand. If people took the time to look under the hood and see how or what those brands(Verisign,Paypal etc. )were doing to help websites establish trust, I think the public's view might change.
As a consumer I want to know the information that is being relied on to tell me to trust someone. Where is it coming from? Who controls it? Can it be manipulated? So for me, site seals need to move a step forward so that instead of providing a blanket statement with no supporting detail, I want to see the detail, with a recommendation and then let me make up my own mind as to whether I believe or trust the information or not.
Our new Trust Passport product (trustpassport.com) has tried to do this. We aggregate information from government sources such as the companies registers and the tax authorities, from commercial sources such as map information on where offices are actually located, active malware and blacklist scanning, reputational information from web users as to their experiences and some help and advice on when things go wrong. All this is presented in a easy to view graphical format that can be checked out in 10 seconds. The sources are all clearly stated and most importantly, the fact that the company has been physically confirmed as having been contacted in the real world at their stated registered address. This ties real identity to virtual identity and will help elimate fakers. Finally, the information being presented is collated dynamically each time the seal is viewed.. The seal can be removed remotely if the website or company blots its copy book. We think it is a new way to help someone establish trust without having to rely on what a "Brand" says to do it for you.
We would very much appreciate it you could add our product to your review list the next time you conduct a survey of this kind.
Well done on an excellent piece of work! Great stuff!

about 5 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

@Clare I do wonder about the order, since all the most recognised logos are in the top 2 rows, but they are also the ones that I am most familiar with, and three of the top row received very little attention.

The vast majority of respondents are from the US (just 1.5% UK) so,m I think a UK version of this study would be different, though I think the top three would be more or less the same.

The interesting question is whether trustmarks or other signals (site design, reliability etc) are more important for first time shoppers.

about 5 years ago

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Ian Macfarlane

I'd also find a UK-specific study extremely useful - we work with lot of UK E-Commerce clients who I'm certain would be very interested in the findings.

about 5 years ago

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Richard Sparks

@GrahamCharlton I am from the UK and I did not recognise many of these secure signs. They would have an effect on me as a first time ebuyer depending on the website. I tend to stick with the same retailers as I know I can trust them however, not necessarily because they have a secure icon on the page...

about 5 years ago

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Jeff Black

@Ian - Check out this page for UK ecommerce retailers experience using McAfee's trust branding to increase sales conversions... mcafeesecure. com/ms/?p=10

about 5 years ago

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Clerkendweller

Very useful survey and readers' comments. Of course, the three top trustmarks listed are all different things. So the implication is that it doesn't matter what the trustmark checks or provides (payment services or SSL certificate confidence or information security scanning), just perhaps its familiarity and reputation?

Do we think the UK is the place to do online business and therefore should be trusted? It seems like a good brand. If so I'm going to suggest "Owned, Designed, Built, Operated and Managed in the UK" as the next trustmark to use. It feels there ought to be a certain flag in the design somewhere...

about 5 years ago

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Jos Williams

Whilst "trust" is vital to sites with little brand recognition, I think the existing options focus too narrowly on payment security. Payment security should be a given, not something to boast about. Consumers are just as interested in stock availability, lead times, returns and refund dependability etc. In other EU countries, online shopping trade associations have trust marks which include all of the above (eg Thuiswinkel in NL). It's always puzzled me that the UK never got to produce something similar.

about 5 years ago

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Jay Neely

As others have said, I'd love to see data based on split-testing rather than survey responses.

Testing display of different trust marks and number of purchases completed would be *much* more reliable data than just asking consumers "did this mark make you buy / prevent you from buying?"

about 5 years ago

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Richard Sparks

@Clerkendweller I definitely think that the results are purely based on familiarity and reputation. I can imagine most online shoppers have no idea whether this actually makes their details and info secure.

about 5 years ago

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Mark, Digital Media Monkey

Interesting, but that's where the usefulness ends. Needs a UK version and needs split-testing back to abandoned baskets and revenue. Customers answering questions and customer behaviour in the real world are two very different things.

about 5 years ago

Paul Gailey

Paul Gailey, Marketing Consultant at Independent

Symantec has announced that the most famous trust mark (Verisign) will in April 2012 become "Norton Secured powered by Verisign" and will appear different to the current red tick design. It's dropping the Verisign trusted moniker altogether.

It will be interesting to see how much prior branding support this gets as 100,000 websites will get simultaneously updated on the date next year.

Let's just hope it's not April 1.

almost 5 years ago

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