As a brand, you can’t survive online these days if your customers don’t trust you. Fact. If they don’t trust you, they will never buy from you, and you will ultimately fail. It’s that simple.

And it’s especially true for brands that are selling high-ticket items and also when consumers are buying something they might consider a luxury.

A holiday is a good example; it’s a major purchase for most of us not just because it is expensive but also because it’s the one purchase we all look forward to every year!  

So, when I read this week that TripAdvisor has removed the slogan ‘reviews you can trust’ from its website and replaced it with ‘reviews from our community’, I was keen to find out more. 

Why did TripAdvisor do this? Well, the website is currently under review by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) for featuring fake reviews.

The ASA’s investigation focuses on the ‘trustworthiness’ of the reviews and alleges that TripAdvisor cannot prove which posts are genuine and which are attempts at astroturfing.

TripAdvisor has already taken measures to reduce the number alleged “fake reviews” by blocking individuals with the same IP address as the hotel they are reviewing.

For a company like TripAdvisor where its entire business model is built on providing recommendation and advice, trust is massively important.

Building trust online is a big factor for success, here are five ways that companies can look to inspire trust online:

Make your site simple and accessible 

The easier your site is to navigate, and the more complete the information offered, the more trust visitors will have in your brand. Unnecessarily complex design elements and poor navigation just confuses and irritates.

It could even make your visitors suspicious: "What is this company really trying to say?" It makes them doubt the process: "Have I missed something here?" It wears people out: "What a waste of time, I give up!"

Use endorsements and testimonials

While TripAdvisor has become unstuck here, third party endorsement (usually from customers) is a great way to build trust. This is especially important if your brand is relatively unknown or if the product or service you are offering is a one-off (like a holiday or hotel).

Open the kimono! 

Often I see companies trying to hide their prices on their website or making visitors complete a form to get a call-back from a salesperson. The more you try to hide, the less trust a visitor will have in your brand and the more likely they will be to go elsewhere.

Add a friendly face

Don’t be afraid of bringing personality to your brand. People buy from people so why not include pictures of your team on your site? At the end of the day, we’re all a little bit nosey and will feel more confident if we can actually see the ‘people behind the brand’.

Engage with your audience

Social media has transformed the way we use the web and increasingly, we all want to be able to engage directly online with the brands we buy from.

So make this easy for your customers both on the site itself and on social networks. If they can get in touch with you directly, they are more likely to trust what you are saying.


Published 22 September, 2011 by Rob McLeod

Rob McLeod is Head of Planning at Realise Digital and a guest blogger on Econsultancy. 

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Comments (6)

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Matthew Oxley

These are all good tips, but I think with Tripadviser the problem is a little deeper.

Until customers can genuinely trust reviews are authored by real people, without bias or an agenda, these websites will be tainted. Whether IP filtering will be enough to satisy the ASA, but anybody tech savvy knows that IP's won't deter most would be fake reviewers.

almost 7 years ago


Kate Davids

Great points, but some of these speak more to usability than trust. Though people may not trust a poorly designed website, deciding whether or not they are abandoning their shopping carts based off of distrust or because it's too big a pain to continue is hard to do. Usability affects trust, but it is also a big category on its own.

almost 7 years ago


Angelina Foster

Great article, I definitely agree about your comment about making visitors fill out a form to get a call-back from a salesperson. It annoys me on holiday websites when they make you fill out your holiday details and the next page is "please call us for a price".

I also like to have a nose to put a face to a name when I'm on a website.

almost 7 years ago


SEO marketing

Hi Rob,
You picked a really good point for discussion.
If the customer trust on you it will do the rest.
All your points are really good.
Keep up the spirit.

almost 7 years ago


eezeer Andre

Wish more travel review sites and communities would follow these steps

almost 7 years ago


Would you trust a face like this?

Interesting article Rob. Another side to this is the grey area of retailers incentivising staff to write reviews without owning or even seeing the product.

Labelled as 'Staff' on the reviews, they're not really misleading the real customer but they are giving a false review. Which, as we all know, not only boosts consumer confidence and SEO weight but increases sales.

Do you think it's acceptable practice?

Should retailers be penalized for this sort of behaviour?

almost 7 years ago

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