Nobody in the world hesitates about making online purchases from Amazon, iTunes, or Dell. Customers know they can trust these big brands with their credit card information and they expect—and get—solid customer service from them.

Small online businesses don't have the luxury of a big brand name standing behind them. They have to build trust before they can expect people to buy from them online. Shoppers don't worry about dropping in on a mom-and-pop shop, because there is no harm in looking. They do worry about shopping on a mom-and-pop e-commerce site.

There are a few things you can do to put potential customers at ease:

Offer Something People Want

I know this sounds basic, but you are not going to make money unless you have a product that either satisfies an unfulfilled need or offers a unique take on an established product. You need to offer a strong incentive for customers to buy from you instead of the megastores.

Great Messaging

If you have a product people want, then sell it to them with strong messaging.

Online copy should be short, sweet, and to the point. Studies of online user behavior tell us that there isn't much tolerance for huge blocks of content. Well-written copy is essential for convincing visitors you're a professional business—typos and poor grammar don't inspire trust.

Professional Photography

Do not skimp on photographs. Remember, you are asking people who know nothing about you or your business to trust you with their money and their credit card information. Quality product photos can go a long way towards building that trust.


Videos on an e-commerce website enhance trust in a number of ways. You can use video to demonstrate how your products work, give a tour of your bricks-and-mortar store, provide testimonials and, most importantly, put a human face on your company or store.

All of these help to create a comfort level where people are more likely to buy from you.

Emphasize Customer Service

Another area where you can gain a big advantage over larger businesses is in the area of customer service. Small businesses don’t have the luxury to ignoring their customers. Online this means providing a telephone number to call, live customer service, and a quick turnaround on any emails sent to you.

Emphasize Secure Purchasing

One of the best ways to establish trust is to include the VeriSign seal or other reputable trust seals on your site, in your search results, and on all pages involving transactions. The VeriSign seal (which in April will be re-branded as the Norton Secured Seal) is used by big businesses (87% of the largest e-commerce sites in North America). A recent study by Kikscore, found that "the fear of being defrauded or being a victim of an online scam has led more than 90% of online consumers not to complete a transaction online." The study also found "more than 85% of website visitors and people who conduct local searches said they would be more willing to hire service providers who have trust seals on their websites."

Engage Customers in Social Media

Sites like Facebook and Twitter give small businesses a great opportunity not just to promote their products, but to discuss them with potential clients. If you use these platforms intelligently—really using them to create a dialogue with your visitors—it shows them you are passionate about your products and responsive to your customer needs.

Follow these guidelines and you'll be well on your way to a successful e-commerce business.

Trust me on this.