In a growing online marketplace, website owners need every advantage possible to make their brand stand out. This also means avoiding issues that make consumers lose trust in a brand. While most business owners have a good idea of how to keep customers happy when their shopping in-store, protecting trust in a brand's digital content involves different tactics. A recent report from Neustar analyzed what factors caused consumers to lose trust in a brand's digital content offerings.

The data comes from a study titled, "What Erodes Trust in Digital Brands" by Neustar. The study shows that erroneous content and web design issues can have strong negative impacts on the way people perceive a brand.

"In our always-on, always-connected world, a brand's digital storefront may be the first and only touchpoint a customer has with a company," said Lisa Joy Rosner, chief marketing officer at Neustar. "Discerning customers expect a brand's website to offer them accurate, real-time information, whenever and wherever they want it. On top of that, customers demand that all of the information they share with a brand is retained in a safe and secure manner."

Here are three issues the report identified as key issues to online trust:

  1. Inaccurate Content
    An adage of internet marketing is that "Content is Key." Having a catching website name or flashy site design will only get consumers so far. Once they are inside the site, they expect the content they find to be relevant, interesting and most importantly, accurate. According to the report, nine out of 10 (91%) of the people surveyed identified inaccurate website content as something that would cause them to lose trust in a brand.Inaccurate content goes beyond making sure the content is written in a professional way (i.e. few spelling or grammatical errors). Brands need to make sure that the content on the site is accurate in terms of information on pricing, product availability and special offers. If a brand's site gives information that turns out to be inaccurate when they get to the checkout (online or in-store), customers will lost trust in the information they find on the website in the future. Business owners should occasionally take time to review their brand's site to ensure that the things they find are accurate and clear to consumers. There will often be banners that need to be removed or special offers that need to be clarified to avoid confusion and annoyance from visitors.
  2. Site Stability
    There are a lot of things that make a great a website, but in a way, the most important thing is that the site works. In the Neustar study, 88 percent of the respondents identified site downtime as a trust eroding factor. This may sound obvious, but it can be surprising how many ways there are for a site that normally works to not work in certain situations. For example, browser type makes a huge difference and certain features that work in one browser may not work or behave differently in another. This can affect everything from forms, fonts, and animations. This is something that web designers should know to account for when making a site, but mistakes can happen. Business owners should check for themselves that their site's still function properly on all platforms, including mobile.Another thing website owners should be wary of is using Adobe Flash technology on their sites. At one point, Flash-built sites were all the rage on the internet, but as mobile devices grew in importance, and more secure options to Flash (e.g. HTML5) became available, Flash has lost a lot of its usefulness for generic sites. Elements for a site designed in Flash won't work on most modern mobile devices and desktop browsers are also moving away from Flash. Flash still has some usefulness, but website owners need to have a separate version of their site that redirects people using devices and browsers that don't support Flash. This way, the consumer doesn't experience website issues that they may blame on the brand.
  3. Security Issues
    The third most mentioned factor that erodes trust is security. While it is surprising that security didn't rank number one on the list, the fact that three out of four (75%) of the respondents noted it suggests it's something brand owners need to take very seriously. Security breaches can be very costly for businesses. They have to pay to repair the damage and consumers will be less likely to use the brand's digital offerings in the future. To illustrate, Ashley Madison is going to have a very hard time convincing people their marriage-destroying secrets are safe on any server the company runs in the future. According to the Neustar data, 63 percent of consumers distrust brands who've had data breaches and 50 percent have negative views of brands up to a year post-breach. So while security issues ranked third on this list, the damage they cause can be the most severe and take the longest to repair.The report offered two quick fixes that can greatly improve consumer's perception of the brand. First, increasing page load speeds can make people feel more secure in a site. The study noted that 78 percent of consumers 'worry about brand security' because their online performance is sluggish. So a little page optimization can go a long way. Second, adding an option for two-factor authentication, which adds an extra layer of security protocols, will also boost consumer trust. More than half (55%) of the people surveyed said they distrust brands that don't use two-factor authentication.

This data shows that there are a lot of factors that can cause consumers to lose trust in a brand, and it may have nothing to do with what the brand says and does. Technical issues like out of date information, sluggish load times or site stability can make a huge difference in how people view a brand. Even if the business owner isn't the one who will fix these issues, they should check the site for themselves to ensure that problems don't exist on their site.

For more information to help build better websites, read this article on SEO strategies.