Far too often, small business owners jump to the conclusion that the reason for a lost sale is their price point. What they often fail to realize is that the online customer abandons the cart because there is a trust issue with the site. Unless you have a long-term relationship with a customer or you also run a brick-and-mortar store that the customer has seen or been in, it can sometimes be hard to build that trust for a customer to make a purchase. You have to remember that mega online sites like Amazon did not gain the trust of customers the first day they opened. They had to have a plan to build trust.

Unlike a physical location, customers who come to your online store do not have the experience of touching or feeling what they may be purchasing. It is not only your brand that customers need to trust, but the quality of what you are selling. You could have a great brand, but if quality is not delivered or at the very least perceived, then you will not succeed.

Before you start trying to build that trust, you have to know the factors that go into what customers are looking for. You could have the best products at the best prices, but if you do not have a good online reputation, you will not gain new customers’ trust. Don’t forget that there are hundreds of other factors that impact customer trust online – everything from how professional the website design looks, to endorsements from industry organizations, to customer reviews and even the quality of you product photos.

Your goal should be to build loyal customers who will not only be returning customers, but are also willing to write reviews and recommendations about your company and its products. You not only need those reviews on your site, but also on sites like Google and Yelp – places people look for reviews and customer-service issues online. These days, everyone can be an online critic or praise a business. Your job is to deliver what customers are looking for and make sure that your customer service is on top of any potential issues.

So how do you start the journey of building loyal, returning online customers? Well, the first step is having a website that gives a great first impression and addresses any potential customer service issues. Your customer service contacts have to be very easy to find – and you need to have defined policies that are easy to understand. Another good strategy is to have a clearly marked “Live Chat” support area for pre-purchase questions.

Part of the first impression of your website has to be the speed it loads and that it is mobile friendly. Without these, you could be losing potential customers before they even look at your product lines! You could have an attractive site with nice colours and lots of pretty pictures. But if you have too many scripts that create a lot of bells and whistles, your site may slow down or have problems for customers on slower connections or mobile devices. Your designer not only has to optimize your site for speed, but for compatibility on every browser and potential device, so that your customers can enter your e-commerce site easily and quickly.

Do not hide your social media sites. Embrace them and show them off. Let your potential customer see links to your Google page, Facebook page and your Yelp page. This demonstrates that you are proud of your online reputation. Encourage past customers to leave reviews or comments on your social profiles. Perhaps even give away coupons for future purchases when they make a review or send a customer to you.

Big warning here: Do not pad your profiles with fake reviews from fake customers. Not only will the review site give them little attention, your next potential customer that sees them with read right through the fact the reviews were too glowing and the person who made them has never posted any other reviews. If you look at some review websites for companies that offer office space or virtual office services, you will see multiple reviews that are a perfect score. The problem is that these are often fake reviews.

Finally, how secure is your e-commerce site from hackers and identity theft? Sign up for anti-hacking programs and proudly display the seal or recognition that you get from the service provider. These go a long way to assuring shoppers or potential shoppers that their transactions will always be secure.