Checklist: 9 Ways to Build Trust in Checkout

It can be tough to move the needle with conversion testing in the checkout with merely design elements like button color and number of form fields. You can expect some cart abandonment to be due to anxiety about following through with the purchase, so reinforcing the trustworthiness of your site is very important. (76.5% of consumers surveyed by OneUpWeb report they expect a site to appear trustworthy). The following are 9 simple things that can build trust with customers in checkout:

1. SSL certificate

This is table stakes, but it’s not enough to have an SSL certificate, it must be up to date. Think this will never happen to you? Even the biggest web properties have let them expire, which brings up nasty warnings that can send visitors fleeing, either by causing them fear or confusion.

This post explains how you can check your SSL certificate’s expiration date and plan for renewal.

2. Security badge

Security seals like Verisign, McAfee and TrustE are commonplace and you may ask if they have an impact on conversion or not, to which any ecommerce consultant would say “why don’t you test it?” A few years ago, a Get Elastic reader shared the results of his testing, a 4-6% lift using the seal vs. not. Others have reported similar upticks, but it’s not just about testing the presence of vs. absence of. Placement of the seals will impact the likelihood the customer will notice it.

Often I see security seals buried in footer menus. Proximity to the call to action (point of anxiety) is important if you want to get the most bang for your buck with security badges.

3. Secure lock icon

An alternative to the security seal is the lock icon on or near the call to action button. Lock symbols are universally recognized (perhaps more than security seal logos) and are free! I don’t see a problem using both security badges and lock icons, but at least one should be used. Labeling your button “Secure Checkout” also does not hurt.

4. Privacy policy

Again, it’s not the presence of but the proximity of your point of action assurance to the place where the customer is feeling the most anxiety. Including a link near email or telephone capture is a better location than the footer menu. Avoiding legalese in the policy is also a good idea. Or, include a one-liner that explains why you are asking for contact information in addition to the link. For example, “in case there is a problem with your order.” The privacy policy can go into detail about use of cookies, third party sharing of information, etc.

5. CVV explanation

As I’ve written about before, the CVV field in checkout can be a cause of confusion and anxiety. Customers may not know where to locate the CVV (aka CSC, CVC, CVV2). Or, misunderstanding the purpose of CVV, they may believe providing you with their super-secret-code will mean their code could be misused by your employees or a security breach.

Showing visually where the customer can locate the CVV and including a blurb assuring the code will not be stored in a database can curb this anxiety.

6. Live chat / customer service

Even if a customer does not wish to use your live chat or customer service during checkout, knowing you have real people that are quick and easy to access is a stress reliever. Make your callouts prominent, and list hours of operation and average expected wait times on your Help page.

7. Explain taxes/shipping/duty for international customers

While it’s not your fault that customs decides to apply duties and taxes to shipments, customers may be angry at your shop (erroneously) and regret their purchase. Having clear information displayed for international shoppers (this could be displayed selectively based on shipping address or through IP detection) is a courtesy. Some sites use a global logistics service like FiftyOne to internationalize their sites, which will provide a “landed cost” that includes import duties and local taxes for no surprises.

8. 3rd party payment options

The acceptance of PayPal, BillMeLater, Google Checkout et al. are deal breakers for some customers, either because they don’t have a credit card, or because they are cautious to share banking information with online retailers.

9. Have a physical address that’s easy to find

This is more important for lesser known brands, but knowing that you’re a legitimate business that discloses it’s head office location, etc. does boost confidence in shopping with you. I often have friends send me URLs of sites they wish to purchase from but are not sure are legit. When investigating, a physical address and phone number is the first thing I look for.

These may seem like small things, but you want to do everything you can to win shoppers’ trust. If there’s anything missing from this list on your site, most of these items are simple (and inexpensive) fixes.


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9 Responses to “Checklist: 9 Ways to Build Trust in Checkout”

  1. Great List.

    Were working on our checkout at the moment, so that will certainly help.

    Another possible way to promote trust is to maintain the consistent look of the site during checkout- so not hiding logos and making it look too different to the rest of the site.

    I know it’s is good to funnel customers when they are in the checkout process, but making it too different to the site they have just left, can easily confuse them!

  2. Great stuff, Linda. May I suggest a 10th? Remind shoppers of your generous return policy.

    Showing that you trust your shoppers not to take advantage — i.e. demonstrating trust — makes YOU look more trustworthy. Great examples are Zappos and Bonobos.

    (The reverse is also true: restrictive return policies and nasty restocky fees demonstrate that you don’t trust your customers, and in turn make you look less trustworthy.)


  3. Daman says:


    Probably the most important part of any e commerce business is gaining trust of customers. I found this post very useful. We already have our physical address prominently published on our homepage.
    Thanks for sharing.

  4. I think it’s worth mentioning that the STELLAService seal has quickly become one of the critical ways many e-retailers are building trust with shoppers in checkout (as well as on product pages, email marketing, etc). Big sites like Gilt Group to smaller sites like are leveraging the STELLAService seal as the only objective signal to shoppers for sites with high quality customer service, as vetted by an independent third-party (i.e the STELLAService mystery shopping process).

    Jordy Leiser
    STELLAService, CEO

  5. A 100% money guarantee back icons do help too, it’s a sign that show a vendor who really believe in his product (this is often used in the software world)

  6. Jason says:

    To expand on your #2 regarding the security badge, there is another and new type of trust seal called KikScore that can dynamically help small businesses at the point of sale. The product takes info about businesses and makes it transparent to their shoppers. That way right when the customer may have pause or concern to buy, they can take a peak at a report card about who they are buying from to get even more information about the merchant. This helps convey trust & helps increase the likelihood of the sale!

    Jason from @KikScore

  7. Ready says:

    Interesting article, but I my experience with
    “Green” SSL certificate you got much more sales then with ordinary

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