10 Trust-Building Tricks: What Non-Profits Can Learn from E-Commerce

Then why do so many non-profiteers forget these same requirements when it comes to their own websites? If sites like Amazon or Dell or eBay were run the way many nonprofit websites are, they’d be out of business as soon as you can say "customer loyalty." Double-standards don’t work with online visitors. Whether someone is looking to spend $10 on a Mother’s Day gift or give you $10 for your next fundraising effort, they’re still looking for a positive experience. They’re looking for the right kind of feedback and ease of use. They want what we all expect when it comes to a welcoming and comfortable online experience. Here are e-commerce some ideas you can apply to your website – no matter if you’re selling products or simply trying to gain an online following:

1.Easy to find contact information

Shoppers like to know that they’re dealing with real people at a real company when they’re handing over a check or credit card information. They want to have a phone number in case something goes wrong with shipping. They want the assurance that someone is there to help if they need it. Lack of contact information – or hard-to-find contact information – can erode trust and make people less likely to have a transaction with you, whether you’re accepting dues, donations or sign-ups for your next event.

Non-profit fix

Make sure your contact information is on every page of the website in an easy-to-see spot. Some of the most common spots are at the top of the page in the header or on the bottom of the page in the footer. Also make sure you provide multiple ways for people to reach you, including your physical address, a phone number, an e-mail address and a contact form. The more you can give adds to the level of trust.

2.Prompt and friendly feedback

As soon a shopper clicks that Submit button and authorizes money or personal information to transfer to someone else, they like a little assurance. Asking for feedback as soon as a person has acted on something (they call this “conversion” in the biz), also allows an e-commerce company to learn from the experience. Successful sites give chances for feedback immediately.

Non-profit fix

Ask for feedback immediately upon accepting some kind of information from your visitor – as soon as they sign up for a newsletter or send you a donation. You might create a quick survey asking for feedback on their experience. Ask them how easy it was for them to find what they were looking for, if they have ideas for improvement or if anything stood out as particularly good or bad about the process.

3.Clear Navigation

Take a look at some of the most popular shopping sites, and study their navigation. Even Amazon, which sells just about anything you can imagine, has a fairly simple and pared down navigation. Successful e-commerce sites make it easy to find items with well-named categories. Each category is also populated with items – no orphan categories allowed.

Non-profit fix

Think about what you want your visitors to accomplish when they come to your site, and shape your navigation accordingly. Remembering that people read from left to right, put the most important item on the farthest left navigation item. Make sure you don’t repeat items within navigation, and make sure each menu item leads somewhere. No “coming soon” pages!

4.Effective search

If a shopper is looking for barbeque tongs, they’ll often just type “barbeque tongs” into a search box to find them. It can be much easier than navigating through menu systems, especially if those are complex menu systems.

Non-profit fix

Make sure your content management system has a built-in search engine that delivers the most helpful search results. Your visitors should be able to enter keywords and find any applicable content that matches those keywords. It’s even better if you can guide your visitors through categorized searches, if you have a website with heavy content.

5.Detailed product information

Shoppers like to know what they’re buying. They like detailed shopping information, including prices, sizes, specifications and pictures. The more information available makes people more comfortable with parting with their money or personal information.

Non-profit fix

Every time you ask for a transaction from your visitors - money or signing a petition or any kind of interaction – provide them with as much information as possible. If you’re collecting money for the next youth trip, show pictures of the last trip and give an itinerary. If you’re trying to save endangered tigers, provide numbers of wild tigers and details of how any funds will be spent.

6.Clean Checkout Process

The last thing e-commerce sites want to stand between a shopper and their purchase is a clumsy checkout process. They do everything they can to make it smooth and involving as few steps as possible. The more steps between deciding to pay and actually paying equals more opportunities for abandoned shopping carts.

Non-profit fix

Make it easy to accept donations or sign-up forms. Once someone chooses to give you money, let them review their order, enter their billing information and check any additional fees on the same page. It also helps is your shopping cart or submission form are completely integrated into your website – it pays not to use a third-party service for this. If you must include other pages, make sure they’re short and match your site exactly.

7.Dependable Customer Service

The best shopping sites take pride in their customer service. They make it easy for customers to find contact information (see above) and also get in touch if they need more involved help. They also make privacy policies, return policies, shipping rates and FAQs easy to find from every page. Well served customers are happy customers, but there’s also a practical use for these good practices. The more information they provide to shoppers up front, the fewer questions they have to answer.

Non-profit fix

Copy these same pricniples, and you’ll have a happy constituency. Have a special address or system you can use for support, and present a phone number for people who prefer not to use technology. Create an FAQ that addresses the most commonly asked questions that come in. If you’re collecting personal information, make it clear what you’ll do with that information in a privacy policy.

8.Multiple Payment Options

The best sites are open to accepting your money any way you care to give it: credit card, check or PayPal. They’re also open to people who have cards other than Visa or MasterCard, by accepting AmEx and Discover.

Non-profit fix

If you’re accepting money, provide as many payment options as possible to help the money flow in. You can subscribe to a payment service that allows all the major credit cards, and also provide the option of sending in electronic or paper checks. PayPal is useful, because that opens up the choices your donors have for paying.

9.Prevalent Store Policies

The best online stores make it clear what their return and shipping policies are, and lay out their other store rules. Many simply put it in an FAQ or page with links to more detailed pages.

Non-profit fix

If you have terms and conditions or privacy policies, make it easy to find. Spell out exactly what you do with private information. Tell your visitors how you might be interacting with them (newsletters, Facebook, etc.). Informed visitors are much more likely to be happy about making transactions with you.

10.History and Credibility

One of the reasons so many people feel safe about buying from Amazon is that they know so much about them. They know the company’s history, they know Jeff Bezos is a nice guy and how he built it. They also know that history includes years testimonials from happy customers. That’s what sets a fly-by-night company from one people feel comfortable doing business with.

Non-profit fix

Tell your story. If you’ve been around for awhile, talk about your beginnings. Even if you’re new, you probably have individuals with a positive history who work for you – tell their history. Also demonstrate the good work you’ve done in the past. Show how you’ve used funds and the positive impact your organization has made. Tell your visitors why it makes sense for them to trust you, and they will.

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