Introduction by Roger Allen, Managing Director of Zeta

Do you trust us?

In our day-to-day business we are frequently contacted by companies offering the world at a discounted rate. It only takes a split second to decide that an offer is either too good to be true, poorly worded or aggressively promoted and we’re hitting the back button quicker than you can say ‘Indian SEO services’.

These days, potential customers are growing ever more suspicious of your online marketing activity, so it’s crucial to make sure your web presence instils confidence. The following blog post is the second in a series by consultant Simon Merry, who is an expert in building trust online.

Roger Allen

In the blink of an eye

In this follow-up blog about the importance of trust and confidence, we take a look at a specific attribute of the internet: ‘speed’, and explore how trust can be gained and lost in seconds online.

The gap between one blink to the next is variable and commonly lasts a few seconds. We humans tend to adjust the frequency to allow information to be taken in. Try consciously blinking and consider the opportunity you have to take in information before your next blink. A blink itself takes milliseconds.

Recent research at Osaka University, Japan, shows that a blink not only lubricates the eyes but is also used by the brain to allow reflection; ‘I like that colour’, ‘I don’t like the style’, ‘she’s attractive’, ‘his face gave away his real thoughts’, ‘I trust/ I don’t trust’! In a blink we will assimilate and begin to assess whether or not our experience is delivering what we need or desire, and in the way in which we expect it.

Twist or stick

When we think ‘internet’ we think of speed in the context of how fast a site or page loads up, but our expectation is also for a fast experience overall. A search engine will usually give us millions of options (a single hit or ‘Googlewhack’ is remarkably unusual – see Dave Gorman) and the concept of ‘surfing’ means we skim over options in a flash, making rapid decisions to ‘twist’ or ‘stick’.

Insightful marketing maximises the way images and information steer us to a product or service that we either need or desire (even if we didn’t realise it!). Advertisers know they have little time in which to evoke a variety of emotions ranging from excitement to trust. They also know they don’t need to tell the whole story.

Thin Slicing

Only a partial but representative message is necessary, because we humans have an innate and learned capability that scientists call ‘thin slicing’ – we make judgements on the basis of a thin slice of the whole. In his book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell explores many examples. He doesn’t necessarily address the internet but his discussion is fundamental to an entity that is negotiated by both purposeful and instinctive clicks of the finger.

Perhaps Gladwell’s most relevant analogy is his reference to reading facial expressions. There are thousands of different expressions created by combinations of 43 separate facial muscles and these (witting or unwitting) are fundamental to evoking and detecting trust (or distrust). The internet equivalent is the web page. For example, a web page may have an intended message, but does its overall message unwittingly undermine feelings of trust?

“You Can Trust Us (please see small print for limitations)”

The trust dividend

Speed is also a feature of trust itself. Stephen MR Covey writes in his book, The Speed of Trust, that trust is the factor that acts faster than any other in generating a sale. He refers to the presence or lack of trust as being so significant that it is the equivalent of a business ‘dividend’ or ‘tax’.

In internet terms, trust works faster than anything else to encourage or persuade someone to stay on your page. Consequently, at a time when the prevailing assumption is that the internet cannot be wholly trusted, trust becomes a differentiator of products and services.

Trust is built upon personalising services and addressing negative perceptions, as well as prioritising customer needs, being professional and demonstrating shared values.

If a ‘thin slice’ of your website has these qualities then it will generate a ‘large slice’ of success!

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