A brief scan of most successful internet marketing websites will show a slew of split testing anecdotes, and “three reasons why your business should use light blue to sell goods or services.” It seems that marketers are focused on the minutia, and that is causing many to leave money on the table.

Even though many of these methods are useful for increasing conversion rates, they are approaching their customer base with the wrong perspective. Instead of focusing countless hours trying to manipulate colors and titles, eCommerce owners might find more success in connecting with their audience via transparency and authenticity.

This is the philosophy I used with my supplement business called Pure Nootropics. By offering transparency and authenticity, we were able to charge twice as much as our competitors and still grow 400-600% every month.

By offering transparency and authenticity, we were able to charge twice as much as our competitors and still grow 400-600% every month Click To Tweet

Trust and Transparency

Instead of focusing on the minutia to increase conversion rates, trust and transparency makes everyone happy. It will increase conversion rates for the eCommerce store, but the bigger benefit is long-term trust and comfort for consumers.

In 1984, famed author Daniel Kanheman published an article in the American Psychologist that first proved a concept called “loss aversion”. This psychological theory described people’s tendency to prefer avoiding losses rather than acquiring the equivalent gains.

In eCommerce stores, this translates into customers who don’t want to be duped or tricked into spending money on something that isn’t what they are looking to purchase. The only way to overcome this obstacle is to help customers to better trust your product and brand… and focusing on the color scheme of your logo is probably not going to help much.

Assuming you already understand the value of trust in persuasion, there are still run of the mill responses. Either you can use testimonials (often times fake and customers know it), you could run a demo of some sort, or even show “As Seen In…” to bring some brand recognition from large media outlets.

Unfortunately, customers know that testimonials and reviews are curated by business owners and the media recognition is often a mention or even paid placement. The purpose of true transparency is to let someone or something else do the talking altogether.

Let’s talk about how transparency is different.

A Tale of Two Supplements

The supplement industry is a prime example of the need for transparency. One of the leading ways to create products is with a veil of secrecy called a “proprietary blend”. These products include various quantities of ingredients that users cannot verify.

Either the blend includes too little of an ingredient (so that they can claim the benefits without costing a lot) or too much of an ingredient (which is dangerous for a consumer’s health). Even major companies that sell supplements in chains like Walmart and Target sell fake products!

The entire supplement industry is based around dishonesty, which makes it difficult for anyone to trust what companies are doing. Within the brain health and nootropics industry, there were so many legal grey areas that it seemed even more dishonest when I first started my business.

To combat this dishonesty, I decided to let other people (i.e: experts) do the talking rather than focus my efforts on fake testimonials and dubious media mentions.

  1. Scientific references – Science is not often welcomed within the supplement industry. Most businesses are founded on pseudoscience or half-hearted research. In my eCommerce business, we instituted a rule that no product could be uploaded without a reference in parenthesis from NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information) or a requisite database for scientific studies.
  2. Third party testing – Given that even multi-national corporations are producing fake supplements, I knew most of the market was fearful of untrustworthy products. Before we sold anything, we sent it to a lab to do a heavy metal and assay testing. Then we added the results via PDF on our product page for customers to see for themselves.
  3. Telephone calls – To some people, supplements are no different than pharmaceutical drugs. They change the way the brain functions and that is worrisome enough. Numerous people would call customer support and I made it a point to not only answer the calls as the CEO, but also to spend up to an hour helping them to determine what might be right for them (even when it wasn’t my product). Given that most brain supplement companies don’t even have a telephone number to call, much less a CEO willing to answer a call, made this a huge factor in building trust.

The products we sold were commodities that one could find anywhere and yet, this transparency allowed us to charge over 210% more than our competitors. Even at twice the price of competing products (which were supposedly the exact same thing), we were selling out and growing at a rate of 400-600% month over month.

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Our website wasn’t well-optimized because we weren’t on an eCommerce platform like LemonStand, which is focused on content and SEO. We didn’t invest heavily in branding, and yet by being completely transparent we had garnered the trust we needed to charge a premium and profit wildly before exiting the company.

How to Look for Transparency Opportunities

The supplement industry has a long history and poor reputation. Given all the “lose weight quick” scams out there, it is probably one of the least trustworthy and transparent industries you can find. Whatever industry you are working in will have fewer obstacles to overcome. Here are some ways to add transparency.

How to look for transparency opportunities to increase your #eCommerce conversion rates Click To Tweet

Step #1: Find the complaints

The first step in finding transparency opportunities is to find out what customers are complaining about. Perhaps you already know from your existing customer base, but also find out the issues competitors are having.

To do this, go to Amazon and find products that are in your niche. Look at the 2 – 3 most reviewed products, find the reviews section, and filter by worst reviews so you can see if there are trends with the complaints.

If that doesn’t yield any results, visit Reddit.com and see if you can find people discussing products in your niche. Redditors tend to be notoriously hard to please so if you can satisfy them, you’ll be good to go. This should be a standard practice anyway given how much valuable information you can receive about enhancing your products or services.

Step #2: Canvas the manufacturing process

A brief visualization exercise might give you another piece of the puzzle. Every product has a manufacturing process from start to finish. Visualize all aspects of the process for your particular product and write it out on paper.

Each step of the way, you’ll see things that might be harmful or beneficial for your business. Some examples include sweatshop labor in Asia or low quality materials from another country. In any of these situations, you can choose to promote the beneficial parts of the manufacturing process and change the processes you would like to promote.

For example, if you have a clothing line and your workers are treated fairly and with a great work environment, you can visit, capture footage, and show your customers how their clothing is made. If not, you can make the requisite changes in your manufacturing process so that you can be transparent to help your business.

Step #3: Tell people how you operate

Looking at the manufacturing process is often an external project. Many companies outsource things to other companies, which can be made transparent to build trust with consumers. Sometimes, there are internal practices that can build more transparency with the world. Take Buffer app, which made all their employee salaries public information.

By embracing a transparent approach, one can see what everyone inside Buffer makes. The irony is, this kind of information doesn’t actually help me decide if Buffer is a useful software product. However, if I didn’t pay for Buffer and this information crossed my desk, I wouldn’t forget it. I would instantly categorize Buffer as a trustworthy company that is worthy of my business.

Maybe you are not yet big enough to release salary information, but there are behind-the-scenes operating practices that will make you most trustworthy in the eyes of your potential customers.

A Personal Note on Using Transparency to Increase Conversions

While my eCommerce success has revolved around transparency in manufacturing and production, this is a concept we can use in all areas of our life. Transparency is synonymous with authenticity and vulnerability with our emotions and feelings.

For small businesses it is especially important to infuse your work with transparency about yourself. Customers want to trust your business, but they also want to trust you. Any customer who is giving you their credit card information, address, and email is making a gesture of vulnerability and they will be more apt to do that if you are being vulnerable as well.

For small businesses it is especially important to infuse your work with transparency about yourself Click To Tweet

Every industry is different, but every business owner can find places to add trust and transparency. Go through the exercises we provided and find where to insert transparency to create more trust, increase conversion rates, and have higher revenue in your business.