For any website that sells a product or service–whether it be a physical good or an email newsletter–there are two primary ways to increase transaction volume. One is to increase traffic, getting more potential customers into your sales funnel. The other is to increase the conversion rate on your checkout page, getting more revenue and more customers from your existing traffic base. If you don’t have a website yet, see our homepage to learn how to create a blog.
There are a number of ways to increase your conversion rate, including adding testimonials to the site, tweaking price points and coupon codes, and even changing the color of the checkout button. Another opportunity to increase conversions involves putting a “trust badge” on a checkout page, with the goal of convincing potential customers that the process is safe and secure. As online fraud rises, it’s important for customers to feel secure. Statistics highlighting the rise of online fraud as a problem to e-commerce sites include:
- The Internet Crime Complaint Center estimates 24,000 fraud complaints each month in 2012.
- Shopping cart abandonment rates vary by site, but are generally between 55% and 75%.
- Of consumers who dropped out of a purchase, 17% mentioned “concerns about payment security” as a reason.
- In some surveys, as many as 61% of participants said they had decided not to purchase a product because it was missing a trust seal.
Behind the Trust Badge
In order for them to have any significance, the badges that have become common at online checkouts must have some security features behind them. Many “trust badges” are associated with SSL, or secure sockets layer. The details of how these certificates work gets a bit complex, but it essentially creates a secure connection for information (e.g., credit card numbers) to be transmitted.
There are two general types of SSLs: standard and extended validation (EV) SSL certificates. The differences are pretty minor; EV certificates require a bit more administrative effort to check out some additional information about the domains, so they will cost a bit more.
Some badges–including some well-known brands–are not really indicative of any technical security features, but rather an indication of trust from a third party. The Better Business Bureau seal is a good example here; the BBB doesn’t enhance the technical security features of a site, but does indicate that the business has been examined and deemed to be trustworthy by a third party. Other “trust seals” include TRUSTe.
Which Badges Work?
ActualInsights.com has some interesting results from a study they ran a few years back in which they asked consumers questions about the recognition and trust of a number of different badges:
Below is a heatmap showing which trust badges were recognized (which is very similar to another illustration showing which badges were trusted):
Though this study didn’t have a huge sample size, it jives with the experiences of the Web-savvy crowd who is used to seeing certain badges on the most popular e-commerce sites.
Another survey from the Baymard Institute found that Norton led the way followed by McAfee.
Unfortunately for sites that have benefited from the McAfee name, Intel, which bought McAfee for $7.7 billion in 2010, has announced that it will rebrand the products as Intel Security. That move comes after the company’s founder lived out a bizarre experience that involved fleeing from Belize police and escaping to Canada (reportedly without much of his fortune).
Beyond the studies mentioned above, there is a significant amount of evidence to show that trust badges have a positive impact on a site’s conversion rate and revenue. (It’s nice if there’s some actual security behind the badge as well, though that might not matter all that much.) These badges make consumers feel better about giving their credit card information to an unfamiliar website, which generally results in a higher rate among new customers. (The impact on returning visitors is generally minimal, since they are more likely to trust the site already.) These badges can also impact the average order value, indicating that customers feel better about placing larger orders with sites they trust.
Below are overviews of five badges that can be used as part of a test to boost e-commerce conversion rates, along with any case studies indicating success. (As noted below, many of the case studies are prepared by the companies themselves–which somewhat diminishes their usefulness.)
Badge #1: Symantec (formerly VeriSign)
What It Is: Symantec acquired VeriSign in 2010, consolidating two Internet security heavyweights. In addition to numerous other security products, the company offers standard and EV SSLs.
Case Studies: There are a number of case studies highlighting the benefits of adding VeriSign or Symantec SSLs:
- Blue Fountain Media saw a 42% increase in sales.
- VeriSign prepared a case study showing a 30% increase in conversions for Central Reservation Service, an online hotel booking site.
- USCutter reported an 11% increase in sales by adding a Norton Secured powered by VeriSign logo (though it didn’t provide the specifics on any increase in conversion rate).
- VeriSign also reported a significant increase in conversion rate for CarInsurance.com after implementing an EV SSL.
Price: Standard SSL certificates cost $399 per year while an EV SSL will run you $995 (it gets more expensive if you’re registered outside of the U.S., Canada, Brazil, South Korea, India, or China). In other words, if you want one of the most recognized brands you’re going to pay a bit of a premium.
Badge #2: Comodo
What It Is: In addition to anti-virus software, Comodo offers SSL certificates.
Case Studies: Comodo includes a case study on its site highlighting the successes of one of their customers. Zamberg.com saw an 11% increase in conversion rate and a 23% increase in the value per transaction after implementing the EV SSL.
Price: Comodo offers a standard SSL for $99.95 annually or an EV SSL certificate for $449 per year. Discounts are available when multiple years are purchased upfront.
Badge #3: GoDaddy
What It Is: GoDaddy offers SSL certificates that come with a “Verified & Secured” badge.
Price: GoDaddy is one of the cheapest SSL providers out there: $69.99 per year for a standard SSL (domain validated, with a $100,000 warranty), $149.99 annually for their premium offering (domain and company validated, $1,000,000 warranty).
Badge #4: TRUSTe
What It Is: TRUSTe offers a number of online security products, including a privacy package that includes a certification badge.
Price: Because TRUSTe offers more customized products and services, you’ll need to contact them with specifics of your site to get pricing information.
Badge #5: Homemade Special
What It Is: Something you whip up on your own (or download) to give a sense of validation and legitimacy to your site.
It’s worth considering (and testing) the impact a “homemade” trust badge will have on conversion rates. For example, Visual Website Optimizer has a case study showing that a “100% Money Back Guarantee” badge resulted in a 32% increase in conversion rate. This example obviously doesn’t speak to the security of the transaction, but instead highlights one of the primary benefits of the service.
In another example, a badge awarded by a third party (but with no indication of enhanced security) similarly had a meaningful, positive impact on the conversion rate.
Other SSL / Trust Badge Providers
The list above is only partial; there are a number of other providers out there:
Additional SSL Case Studies
There are also a number of additional case studies that make the case for testing an SSL badge as a way to improve conversion rate and average order size:
- McAfee on Joann.com
- McAfee Case Studies
- Internet Trust Marks: Building Confidence and Profit Online
- Trust Badges and Conversion Rates
If you have an e-commerce site–or any page where you can potentially take money from visitors–adding the security (and, more importantly, perceived security) of a trust badge is probably worth investigating. Odds are that a small image can have a meaningful impact on conversion rates, and help you generate more revenue from your existing traffic.