By Andrew Watson, chief revenue officer at PurchaseSeal

Trustmarks are an established part of the online shopping experience. Security conscious people look to them as a sign the business they are buying from can be trusted to deliver, even if the company is not a well-known brand name.

Understanding what trustmarks are and how they fit into an overall trust-building strategy is key to running a successful ecommerce operation. The primary function of a trustmark (or trust seal) is to show visitors the website in question has been evaluated by a third party and deemed to be safe and secure.

Site visitors place a great deal of faith in these seals, with more than two-thirds of people polled in one survey stating they check for them when assessing the security of a retailer’s website. Considering seven out of ten shoppers will not make a purchase from an unfamiliar site, it’s easy to see how trustmarks could be considered essential. Applying for a trustmark can be as simple as sending your company name, domain and email address, while the cost can either be calculated on a flat rate or by the number of orders your website takes each month.

Unfortunately, there are a couple of factors which prevent a trustmark from being an instant sales boost - the first is the actions of scammers. Online criminals constructing fake websites can easily duplicate a logo and post it on their site. Unfortunate shoppers, upon seeing the image, are then open to exploitation. A trustmark should be dynamic, or linked to its issuer, so users can verify its authenticity.

Broad protection

Well-informed internet users have concerns about more than just data security and identity fraud. Most contemporary trustmarks go beyond making promises about card security, and head into the territory of overall web protection. Companies offer guarantees against malware, promises of complete data privacy, and assurances about the existence of a full SSL certificate among other things. Some seals provide links to customer reviews and ratings, offering instant feedback to encourage tentative first-time site users. It’s even possible to display a company’s credit rating as part of a trustmark, reassuring customers their money’s in safe hands.

Thought leadership

A good trust-building strategy covers 360 degrees. Social media, blogging, and displaying reviews are three ways of relating to people and presenting a trustworthy face for the company. It’s also vital to present an awareness of security in the right way: companies that continually assert how secure their sites are run the risk of causing distrust by protesting too much. In contrast, companies that discuss the importance of cyber-security in knowledgeable terms are regarded as authoritative. A blog post about the importance of safe online shopping will have a much more positive effect than twenty security logos plastered over a checkout page.

Do keep up

It’s vitally important to keep trustmark memberships up to date. An expired trustmark will not work when a customer clicks on it, so sites that are legitimate but lazily maintained will be deemed fraudulent by buyers. It’s also worth noting there’s no need to display multiple trustmarks on a site, particularly if they all do the same thing. Many trust seals serve no function beyond proving that a site has an SSL certificate. Merchants should research trustmarks and choose one based on what they do and the security issues that their customers are most likely to be concerned about.

Overall, it makes sense for ecommerce traders to follow the guidance offered by their trustmark provider, and incorporate the seal as part of a larger strategy for winning customer trust. Trustmarks offer a great opportunity for businesses to assert their reliability and trustworthiness in a recognisable way.