VeriSign Trust Seal: Can it Make a Difference in Online Shopping?





Trust is a huge part of getting a customer to buy from your website.  Many customers have been educated on the value of a “trust” endorsement and that secure padlock symbol that tells them their transaction won’t be hacked. This post explores the new VeriSign trust seal program and provides general tips to help improve your e-commerce efforts.

This post is for any small business owner who runs a shopping cart or online store and discovers shopping cart abandonment (people exit just before buying) in their analytics application.  It could be that your security protocols do not inspire enough trust.  Sometimes a badge/banner like the one below can help win a customer’s trust.

site where I found a verisign trust seal

Will your customers have the confidence to click?

The news reports are filled with virus warnings, phishing scams, fake sites and identity theft. All this news has a direct impact on your marketing and sales efforts. It makes consumers leery of all websites and reluctant to enter private or financial data on a site they don’t know well.

According to different studies and research, small businesses (and large businesses) can struggle with creating shopping cart confidence among consumers. You can read similar data from the 2006 eMarketer report here (still relevant info) and at Consumer Reports‘ “Guide to Online Security.”  Trust seals can be one way to improve the shopping experience and help consumers complete their purchase in your store.  Five things a small business owner can do to inspire trust and confidence include:

  • Highlight your security and privacy policy (often connected to an About Us page)
  • Showcase association and professional memberships (usually in the form of badges or certificates)
  • Most e-commerce platforms today come with secure online transactions – emphasize the fact that your site offers encryption, SSL, and similar aspects.
  • Provide iron-clad customer guarantees to inspire confidence and this is also a good time to mention positive reviews and testimonials.
  • Have a strong customer service process so that you are responding to inquiries in an efficient manner.

What’s the difference between SSL (Secure Socket Layer) and a Trust Seal?

You have probably seen SSL symbols or the common padlock symbol when you’re in an online store. SSL is the most prevalent form of securing a website transaction. You can buy a Secure Socket Layer certificate from a “certificate authority” which verifies information about you and your business. Your website server, during a secure transaction, then communicates with the certificate authority and it acknowledges that you are indeed a verified and trusted business.

The difference with a trust seal, by VeriSign, and others, is that a seal is more of a marketing badge of approval. It is seen in more places, meaning it shows up in search results and on pages where you can’t use or don’t need the full SSL technology. If you are not collecting confidential, private information, you probably don’t need to buy a SSL certificate, but a trust seal might prove useful.

What I liked about the VeriSign trust seal program

  • It can help guide customers to your site. Seal-in-Search, a very cool feature from VeriSign, shows that you have been endorsed–and it appears directly on the search results page, which could increase website traffic dramatically. I couldn’t find examples in Google, but shopping specific search engines reportedly show various trust seals to help you determine which online stores are safe.
  • They conduct a daily review of your Website to help protect it from being blacklisted by search engines and to make sure you are not infecting your customers’ computers when they browse your Web site.
  • It demonstrates your commitment to customer relationships. It is more than just a badge saying you were a “Top 10 Online Store” by some random award or list.   Each month you are spending money to validate your site in a proven authentication process by a credible third party.

Many website owners see online sales stagnate or drop and don’t know why.  Once you study your analytics to see where a consumer is abandoning a purchase, you can determine if a trust seal would help.  With a new 60-day free trial, VeriSign offers an affordable way for a small business to test what is and isn’t working in their e-commerce process.  This author recommends that you make sure you have your analytics working well and study it before you start the 60-day trial so you can avoid using a valuable free trial period for debugging analytics and reporting.

Learn more about VeriSign for Small Business.

14 Comments ▼

TJ McCue


TJ McCue TJ McCue served as Technology/Product Review Editor for Small Business Trends for many years and now contributes on 3D technologies. He is currently traveling the USA on the 3DRV roadtrip and writes at the Refine Digital blog.

14 Reactions

  1. Martin Lindeskog

    Is VeriSign working on helping companies to design shopping sites? Couldn’t “cart abandonment” be due to poor layout of the site and that it is hard to navigate and follow along the buying process?

  2. I’m not a huge fan of these trust logos that you pay for. However if you have a steady sales stream already and have proper analytics in place it might be a good option to put them to the test (A/B split testing in particular) to really see if you notice a conversion difference like they all like to claim.

    Having up to date client testimonials, external reviews, and be part of local groups such as BBB can also inspire trust.

    Also be sure to have clear and easy to find privacy policy, terms of service and other business information like contact details. These are simple steps people often forget.

    List your phone number and physical address – if someone wants to check up on you let them do it easily.

    Have an updated website that is W3C compliant, and make sure you follow PCI compliance guidelines if doing e-commerce such as having a valid firewall and updated server (with updated shopping cart software). Make sure all your website functionality works – test it, in different browsers and spell check your content. Having a professional web development company can really help you with the technical side while you focus on the business side.

    McAfee also has a “trust” program at http://www.mcafeesecure.com/us/products/mcafee_secure.jsp?tab=1

  3. Hi Martin,

    Cart abandonment can be measured if you have proper tools in place and help you drill down “why”. I don’t believe VeriSign offers this but someone knowledgeable in web analytics can help monitor these and make changes to increase conversions.

    Lots of abandonment happens because people just want to know shipping costs, or are trying to find a return/refund policy.

  4. Thanks for a great post TJ! It’s interesting to think of Verisign as more of a marketing and security seal in one. I can see how it can help with search results.

    Another good thing for consumers to look for when they are checking out on a site is the “http” changing to “https.” This shows security and helps them know the site is taking steps to ensure the security of their information.

    The best way for our merchants to know they are keeping their clients secure is through PCI/CISP certification. Volusion is level one PCI/CISP certified and that puts our merchants minds at ease as they use our software to sell. Here is the full list of PCI certified companies: http://bit.ly/eV5FuD

    Thanks again for a great post!

    Best,
    Molly
    @VolusionMolly

  5. I won’t add any stats on the VeriSign seal – even though they’re excellent! 😉 I’ll simply say:

    * It’s free for 60 days – try it and see for yourself
    * It’s full product, not cripple-ware
    * No obligation to buy.
    * Not even a credit card to try.
    * It’s all upside

    BTW, any website can use the VeriSign Trust Seal (it’s not just for e-commerce sites) and see if it will help its performance.

    We encourage the use of analytics to measure your results. You don’t measure, you don’t know.

    Disclosure: I work for VeriSign Authentication Services team.

  6. What do you think of the effectiveness of VeriSign vs other badges like TrustE? Is there a cumulative benefit as a marketing tool if you have 2, 3, or 4 of these badges assuring your customers that it is safe to enter their information at your website?

    Personally (as a consumer) I ignore most of those badges, because I know the process to get it put in place, but as a professional I have seen some positive increase in conversion rates when putting them in place for markets where the audience is a little more hesitant about online data (anything looking for your SSN for example). Has anyone seen some actual data showing an increase in a traditional product-based online store from adding one of these?

  7. TJ McCue

    Thanks everyone for the comments. To answer one of the main questions, there are lots of research studies that point to consumer trust increases when trust seals or other trust builders (privacy policy, customer guarantees – see above) are present. 50% of those studies, however, are done by companies with a vested interest in the results, so one could argue they are skewed results. On the other 50%, some independent firm has done the work and determined it matters. I point to two in the post, but some simple searches will turn up a bunch. Too many to list them all, but here are a few I liked that include some trust info, with links within these posts to more resources:

    http://www.marketingsherpa.com/viralawards2008/7.html

    http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/the-world/article/7-ways-to-cut-shopping-cart-abandonment-paul-nolan

    http://sherpablog.marketingsherpa.com/consumer-marketing/on-site-search/

    Essentially, the badge isn’t as meaningful, in my opinion when it comes from a vendor outside of the “Certificate Authorities” who do the evaluation and verification. Yes, you pay for it, but there’s a real process behind it. Often, shop owners use these badges in conjunction with their SSL certificate, strengthening it in my mind.

  8. Hi TJ,

    With the number of fake programs and identity thefts prevailing online these days, I believe a lot of customers have insecurities in making a purchase even if they like a product or service on your website and programs such as VeriSign Trust Seal would definitely minimize their fears while buying online. Thanks for sharing!

    Riya Sam
    Training for Entrepreneurs.com

  9. I hope it works because I have it installed on multiple sites I work with.

  10. TJ McCue

    Good points, Riya. Thanks for sharing.
    Robert, would love to hear more about your experience.
    Thanks for weighing in, Carlos. I appreciate that you disclosed where you work! Nothing wrong with being proud of your company.

    On measurement, I know that its difficult to completely confirm that a trust seal makes a difference. But if you had no seal, studied your analytics, tested a seal for a period of time and saw purchase changes, I think it would be fair to say it made an impact.

    David, i think there’s probably a point of diminishing returns. 1 or 2 badges seem useful to me, but that’s only an opinion. The biggest thing that influences my personal and professional purchase decision — that padlock symbol or https showing in the address bar. If SSL is used, then I’m completing a purchase most of the time. If it is not a transaction, then a trust seal helps me quickly vet who is running a serious business versus a hobbyist.

  11. You should look into a total online business platform such as Haikuob.com which handles shopping cart, website, customer database and marketing features. It’s a hosted solution so you don’t have to worry about the technical stuff either. All the other bases are also integrated, such as the payment gateways, shipping modules etc., and you can even give your customers coupons and vouchers. It’s an all in one solution so you don’t need to juggle multiple systems.

  12. Regarding cart abandonment – we commission an anonymous yearly survey which refers to cart abandonment. In 2010, of the 909 respondents, 11% said they decided NOT to proceed with their purchase because they did NOT see the VeriSign logo. Think about that.

    The exact wording from the survey:
    “Thinking about your online shopping and banking/financial activities over the last 3 months, di ou decide not to purchase or conduct online business becasue you didn not see the VeriSign logo?”

    That potentially shows the business you never new you could have gotten. We offer a free trial here: http://www.verisign.com/trust-seal

  13. I have no doubt that trust symbols do have an impact on website performance but I’ve decided to go with Verisign’s offer for a free trial and am doing split testing on my landing pages to see for myself. We’ll see how it goes.

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