Do you need Trust Icons on your ecommerce site?

Do you need Trust Icons on your ecommerce site?

Trust icons are the various confidence boosting logos and badges that reside in the footer of many ecommerce sites. They range from the simple SSL Certificate validation badge to hacker safe confirmation (such as McAfee Site Secure Seal). But do they help?

What are trust icons (a.k.a. trustmarks)?

They come in various flavors and serve multiple purposes. Some inform consumers that their transaction is secure (VeriSign, GeoTrust, Comodo) or that the site is free from vulnerabilities (McAfee Secure, SecurityMetrics, TrustWave) while others indicate the site owner has met a external standard for privacy controls (TRUSTe) or negotiates in good faith and has a good reputation (BBB Online). They’re generally badges, icons, seals, of some sort that when displayed on a site are intended to extend the trust implicit in these “trust authorities” to your site. So let’s examine a few.

Trust icons: security and encryption

Verisign Geotrust Comodo

Secure Socket Layer (SSL) Certificate providers offer “badges” for sites that use their encryption services to enable safe ecommerce. Usually, the badges are served up remotely by the provider to insure the site maintains its encryption security. If a certificate expires then the badge disappears. The presence of the badge implies the site is secure and offers consumers confidence at a glance. These simple Trust Icons help to reassure customers their transactions and credit card information is safe when transmitted online.  While not necessary to enable or indicate encryption (the little lock icon on your browser shows encryption is enabled) they do seem to help boost confidence and offer a tacit third party endorsement of a site’s security. 

Not all sites flash their SSL badge - many rely on their brands to instill confidence and trust. And since the SSL badges are merely for show, there’s no reason to incorporate one. However, if your site design permits it, and you’re not one of the Fortune 500, it’s not a bad thing to include, even if it’s only on the shopping cart and/or checkout pages. Some savvy online shoppers recognize the badges and more so the companies and transfer their confidence in the SSL providers to your site.

It should be noted that extended SSL verification is available too and can offer increased trust as well. Extended SSL validation turns the browser URL bar green to indicate a more rigorous level of security and authentication. Using extended SSL validation can be an excellent trust builder also but it does require more effort and time for a company to be approved and it costs significantly more.

Trust icons: security against hacking and vulnerabilities

McAfee Secure SecurityMetrics Trustwave

Far to regularly you hear websites being hacked or employee carelessness leading to private information being disclosed. The leaked information can contain social security numbers or credit card numbers. To counter these threats and to boost consumer confidence and to verify regulatory compliance, several companies exists that probe websites on a daily basis looking for new vulnerabilities. The services also can verify PCI compliance, which is security protocol enacted by the credit card companies that stipulates strict data safety practices. These services can be mandatory if your sales reach a certain level ñ but smart online shop proprietors know that displaying these anti-hacking badges can increase conversions too.

Again, savvy consumers will recognize the investment in these services and the safety they offer to shoppers and this translates into increased confidence. Since these services require daily scans and “delist you and remove your badge” if you fail the scan, consumers can be certain that the sites are protected against the latest known vulnerabilities. The use of these services also offers some peace-of-mind to the ecommerce shop owner too - since the services update their databases of vulnerabilities regularly, by employing these services you can safeguard against exploits you don’t know exist.

Trust icons: privacy and reputation certification

TRUSTe Better Business American Express Guaranteed PayPal Verified

With millions if not billions of sites on the internet having a standard privacy policy on your site can be comforting. TRUSTe offers this. You adopt their criteria for your privacy policy and they audit your company and if you’re compliant you earn their badge. This along with other similar services can alleviate concerns of shoppers - they don’t have to read through long, cumbersome privacy policies to determine if you’re going to sell their information to other marketers.

Reputation badges from the Better Business Bureau or American Express and others can likewise offer comfort that a third-party will help to resolve a dispute should one arise. Most consumers will also realize that in order to remain in good standing with these reputation companies you need to provide good service and act in good faith. Again, reputation and privacy badges can be important to savvy online shoppers or to new visitors to your site since their endorsements by impartial third parties.

Social networking

You shouldn’t leave out social networking either. Facebook, Twitter, Yelp! and others allow customers or prospects to seek out others who’ve shopped with you or to find negative or positive reviews. And while you need to avoid being overly reactionary online when dealing with bad reviews social networking sites can allow you to offer your side of the story. After all not every sale to everyone can be successful and leave all parties happy - but by participating in social networking sites you can engage with unhappy customers or explain bad scenarios and learn to do better. In fact, social networking is becoming increasingly important as friends seek the advice and experiences of others before making purchases. And companies are using social network sites for customer service and to find and help unsatisfied customers. So including links to your Facebook, Twitter, and other pages is a good idea.

So should you include trust icons? The short answer, yes, but…

Unless you’re a well known, trusted brand, then if you’re able to incorporate trust icons into your design, they can definitely help to alleviate fears of new visitors. McAfee offers an internal study of their retailers who noticed a 12% increase in sales when using the McAfee Site Secure seal. Other survey’s and our empirical experiences as a web developers also show that including trust icons on a site can help to foster trust. However, the icons can’t overcome larger mistrust producing problems, such as a badly functioning site, an unprofessional design, or a slow loading or confusing site. Trust is granted by a visitor based on many factors. And while trust icons can increase the likelihood trust will be exchanged (via transference) the mere presence of trust icons does not guarantee success.

Good design, ease of use, and and overall positive user experience can engender more trust in a new visitor. If the site looks shifty or unprofessional or has problems then it’s more likely the user will lose faith. The inclusion of trust icons can push a new visitor or consumer over the edge if they’re already having a positive experience and are willing to place trust in your site.  So trust icons should be part of your site if they fit in with a good design and a user-friendly and functional site. But beware the corollary, the inclusion of too many trust icons can be detrimental to trust. It can make visitors suspicious, why are you trying so hard to convince them to trust you? Further, with each trust icon badge your site makes an external call to the trust icon’s provider, you need to consider what impact multiple external calls will have on your site’s performance. You don’t want your trust icons slowing your site or decreasing the user experience.

In the end though, if your site is well designed and functions well, and you’re looking for something extra to increase conversions over your competitor, then yes, by all means, sign-up for and include a few trust icons on your site. But don’t go over board on the trustmark badges. Concentrate on creating a positive user experience first and add trust icons as the final touches and I’ll predict an increase in sales and/or conversions. Trust me.

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Feb 28, 2011

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There are 4 comments for this entry. Leave a comment below »

It may help with commerce sites where you're selling products,
but may not help when you're selling a service.

I'm right now about to remove the McAfee badge from my site
because it slows down the page loading time.
BY FAR it takes longer to load that little badge than any other item on the page (including photos).

Jon Finch
Jan 25, 2018


Interesting app / widget for reviews.

William Levins
Jul 11, 2016

I used the Trustbadge reviews widget on my online shop to collect and show customer reviews. It’s fairly easy to use. They have many integrations in different shop systems. And it comes with 7 languages and is mobile-optimized. There’s a freemium version available at at so you can try it.

Jul 11, 2016

You're absolutely right when you say web sites should display a trust icon.

ShopSafe is an online shopping directory, and we've first hand reports from retailers who see improved order conversions when they have trustmarks (such as the ShopSafe badge) on their site.

Graham Miller
Jun 28, 2013

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