eBrand Media shares how to increase conversions by assuring customers.

Mar 3, 2009 by

By Tom Polanski, EVP, eBrand Media and eBrand Interactive

eBrand Media has always been a strong proponent of keeping a security symbol in the homepage “hero” spot. Every site guest arrives with a degree of anxiety and their anxiety level increases exponentially as they move further down the shopping funnel towards the cart. Every friction point should be removed for the purpose of bringing form and function together to create an online store that is positive, easy to navigate, pleasant to be in and conducive to frequent and extended visits.

Clarity, clarity, clarity, and if you think you’ve given enough clarity, give some more.  

The prospect of identity theft has led the majority of online users–53 percent–to stop giving out personal information online, according to a study released by Consumer Reports WebWatch.

Additionally, 30 percent of the consumers surveyed reported reducing their overall use of the Web, while 25 percent say they no longer make online purchases, according to WebWatch. The report, “Leap of Faith: Using the Internet despite the Dangers,” was based on a survey of 1,501 online adults.

Even those who continued to shop online reported taking precautions. Fifty-four percent of online shoppers said they now are more likely to read a site’s privacy policy or user agreement than in the past–while 29 percent say they shop online less frequently than before.

The results show a growing concern about identity theft, said Beau Brendler, director of WebWatch. “There’s been a pretty steady drumbeat over the last three years about it,” he said. In addition, the wave of headlines about security breaches at databases has led consumers to rethink how to best protect their personal data, he said.

A previous study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project also revealed that consumers had changed their online behavior, partly because of security concerns. The Pew study, “Spyware,” concluded that fears of spyware and adware had driven 48 percent of Web users to stop visiting certain Web sites.

In keeping with this theme we’d to share a valuable case study with you that we came across in our virtual library, obtained from a leading marketing journal.

SUMMARY: To reveal their credit card numbers, customers need to feel comfortable. Give them any reason to hesitate, and your conversion rate is going to suffer.

We interviewed an expert on turning Web address bars green to assure visitors that they’re safe and on a secure connection. He says they’re helping companies decrease abandonment rates across industries.

The dangers of identity and data theft have been hammered into consumers’ minds. Any way you can make them feel more comfortable on your website should improve your conversion rate.

In a May 2006 Case Study, we detailed how pet supply retailer PETCO increased its conversion rate by 8.83% by adding VeriSign logo to its website. VeriSign is an Internet infrastructure service provider often associated with security.

To ease customers’ anxiety about sharing personal information, many marketers use Secure Socket Layer certificates on their servers to display a yellow padlock icon on their sites. In recent years, a new form of SSL, called Extended Validation SSL, has emerged. EV SSL adds another layer of security, shows the padlock icon, and turns visitors’ address bars green.

We interviewed Tim Callan, VP Product Marketing, VeriSign, to tell us more about the technology and how marketers can make the most of green address bars. Callan is a founding member of the Certification Authority Browser Forum, the group that drafted the EV SSL industry standards.

Padlocks and Green Address Bars

SSL is a secure communications protocol for the Web. Servers using the protocol can get digital certificates to signal to visitors that their connection is secure. Extended Validation SSL is an updated version of an older SSL standard.

o The old SSL

SSL certificates have been around for over a decade. Visitors can see whether a website has a secure, encrypted connection by looking for a yellow padlock icon in their Web browser. Once they see the padlock, they can more comfortably enter their personal information.

o The new SSL

Extended Validation SSL certificates entered the market a couple of years ago. In addition to ensuring that visitors’ information is encrypted, they guarantee that the company’s identity has been verified. The verification is meant to thwart “phishers,” those who create fraudulent websites to obtain visitors’ personal information.

EV SSL certificates turn the address bar in visitors’ Web browsers from white to green. The yellow padlock is also shown in a separate green box that lists the company’s name. (See creative samples below)

EV SSL certificates are “a standard technology,” and are compatible with “every conceivable server operating system you would have,” Callan says. They should not interfere with any search engine optimization, flash or rich media.

Visitors have to be using a compatible Web browser to see the green address bars, and they have to have their phishing filters turned on.

Compatible browsers include the most current versions of:
- Internet Explorer
- Firefox
- Safari
- Opera
- Google Chrome

To turn on Internet Explorer’s phishing filter:
-Click “Tools” on the menu bar
-Click “Phishing filter”
-Click “Turn on automatic website checking”

Getting EV SSL Certificates

Even the most gifted IT teams cannot build EV SSL certificates for your server. The certificates must come from a third-party authentication agency, Callan says.

“You need to pay for them because the whole point of the certificates is that a trusted third party is vouching for your identity. And we have a whole huge, well-documented methodology we have to follow to do that,” Callan says.

Once you’re given the certificates, an IT security specialist or your server’s hosting provider should be able to apply them and get your address bars shining green.

Pricing

The certificates are typically priced per server, per year. You can usually negotiate for discounts by committing multiple servers or signing up for multiple years. Registering one server for one year costs about $1000 at VeriSign, Callan says.

Companies offering EV SSL certificates include:
- VeriSign
- GeoTrust
- Globalsign
- GoDaddy.com
- SSL

Using EV SSL Certificates

o Explain the green bar to visitors

It’s possible that your website’s visitors will not know why their address bars are green, or why your company’s name is in a green box. Tell them that it’s because their connections are secured and that your company’s identity has been verified.

“Paypal is a good example,” Callan says. “They’ve been assertive at messaging their customer base, ‘look for the green glow. That’s how you know you’re at PayPal.’”

o Turn phishing filters on

Some visitors will not be running the most current version of their Web browser, or they might not have a phishing filter on. Both cases would prevent them from seeing the green address bar. Create a page with instructions, or make an addition to your FAQs to clear up confusion.

A Perk of Certificates

Companies often see abandonment rates decrease on the site after adding EV SSL certificates to their servers, Callan says.

“The increase in transactions has been widely measured by many businesses. … This is a security tool that becomes a marketing tool.”

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