Trust Seals: Do Your Customers Really Care About Them?

Mike Arsenault
July 16, 2021
minute read

Every day, it seems, there’s news of yet another security breach – incidents in which customer data, including names, addresses, credit and debit card numbers, Social Security numbers and even medical records, are stolen and exposed by cybercriminals.

Is it any wonder that consumers are worried about entering their personal and financial information online?

I don’t know about you, but whenever I make an online purchase from a company for the first time, I’m a little anxious when I have to provide my credit card information. How do I know if the company’s website and payment system are secure? I worry that my private information will end up in the wrong hands and then be plastered all over the cyber black market.

The fact is companies that want to be successful have to address consumers’ fears and anxieties. They have to establish trust with their users if they want to convert them into paying customers.

One way for businesses to do that is by using recognized trust/security seals – icons that are typically displayed in the footer of an eCommerce site. A trust seal is granted by a third-party indicating that a website has been audited and is deemed secure so customers feel more confident buying from that particular company.

These trust seals come in a variety of flavors including: VeriSign, GeoTrust, Norton Secure, and Comodo that let consumers know that their transactions are secure; McAfee Secure, and Trustwave that inform users that websites are free from vulnerabilities; TRUSTe that indicates websites have certain external standards for privacy; and BBB Online that lets users know the company has a good reputation.

When a shopper clicks on a trust icon like Norton Secured, he’ll see information from the third-party vouching for the website’s security. For example:

Norton Security Scan

These services require daily scans – websites that fail the scans will be removed from the programs and have their trust seals revoked. Because of that consumers can rest assured that the sites displaying trust seals – as well as their personal information – are secure and protected against the most recent vulnerabilities. And if a certificate expires, the trust seal goes away.

But do people really care about these seals?

The truth is that consumers aren’t all that savvy about the technology behind these trust seals and how they ensure the security of eCommerce sites. But that doesn’t matter because trust seals increase consumers’ “perceived security” about these websites, according to Baymard Institute, which conducted a survey to determine which of the seals people trusted the most. The presence of a trust seal on a website indicates to consumers that the site is secure, instilling confidence just by its existence.

Before I get to the results of Baymard’s survey, I’d like to share the results of a similar survey we recently conducted. Both surveys were aimed at understanding which trust seal made consumers “feel” their transactions were the most secure, not which seal represented the strictest technical/security compliance.

We asked consumers: When buying online, which badge makes you feel most confident about completing the purchase?

Of the 1,217 U.S. adults who responded:

  • 37.2% didn’t recognize any of the seals or they didn’t have a preference
  • 20.1% selected Norton Secured
  • 10.3% chose McAfee Secure
  • 10.2% selected BBB
  • 8.3% opted for TRUSTe
  • 3.8% selected VeraSafe
  • 3.1% chose Secured By Thawte
  • 3.0% selected Comodo Secure
  • 2.0% opted for Stella Service
  • 1.9 % opted for Trustwave

When it conducted its most recent trust seal survey in 2013, Baymard, an independent web usability research institute, asked consumers: Which badge gives you the best sense of trust when paying online?

Baymard received 2,510 responses from U.S. adults, 1,224 (48.7%) of whom said they “don’t know” or have “no preference.”

The institute said of the remaining 1,286 people:

  • 35.6% indicated the Norton seal gave them the best sense of confidence
  • 22.9% selected McAfee
  • 13.2% chose TRUSTe
  • 13.2% opted for BBB
  • 6.0% selected Thawte
  • 3.2% chose Trustwave
  • 3.1% opted for GeoTrust
  • 2.8% selected Comodo

Interestingly, the two most trusted site seals on both surveys are from well-known anti-virus software companies. That’s most likely because consumers are more familiar with these brands and associate them with security, and therefore trust their site seals (which incorporate the company logos) more, Baymard noted.

The bottom line as to whether consumers really care about trust seals, according to Baymard: “Users don’t know the difference between the different kinds of badges, and most don’t really care. The dozens of badges that exist to place on your website act more as a safety placebo than a real guarantee of security.”

What about you? Have you found any conversion increases/decreases implementing trust seals on your site?

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Mike Arsenault

Founder & CEO

For the last 10 years, Mike has worked with brands like Moosejaw, Hydroflask, Peak Design, Triumph, Hearst & Guthy Renker to provide the strategy & technology with which they use email to drive revenue growth. He's also the Founder of Rejoiner, a SaaS marketing platform built for ecommerce businesses.

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