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How to build trust with your users in internet companies?

Would you- keep your retirement money in newly launched bank? allow a stranger to live in you home for a night? buy a brand of smartphone that none of your friends use? drink tap water in a remote unknown village?

Most of us will answer “No” to these questions. But, let me add a few pieces before you answer the questions.

The shiny app has the Government of India as the main shareholder. The platform is Airbnb & which offers up to $1 million in damage coverage. The smartphone brand is “nothing” built by the “OnePlus” founder. The village was recognized as one of the cleanest villages in India.

Is your answer changing towards a “Maybe” now? Are you trusting the stranger/ banking app/ smartphone brand more?

This essay will debunk a few things about “Trust”

→ The “why” of building trust

→ Drill down on products on how they built trust?

→ The distilled framework on what builds trust?

→ How is trust borrowed, and evolved over a period of time?

→ How can you build trust for your own product?

The “why” of building trust

→ Get the first set of users to try your product.

→ Make users do the first transaction.

→ Improve average order value per customer.

→ Improve lifetime value per customer.

→ Reduce customer churn

→ Build competition defensibility.

→ Fuel referral loop with word of mouth.

Now that we have established what “Trust” impacts from a product growth point of view, we are going to drill down few products that have instilled trust across different stages.

Some of the trust experiments

Airbnb (the travel stay company) provides Hosts with $1 million in coverage in the event their place or belongings are damaged by a guest during an Airbnb stay. Zappos (the e-commerce acquired by Amazon) provides up to a 365-day return policy on items. Apple builds trust through being reliable with its superior hardware meets software experience every single time. Google, in its early stages of search product, did something no one else did - optimize search results for users & not for advertisers.

But should you just copy what Airbnb, Zappos, Google or Apple is doing?The answer is - “NO”

Solving for trust is {Context & motivations}

→ First, Before the user discovers the product.

→ Second, post-discovery, the user hasn’t tried the product.

→ Third, the user bought the product but isn’t a repeat user.

→ Fourth, repeat user but has low average transaction value.

The rest of the article will give you a framework to solve trust at each of these stages.
This image is about the framework that can be used to solve trust problems for a business, where the user hasn't even discovered the product yet
Framework to solve user trust problems in internet businesses
Let’s apply this framework to Tinder, a dating app.

Crisp marketing pitch → Dating app to meet new people & find friends.

Creative design → Tinder’s color pallet & brand archetype works on ads.

Ratings & reviews → Play store listing is ~3/5; need to fix.

Balance touch-points → No spam ads on social (IG/Facebook)

Borrowed trust → Open Tinder’s website and the first three testimonials borrow trust from actual users who found love on tinder & got married. Or the Swipe Stories series where real users talk about their tinder stories.

Solving for trust during post-product discovery, but the user hasn’t tried the product.

This image is about the framework that can be used to solve trust problems for a business, where the user has just landed on the product page
Let’s apply this framework to Hubspot, the all in one CRM.

1. Consistent flow It shows the exact same pitch on marketing & its landing page. 2. True Trial/purchase experience Clear 14-day trial communication, no credit card. 3. User testimonials Calling top internet companies use them, borrowing trust.

Solving for trust with a user who bought once but isn’t buying again

This image is about the framework that can be used to solve trust problems for a business, where the user has purchased once, but isn't purchasing again
Let’s apply this framework to Zomato, the online food delivery app.

1. First transaction experience

Did the first food order get delivered hot & on time? Does this happen for most first orders from new customers?

2. Customer support

How do I raise a complaint? Is the support buried under 100s of knowledge base bot responses? What’s the typical response when I say the food is not good? How much time do I waste every time I raise an escalation with a brand? Do I have to raise this on social media to get noticed constantly?

3. Feedback loop

How likely will you refer this product to your family/friends/people in your close social circle?

4. Unrelated levers than trust

Moved city & the new city isn’t serviceable on Zomato

Solving for trust with repeat users but has low average transaction value.

This image is about the framework that can be used to solve trust problems for a business, where the user has a low average order value or AOV
Let’s apply this framework to CRED, a fintech product built for the affluent audience in India.

1. Do high-trust individuals choose it Top CEOs, leaders, and affluent celebrities choose it. Madhuri Dixit, Rahul Dravid, and Ravi Shashtri * 10s or more endorse it.

2. Will this company last 10 years CRED has raised more money than any internet company at this stage. This raises eyebrows. Is it scaling too fast or too quickly? Does it have enough funds if it can’t raise money for a few years?

3. If CRED liquidates, will my money go under Does it have a robust governance team? Is it compliant with RBI guidelines? Does it follow the right lending structure? Do they have deposit insurance?

4. Is it boringly predictable? Does this bring no surprises on credit card payment failures? Is the flow water-tight for refunds, payment delays & more? Does it work like clockwork almost always?

5. Is it far superior to the substitutes Now you know why CRED UI design is the core of the product. Not just the UI, but the whole payment experience from start to finish.

6. When things go south, how does the company respond Does the company admit mistakes & solve them w/o social escalations? How good is their “choice of words” from the customer support executive?


Now that you understand this, pick your product and apply this framework to it. Curious to learn more?

We cover more aspects of building large scale internet business in the complete GrowthX Experience, which is a year long. Over 1500+ global leaders are part of GrowthX & you should definitely consider joining if you want to be a growth leader who can solve any growth problem in across internet business with a decision framework.


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