Good (or bad) design can tremendously impact your business’s success potential.
After all, consumers continually assess organizations based on the aesthetic appeal of their online presence. More notably, research shows that the power of design — especially web design — is so substantial that it can influence consumers’ first impressions of a brand in less than a blink of an eye.
In other words, whether you’re trying to position your business as unique, aspirational, socially responsible, or dependable, you’ll have to rely on visual design to achieve the desired effect.
If your business goals include sustainable growth and a healthy cash flow, there are two attributes you should be trying to associate your brand with via the medium of design. On the one hand, it’s the sentiment that your organization is credible, competent, and merits consumer trust. And on the other, it’s that your business is capable of meeting long-time customer demands and is therefore fully deserving of their continuous support.
Namely, you should look for ways to use visual appeal to gain customer loyalty and trust.
Are you ready to do what it takes to transform your brand’s image with the help of a few proven-to-work design choices? If so, the following strategies will allow you to position your business as trustworthy and a provider of solutions your customer base will keep returning to year after year.
The first step towards earning customer loyalty and trust is to comprehend why these qualities matter in the first place. Yes, being perceived as reliable and inspiring clients to continue using your solutions is good for business. But how good is it, precisely?
According to research from 2021, winning your target audience’s trust has several benefits. UK consumers who trust brands are 71% more likely to buy more, have a 61% chance of recommending the business to friends, are 41% likely to join a loyalty program, and have a 40% probability of posting a positive review on social media.
But that’s not the only reason to pay attention to brand trust. Data from 2022 shows that only 23% of buyers aren’t changing their usual brand selections (compared to the 25% who’ve already started spending less on their go-to brands and the 22% who plan to lower their spending). With this in mind, it quickly becomes evident that customer loyalty is declining, making it considerably more difficult for SMBs to develop positive reputations and build client bases to get them through an already challenging financial environment.
And even though achieving impressive customer retention may not be a walk in the park in 2023, it’s worth focusing on when trying to drive business growth.
A recently published report from Yotpo revealed that consumers loyal to particular brands would be ready to:
- Buy directly from the brand’s website instead of Amazon.
- Put off a purchase until their favorite brand’s products were back in stock (instead of shopping elsewhere).
- Try newly released products from the brand.
- Sign up for the brand’s subscription service. And;
- Pay more for the brand’s solutions despite cheaper alternatives.
The good news is that businesses are in a prime position to earn and keep consumer trust.
The 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer revealed that business is the most and only trusted institution globally, putting brands in a prime position to leave a positive impression on their audiences and nurture customers into long-time supporters. But, this positive perception also comes with a few burdens, notably the fact that people are expecting more and more from businesses, including for them to be ethical and socially involved with current issues.
In other words, earning and holding on to customer trust and inspiring loyalty isn’t just good for business. It’s a necessity in a world of shifting consumer behaviors. Fortunately, it’s something that design (along with stellar customer experience) can help with to a great extent.
One of the best ways to get your target audience to associate your brand with trustworthiness, credibility, and value is always to be consistent with your design and branding choices. After all, one research study from 2008 proved that a high level of brand recognition, which is traditionally achieved via a consistent visual branding strategy:
- Reduced consumers’ perceived risk when shopping with brands.
- Positively impacted brand image. And;
- Generated brand loyalty.
So, if you’re trying to gain customer loyalty and trust, your business’s design choices must be cohesive across all channels.
One of the best examples of boosting recognition, creating an aspirational brand image, and inspiring customer loyalty with the help of consistent design comes from the luxury brand Louis Vuitton. The fashion house turned its monogram logo into an instantly-recognizable status symbol. And if you look at the LV website and social media profiles, you’ll see that the visual consistency goes so far as to use visual repetition. Every social post echoes an image or video featured on the brand’s homepage or in one of its campaigns.
User experience and interface design significantly determine the willingness of your audience to interact with your business. And even though consumers may be ready to put up with poor UX when browsing aesthetically pleasing sites/apps (a phenomenon called the aesthetic-usability effect), you should never allow yourself to risk a bad brand image due to a few poor UX design choices.
By covering the basics of technical site performance — boosting load speed, optimizing images, removing dead or outdated links/pages, paying attention to accessibility, and improving your site’s internal structure, you can ensure that web visitors have a pleasant time browsing your website and see its steadfast performance as a sign of your brand’s trustworthiness.
When exploring ways to employ design to strengthen and grow your business, it’s not a bad idea to focus on consumer concerns that can be addressed (or even solved) with creative visual solutions.
The 2022 PWC Customer Loyalty Survey discovered that the main reasons for abandoning brands include cost savings, bad experiences with products, services, or customer representatives, inefficient service, lack of availability, and mistrust. Yet, these CX concerns can be handled by making simple design changes.
For example, a website homepage design highlighting a user-oriented unique value proposition written to show that a brand understands and intends to solve user frustrations could be the key to getting new and returning web visitors to convert.
Just check out how effectively the Peak Design website does this, using a minimalistic aesthetic to talk about a consumer pet peeve — even travel tripods are hard to transport. The combination of white background and black uppercase letters allows the value proposition to stand out, resonate, and encourage web visitors to study the product. The fact that the product photo shows only a glimpse further drives user engagement, maximizing the chances of a page visit ending in a conversion.
Another great design strategy for showing a brand’s commitment to customer satisfaction is to use intuitive contact element positioning to make it super-easy and convenient for web visitors to get in touch with the business’ sales/support team.
For instance, the How Do Our Medical Alert Systems Work landing page from Bay Alarm Medical features a live chat widget in the bottom right corner, a clickable “Call us” CTA button in the header of the website, as well as two additional phone contact calls to action at the bottom of the page. This is a prime example of thoughtful design, and not just because it makes it easy for potential customers to get in touch with the brand. More importantly, it shows that Bay Alarm Medical perfectly understands its target audience, knowing that the age group they’re trying to reach won’t want to chat through Facebook Messenger but would much prefer to make a phone call.
Another way to build brand credibility, inspire trust, and nurture customer loyalty even before making a sale is to offer and spotlight free content. Many business owners think giving away proprietary knowledge for free is bad for their cash flow. But if you give it some thought, you’ll quickly realize that it’s one of the most effective ways to show on-the-fence consumers that you have their best interest in mind (and care more about helping them than profiting off of them).
And the best part is that there are dozens of ways to use design to help your free content grab web visitors’ attention.
For instance, you could do something similar to Going’s Cheap Flights page and add a knowledge base to your landing pages with a dedicated (visually emphasized) section where prospects can access your most helpful in-depth guides.
Or, if you want to make free user-oriented content even more attention-grabbing, you could do something similar to Hubspot and supplement your blog posts with a spotlighted mention of a relevant data/research report. Moreover, this brand makes excellent use of scroll-triggered popups that encourage readers to download free content.
One of the best ways to gain customer trust is, without a doubt, to employ social proof. Whether you do this on your website or social channels — or both — is entirely up to you. But, the one way you could use design to your advantage is to make the instances of social proof pop.
The Dress Forms USA homepage shows an ingenious way to make brand and product reviews an integral part of the site’s hero section. This is a great spot to display social proof, seeing that web users spend most of their browsing time looking at the first screenful of a page. Furthermore, look at the way the “Reviews” button is formatted. You’ll see that it is colored a bright green that perfectly contrasts the background and matches the “Read our reviews” CTA following the section advertising the brand’s reliability and popularity. These small design choices are easy to overlook. Still, they’re the perfect way to emphasize something as effective at building consumer trust as positive customer feedback.
Of course, social proof is so much more than just reviews and feedback. For this reason, it’s not a bad idea to play around with alternative ways of proving your business’ credibility.
Embedding user-generated content is an excellent alternative to simply showing off positive customer feedback. Yes, it does necessitate a slightly more involved process to make it look like a part of your business website (as opposed to a clunky add-on element). But, when you get it right, it’s guaranteed to inspire web visitors to see your brand as genuinely competent. Especially when you consider that genuine — as opposed to staged — UGC remains one of the content formats most trusted by consumers.
One great way to incorporate UGC into your online presence is to work with your web designer and developer to encourage satisfied customers to upload photos of their received products in the reviews section of your product pages. For example, that’s what Away did successfully.
Don’t forget that trust- and loyalty-generating social proof doesn’t necessarily have to be submitted by your customers. Collecting and presenting data in an attention-grabbing way can help turn your business’ results into a credibility-building piece of evidence that will give prospects peace of mind when considering your brand. Skincare brands do this spectacularly, as illustrated by Clinique below. Note how the brand emphasizes its product’s efficacy with design, ensuring that the cream’s benefits in reducing dark spots are impossible to miss and adding an asterisk to inform interested buyers that the data is derived from an actual clinical trial.
Finally, if you’re looking for ways to use design to boost consumer trust, don’t forget to show off trust badges, certificates, awards, and other credentials throughout your website. Something as basic as a custom-made “Lowest Price Promise,” like the one on the Anytime Baseball Supply website, could easily be the thing that convinces your customers that they can count on your company to offer a good deal.
According to Deloitte’s latest Consumer Products Industry Outlook report, one of the primary ways businesses can earn consumer trust in 2023 is to be transparent about their practices. And what better way to communicate how your brand does things like shipping or material sourcing than with visually engaging design?
Something as mundane as the sustainability impact of a product — which 82% of shoppers care about — can be communicated in an engaging, attention-grabbing way by enhancing it with custom icons or visuals. You can find a great example of this on the Reformation website.
Or, if you want to take things a step further, you could connect your brand’s entire visual identity to the values it stands for. True Botanicals does this by purposefully presenting its products in natural settings and pointing out that it only uses botanical ingredients — in its product descriptions and packaging.
One web design strategy that many brands are scared to use is personalization. And with the growing number of consumers expressing their concerns about how businesses and other organizations use their data, this isn’t that much of a surprise.
But here’s the thing. A shopping experience personalized in a relevant and non-intrusive way — like suggesting products based on previously viewed items — genuinely contributes to customer satisfaction. And considering that that’s what leads to loyalty, it might not be a bad idea to explore ways to embrace personalization in your website’s design.
The least intrusive way to do so is by only using personalization based on the web visitor’s current browsing session. For example, that would be the “You might also like” or “People also viewed” sections on e-commerce sites like Rejuvenation.
The alternative to this is to upgrade your site’s functionality and allow prospects to create user accounts. This might require a more substantial initial investment. However, it can be a phenomenal way to deliver more enjoyable shopping experiences and to apply a coveted level of personalization to all your communication lines, like your email marketing campaigns or social media sponsored posts.
Lastly, as you aim to gain loyalty via visual design, don’t forget that sometimes, the best solution for improving customer retention is to do it by reminding your buyers that they can get more from your brand by being regular customers.
Something as simple as pointing out that you offer an alluring loyalty program — research shows that what buyers find attractive in these are discounts, flexible rewards, access to exclusive items, and personalized shopping experiences — will be enough to tickle your audience’s imagination at least.
Ben & Jerry’s has an incredibly fun way of describing the rewards its most loyal supporters can enjoy, with a colorful landing page that is perfectly on-brand and effectively highlights all the value people can get by signing up via visual design.
Naturally, if you don’t have the resources to create an entire loyalty program for your business — which is perfectly OK, especially for small businesses — you can still encourage prospects to stay continuously engaged with your brand with unique perks and benefits.
SaaS brand Aura did this spectacularly by doing something as simple as creating a Facebook community, then advertising it on its homepage. The group promises helpful original content, inside hacks, and the ability to learn from established users of Aura’s software, which is something that even prospects in the awareness stage of the sales funnel can benefit from. Plus, the group creates a space where the members will inevitably be reminded of the effectiveness of Aura’s solution, making it an exquisite trick for keeping the brand at the top of its audience’s minds.
While it may not always seem like it, earning consumer trust and loyalty doesn’t have to be challenging — especially if you employ the design tactics described in this guide.
However, if boosting brand trust and maximizing customer retention is what you’re trying to achieve, you have to remember that reaching the goal shouldn’t be your only concern. You also must work hard on maintaining, justifying, and rewarding your customers’ support, which is best done by continually improving your service, paying attention to what your audience wants, and always finding ways to do better than your competition.