How an image of YOU makes your small business more trusted

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How an image of YOU makes your small business more trusted
In a recent study we examined what factors consumers look for on a local business website, and in particular, what features would make them most likely to get in contact with that business.

The findings of this study showed that the most important information which consumers want is:

  • Product details
  • Prices
  • Place (address)
  • Phone number

Having clear listings of products, prices, phone numbers, address details, opening hours and company information is essential so consumers can quickly evaluate if a local business meets their requirements.

Other factors such as testimonials & website images take on lower importance, certainly for initial evaluation. However these obviously play a bigger part further down the purchase funnel; once a customer has determined which businesses meet their needs then they look at this richer, secondary information to determine which business to contact first.

Are images a powerful trust factor on a local business website?

Off the back of that study we decided to delve deeper into another factor – Photos & Images.

Consumers arriving at a website may not be actively looking for photos of a business, but a picture speaks a 1,000 words and images convey a lot about a business and the people who run it and work there.  We wanted to understand how much Trust consumers attribute to a local business based on the quality and content of the images they display on their website.

The key question we wanted to answer is –  Are images a powerful trust factor on a local business website?

About the Survey

We ran a survey with the members of our local consumer panel. We created a series of scenarios and asked panel members to select which website they would TRUST the most based purely on the screenshot of the site. We polled over 4,000 people (all based in USA) and received more than 1,600 completed surveys.

We presented each panel member with a series of screenshots mocked up to resemble a local business website. We displayed each consumer 3 example websites at a time; each website was identical except for the photo used on it.

We used 3 different ‘types’ of image:

  • Genuine photo of a business owner
  • A generic product or office photo
  • No photo/image

We varied the images used and randomized the ordering of them so that different panel members had different photos and order of photos. For more details on the methodology of the research please see the Appendix.


Results – Images which inspire trust on a local business website

Images which Inspire Most TRUST on a Local Business Website - Combined

 

Key Findings:

  • Genuine owner image inspire the most trust (46%)
  • Generic images most trusted by 33% of consumers
  • No images inspire very little trust – just 21%

Analysis:

It’s not revolutionary to suggest that more consumer trust can be generated from displaying images on a local business website. However, the results do really emphasize the importance. 

Displaying either a generic, or staff photo on your site will inspire more trust from 79% of consumers.

If your small business is one which operates a more face-to-face type service, then displaying business owner / staff photos is going to be more important. Additionally, if you expect your customers to invite you or your staff into their home then this takes on more prominence. Display friendly looking people on your website to show that consumers can place their trust in you – not just as a business, but on a personal level also.

In terms of generic photos, we found that different types of businesses see varying results. We combined industry defining images (eg. calculator = accountant / faucet = plumber), with images of the business location – featuring photos of the inside and outside of the building. 

Business premises photos are obviously more important if a consumer has to visit that office / site, and if the business is one that makes home or other off-site visits then it’s less important to display these. Likewise if your office premises is not particularly attractive then consider displaying images which help define your industry instead. This of course is easier for businesses that have attractive products to show off – such as a patisserie, electronics store, or clothes shop or example. For service type businesses, such as mechanics, cleaners, carpenters, etc. our research showed that it may be better to display generic industry defining photos, such as images of tools. More on this can be seen on our industry specific charts below.


One of the local business websites we used as an example was a plumbing business. We set the scenario that the consumer was in urgent need of a local plumber, and presented them with 3 options – all the same website but with different types of images.

Local Plumbers Website

Images which Inspire Most TRUST on a Local Business Website - Plumbers

 

Key Findings:

  • An image of an owner is the biggest trust factor (52%)
  • No images on website inspire very little trust (16%)

Analysis:

With a local plumbing website, it is obvious that a good, clear image of the business owner helps to build trust. This may be particularly important for the plumbing trade as it is of course a face to face business whereby the customer invites an employee into their home. For this reason, trust is especially important.

Interestingly, looking closer at the results for the generic images, a generic industry image (in this case a faucet (tap for the UK)), was considered more of a trustworthy signal than an image of the local business premises. This could of course be for a number of reasons; firstly the faucet gives instant recognition that the user is essentially ‘in the right place’ – and secondly, the quality or aesthetics of a premises may count against many small local business (although we did show a varying range of buildings, some impressive, some average).

It does however raise the point that if your small business doesn’t necessarily have a very attractive business address, then it may be better to use a generic business category image or even images of your products if they are worth showing off.

However, if your premises is an attractive looking site then show it off by all means!


Another local business websites we used as an example was an accounting business. We set the scenario that the consumer was in urgent need of a local accountant, and presented them with 3 options – all the same website but with different types of images.

Local Accountants Website

Images which Inspire Most TRUST on a Local Business Website - Accountants

 

Key Findings:

  • A business owner image is the biggest trust factor (40%)
  • A generic image offers similar trust signals (34%)
  • Once again, no imagery does little to inspire trust in users (26%)

Analysis:

Despite being a smaller amount, an image of a business owner is still the biggest trust factor for users on a local accountant’s website. The reason that it’s less important than for the plumbers is probably down to the fact we mentioned before about having to invite a business into your home vs going to visit them at a place of business. As a consumer, we are likely to give more weight to staff or owner photos as a trust factor, if we are going to invite them into our home.

Once again, we looked closer at the results from the different type of generic images used. There was very little difference between showing a typical business category photo (in this example a calculator) (35%), and showing an image of the business premises (33%).

Interestingly however, the type of building shown had a much bigger effect on consumer trust with the accountants. As an example, we showed image A to our consumers (see below), and this inspired far less trust (24%), than the more impressive / professional looking image B (42%).

 

business premises trust montage

 

This off course proves that the quality / sophistication / aesthetics of your local business does play a big part in your perceived TRUST – particularly if a consumer has to visit you in it.


Real Photo Vs Clip Art Man!

clip art man

Does a clip art man inspire trust?

We now know that displaying an image of a small business owner, or indeed a member of staff inspires far more trust in consumers than generic photos or of course no image at all.

However, does the quality of photo make much difference? We noticed a few local business websites that showed images of staff – but there was a clear divide between those sites that showed ‘real’ members of staff and those which displayed fairly obvious ‘clip art’ style images of people.

Does your business staff photo obviously have to be someone who works at your business? Or will a stock image of a smiley worker inspire the same amount of trust? Perhaps some businesses would rather keep their own faces off of the website and so feel that showing a generic smiley member of staff may be just as effective. We put it to the test.

The trust factors in our plumbing scenario were more heavily influenced by images of a business owner (52%), so we used this scenario again but this time just showed our consumer panel 2 website examples:

1. A real business owner / plumber
2. An obvious clip art / stock image of a plumber

 

We used 3 different variations of each and switched the order around to get the fairest results:

clip art person vs real person
 

Key Findings:

  • Nearly two thirds of consumers put more trust in a REAL business owner photo (64%)

Analysis:

This shows that not only is it important to show a business owner or staff member photo on your small business website – but it’s also important to convey openness and trust by displaying a REAL image. Stock photos may look neat and tidy, and also help to instantly reflect an industry – but they are little match for a real person.


Appendix:

Here is some detail on the methodology used, including the scenarios given to our consumer panel & the type of images used.

Scenario 1: The Plumber

“Imagine the following scenario:

Following a day out, you return home to find that a minor plumbing disaster has taken pace and your kitchen has been flooded! You urgently require the services of a plumber, but don’t have a telephone number to hand.

Searching online, you come across the following local business websites. Each has a similar style but with subtle differences.

Please take a minute to look at each example, and then vote for which one you TRUST the most, based on their website.”

Following the plumber scenario we picked a different type of small business – the accountant:

Scenario 2: The Accountant

“Imagine the following scenario:

You realise that you only have a limited amount of time to file your tax return for the previous calendar year. You know that on this particular occasion you will need some assistance from an expert in order to help you complete the forms.

In need of a local accountant, but without a telephone number to hand, you search online and come across the following selection of local business websites. All have a similar style but with subtle differences.

Please take a minute to look at each example, and then vote for which one you TRUST the most, based on their website.”

We presented our consumer panel with a mocked up screenshot of a local business website and made 1 change to each example; a different home page image on each version to display 3 different ‘types’ of image:

  • Genuine photo of a business owner – An image of the owner / manager / main employee at the business. We also varied the image used, showing different photos of different owners so that we could be sure our consumer panel didn’t just take a liking to one plumber / accountant!
  • A generic product or office photo – An image you would typically associate with the type of business you are looking for. In this example we used an image of a tap (faucet) to signify a plumbing business, and an image of a calculator for the accountants. We also varied this section by including place of business photos – using varying images of different small business premises (a range of quality).
  • No photo/image – For this example, we simply removed an image from the website, simply displaying the same business information displayed in the other examples instead.

Displaying each website as an A, B, or C option, we also varied the order to avoid consumers making a choice based on the order. For example, ABC, CBA, ACB, BCA, etc.

Ross Marchant Ross Marchant

About the Author

Ross is the Marketing Manager for BrightLocal. With 8 years SEO & content experience, Ross spearheads our marketing & CRM initiatives which focus heavily on creating useful & informative content. Ross coordinates the research program at BrightLocal which delivers unique insights into both the SEO industry & local consumer behaviours. When he's not analyzing data or creating great content, Ross is a passionate fan of Chelsea FC (who isn't?!). Follow him on Google+.

5 Responses to “How an image of YOU makes your small business more trusted”

  1. Robin

    I agree real photos are the best. It shows that you take pride in being the owner. Even larger companies should do this.

  2. Bob Sommers

    I love this post Ross. Seeing a photo of the person who owns the business is very important to me with respect to trust. We make a big deal about having a personal photo with our service too and it has a monumental positive impact on conversion. Great post. Great stats. Great idea. Thank you.

  3. Ross Marchant Ross Marchant

    Thanks for the comments Robin / Bob – glad you like the findings.
    I think any way that you can show your site visitors that you’re a REAL company providing a REAL service makes a big difference – especially to a local business.

  4. Dave

    Have you done any testing to find the best place to put the image of the business owner? Site wide in the footer, contact page, home page?

  5. Ross Marchant Ross Marchant

    Hi Dave, thanks for the comment. We tested these images as a main home page image only.

    As the landing page for most users, we wanted to know what images inspires trust straight away. Owner images on other pages may be useful – but of course we are then often reliant on the homepage being ‘trusted’ enough to encourage users to visit other pages.

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