Trust seals such as the ubiquitous Better Business Bureau or the online equivalents such as Hacker Safe are designed to put the consumer at ease when doing business with a stranger. A website displaying Hacker Safe should yield better conversion rates since the consumer has confidence their credit card data cannot be stolen by hackers.
In line with the recent focus on teaching best practices for testing, we recommended to a Market Motive subscriber that instead of assuming Hacker Safe improves conversion rates they actually test it. Subscribing to Hacker Safe is not cheap and it must be justified through ROI.
To our surprise, showing the logo or hiding it made no difference all to conversion. This puzzled us because all the sources we have read indicate such logos make a big difference. We extended the run time of the test to make sure it encompassed latent conversions, and saw the same result.
Naturally this member didn’t pay to renew Hacker Safe and diverted the budget to other marketing programs, but I kept wondering why our experience contradicted that of others so strongly. Instinctively I felt the data surrounding the Hacker Safe effectiveness was old, and our more recent test was reflecting a recent change in online behavior. The question is: what is driving the change?
Many smaller sites display the Hacker Safe or similar logo. Consumers therefore see it a lot, and get used to seeing it. One might theorize that a site failing to display would be viewed suspiciously by consumers. However, I strongly suspect that Hacker Safe has unconsciously told consumers ‘online shopping is safe’ rather than saying ‘shopping at this site is safe’. As consumers shop at one site and nothing bad happens, they begin to assume all sites are OK. It’s the expectations of the consumer that have changed, and not the Hacker Safe concept itself.
It’s a vaccination
The situation is analogous to vaccinations. A site vaccinates itself against fear of hackers by displaying the logo. More and more sites buy the vaccine, and the disease (consumer’s fear) is abated. At this point the web in general has Herd Immunity and the disease no longer occurs. Now it no longer matters if some sites drop out of the immunization program because enough other sites are displaying the logo, and the consumer has enough confidence. This will probably remain true until some external event like massive fraud re-introduces fear into the mind of consumers, much as polio has re-emerged in some places because it’s no longer routinely vaccinated against.
In summary: you can probably skip Hacker Safe and get away with it.
P.S. In our faculty call with Bryan Eisenberg yesterday, he pointed out that sites might be able to simply display some type of official-looking shield logo, and achieve the same effect as Hacker Safe.