Most consumers wary of businesses that use free email service

Research finds 77% trust companies that use a website and professional email address

A survey has revealed  that up to 64 per cent of consumers view businesses who use free email addresses as less trustworthy. Photograph: Sylvain Sonnet/Getty Images

A survey has revealed that up to 64 per cent of consumers view businesses who use free email addresses as less trustworthy. Photograph: Sylvain Sonnet/Getty Images

 

If you are a business that relies on a free email service to keep in contact with customers, you might want to think again. New research from the IE Domain Registry (IEDR) has shown almost two-thirds of customers don’t trust businesses that rely on such services, instead favouring those who have a professional email address.

That means if you use Gmail or a free Eircom address, up to 64 per cent of consumers see you as less trustworthy. It compares with 77 per cent who say they would trust companies that use a website or email address registered to a business name.

The same goes for those companies that are ditching traditional websites to concentrate solely on social media as a means for contacting customers. The survey found 65 per cent of consumers would trust a company with a website, compared with 17 per cent for those without. Those companies that only had a Facebook or Twitter page were seen as less trustworthy by 63 per cent of consumers.

Indicators authenticity

“Our research reveals that consumers see professional email addresses and websites as indicators of trust and authenticity. For sole traders and SMEs, this is particularly important,” said David Curtin, chief executive of IEDR.

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“Anecdotal evidence suggests that first-time customers are far more likely to contact the plumber or electrician who has a web presence, rather than the one who just has a phone listing. Investing in a website that lists contact details, services and prices implies openness, accountability and trustworthiness.”

The research was carried out by Ignite and questioned 1,000 consumers.

Despite programmes designed to encourage more businesses to get online, there are still a large number of firms, particularly small- and medium-sized companies, that do not have an online presence.

Research from IEDR published last year found one in six SMEs here had no website or social media account, and more than half of those who had no online presence said they had no intention of rectifying that in the near future.

Social networks

While consumer trust in businesses relying solely on social networks to connect with customers was low, Facebook and Twitter still play an important part in overall strategy to boost customer engagement.

“Every business owner should begin by creating a website to serve as their permanent home on the internet, under their control forever,” said Allister Frost, former head of digital marketing at Microsoft.

“And once that is established, many may also benefit from developing an active presence on relevant social networks like Facebook to reach a wider audience and ultimately convert them into happy, paying customers.”