SDL sm CEM Report Blog

Trusting the Manual

A recent study conducted by SDL revealed that online searches are just the starting point for most customer journeys – for both B2B and B2C – but what surprised us was that the search wasn’t linear and involved not only a company/product website, but also the online version of the product manual.

Learning to evaluate and trust information is a skill we hone, like any other. But what really makes us believe certain pieces of information or sources over others? Why do we trust that the website or manual a company produces is true? And what elements go into creating that kind of a trustworthy site and product manual?

Why do we trust the manual?
It’s tempting in today’s highly digitized world to accept whatever you find online as true. But as we learned in the above referenced study, consumers have different touchpoints that help them to evaluate information. Indirectly related, but no less important, is the fact that all of the research consumers do online primarily hits the vision centers of the brain, and from there filter into the decision making areas of the brain.

In this older – but still very relevant Piktochart article on the psychology of how we perceive visual information, there is considerable data on what makes a consumer trust a website – this applies to the manual as well when it is displayed on the site.

  • Broken down the research highlights the following points:
  • Meaningful headlines set expectations.
  • Support visuals with meaningful data.
  • Visual information is combined with stored information built from experience (this influences the evaluation of new visual data).
  • Groups of similar colors are pleasing. Contrasting colors can feel chaotic or aggressive.
  • Use contrasting colors sparingly and smartly.
  • Use easy to read – visually pleasing – font types.

It is these visual cues combined with a brand’s reputation that influence us to trust the manual or the website as much as the carefully chosen words that tell the story.

Does age matter?
Allow me to highlight one point from the above list and show how that affects consumers of different generations: “Visual information is combined with stored information built from experience. This influences the evaluation of new visual data."

The reason Millennials and Baby Boomers respond differently to the same online visuals is because of a difference in stored experiences. Millennials are digital natives and read websites the way Baby Boomers used to – read the newspaper; skimming over and picking out the articles relevant or of interest to them (Keep in mind that reading a newspaper touches on different centers in the brain than reading off a screen does).

Building trust should be the cornerstone of any brand’s digital strategy. Of course, there are many ways to cultivate lasting relationships, but as these results suggest customers – particularly millennials – gain trust from less traditional sources. They now want access to content that’s often hidden away in the background of a company website, or if it’s available it’s outdated or poorly translated into their local language.

And yet creating, designing and displaying webpages and product documentation (in a way that makes it easier to consume by all generations) is something that many brands struggle to deliver. See how easy it is to find high quality, technical information for some of your favorite gadgets at home. Making this information available, across all digital channels, is what leading brands are tackling head on – and making that information available at the earliest opportunity. It’s small changes like these that can have a lasting impact on not just loyalty, but the bottom line.