The important cultural signals of website security


Search Laboratory


When it comes to ecommerce, the issue of online security is very important for both companies and customers. Users also want to be certain the data they provide, especially financial data, will be secure and that they are protected from hacks and viruses. 

The perception of website safety changes in different countries due to the culture, and there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution when it comes to website security. Despite there being many common elements, there are also many points of differentiation that are worth taking into consideration when practicing digital marketing in different countries. To win the trust of customers and acquire credibility, a company should use country focused signals, such as clients’ reviews and quality seals, to make customers feel secure and at ease. 

When looking at website security across Europe, as a whole, customer reviews inspire the most trust online, followed by SSL cryptography, which guarantees customers’ personal and financial data security. Other methods of creating trust include quality seals, prizes and awards and guarantee certifications. 

What approaches do different European countries take to gain trust with their audience


France stands out in Europe with regards to the use of signals, mainly on e-shopping sites, reaffirming the use of SSL certifications to protect transactions. This method is useful to inform customers about the presence of data protection procedures and the safety of their online purchases. The communication of the data cryptographic transmission occurs on 70% of French websites, compared to, for example, 30% of German websites. Quality seals are perceived as signals of a web page safety too and can be found on around 40% of French websites. 


German customers can be risk-averse and will avoid buying online if they feel unsafe. For this reason, a significant number of websites in Germany use quality marks to reassure customers. Germany ranks third in Europe, after Poland, for relying heavily on these security indicators. Each country has different quality certificates related to the entities that have the authority to release them, although some are common to the whole of Europe, such as the Trusted Shops Seal and the EMOTA European Trustmark. Germany has the most comprehensive set of quality marks, and continues to produce new security related certificates. This, however, can cause more confusion in the long run, potentially damaging clients’ trust through over complications. The most popular certificate in Germany is released by the TÜV: the s@fer shopping certificate. 

Compared to France, the SSL cryptography is almost never mentioned in Germany. On the other hand, Germany tends to show prizes and awards on 40% of its websites, something that is rather unusual for the other European countries. 


In Italy, users’ comments and reviews are considered the most important source of trust for clients and are usually collected through opinion management services, such as Trusted Shops, Feedaty and eKomi. However, when comments are too positive, they tend to have the opposite effect, creating a sense of doubt within the customer as to the legitimacy of the comments. Quality seals are rarely used in Italy, although the SSL cryptography is perceived as a strong trust signal and is commonly employed on websites. 

United Kingdom

The UK certainly sticks out among European countries with its use of feedback and testimonials platforms. 90% of e-shops use customer feedback, and similarly to Italian

websites, quality seals are also not common in the UK. Many ecommerce sites rely on third-party trust logos to reassure prospective clients that they can purchase in a safe way with that specific retailer, for example Feefo and TrustPilot. 


When it comes to trust signals for Spanish websites, they rely heavily on quality seals, although not quite as much as Germany and Poland. Spanish websites also take advantage of users reviews to gain trust, and whilst these are extensively used, Italy tends to rely more on this tactic than other European countries. When buying online, the Spanish are more suspicious, as they prefer to see and feel their potential purchases, and tend to feel uncomfortable when entering personal details, especially where online payments are concerned. Companies seek to reassure Spanish customers by offering a lot of information about the products on sale, as well as pictures and customers’ opinions. In addition, partnering with an experienced payment services provider is important to give clients the safety they are looking for. 

SSL Certificates

There are three main ways to spot a website with an SSL certificate: the lock symbol, the browser bar turning green, and the secure site symbol. The use of an SSL certificate gives a website an important element of authenticity. It is, however, extremely important to choose the most adequate certificate for the company and its customers’ security. There are four main categories: 

  • EV SSL Un EV or Extended Validation certificate: This gives clients and visitors the most reassuring sign of SSL safety, and is visible via the green bar indicating the safety status of the web page. 
  • SSL Wildcard: This is the certificate to choose when there is a need for sharing information between two or more computers. It’s recommended when looking to protect online portals, forums, banks, walls and social media networks. 
  • SSL UC/SAN: These unified communications certificates, also called UC or UCC certificates, give full control over the field “Subject Alternative Name”. Unlike the Wildcard, the SSL SAN certificates, they are completely compatible with the browsers on mobile devices. 
  • SSL IP address: If we want to protect an IP address, an SSL certificate is the ideal solution. It gives the prefix ‘https://’ or the HTTPS certificate, an immediate symbol of cryptography and an SSL sign of security for the users. 

In summary, online security is a very important issue for ecommerce businesses and their customers right across Europe. By understanding the signals different cultures value when it comes online security, a business can gain trust and credibility. If you would like help expanding into new markets or tailoring your current e-commerce offering, please get in touch. 

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