Consumer Trust is Paramount
It’s often illuminating to go back to the basics for a moment. So: Why is consumer trust such an essential factor across B2C industries? Why is it important to build trust with customers?
If you look up the definition of the word “trust” in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, you’ll read: “firm belief in the character, strength, or truth of someone or something.”
Going by that meaning, an effective customer trust definition is a firm strong belief, on the part of your customers, that your brand is honest, reliable, sturdy, and conscientious.
Cultivating this trust is important because when consumers trust you, they will choose you. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, 81% of customers factor in trust as a crucial variable when making purchase decisions. The more they trust a brand, the more likely a consumer is to do business with it.
However, consumers are also skeptical by nature. The same study only identifies 34% of consumers as trusting. In a different yet related research, 42% of consumers say they don’t trust brands, and 70% say they are cynical of their advertising messages. In other words, customer trust in business has to be earned.
“A Brand is simply trust.” - Steve Jobs
However, over the past year, American consumers’ trust in brands has
declined by 7%.
The COVID-19 pandemic impacted millions of consumers all over the world and ushered us into a new reality. In a survey on the pandemic’s impact to brand trust, 65% of consumers revealed that a a brand’s response during a crisis will bear significantly on their trust. Customer trust in business is paramount. As these disruptive times are changing the barometers of consumer trust, brands need to do more to cultivate their customers’ trust if they are to survive the pandemic and thrive as the world moves forward.
Consumer Trust Drives Customer Loyalty
In commerce as in life, trust begets customer loyalty. People who trust a brand tend to display behaviors that demonstrate customer loyalty. In any economic sector, loyal consumers are extremely valuable.
In the US, 8 out of 10 consumers (82%) say they will likely remain doing business with a brand they trust, even if another brand comes along and becomes a trend. On a global scale, 75% of international respondents will do the similar thing.
Loyal customers are a massive source of repeat revenue. Customer retention statistics show that more than half of a company’s business (65%) come from existing customers. Also, 43% of consumers are very willing to spend more money on brands they are loyal to.
In addition, a large majority of loyal customers (76% globally, 78% in the US) are very inclined to become a brand’s advocates and ambassadors. They will immediately recommend a trusted brand’s products and services to their family members, friends, and just about anyone who asks.
When consumers trust you, they will stay loyal to you. This is why
building consumer trust should be at the forefront
of all companies’ minds.
1. Good quality products or services. 73% of consumers in the US say they trust a brand that puts a premium on the quality of their products and services. This highlights a constant, perpetual need for brands to make sure they deliver real value to their stakeholders.
2. Positive ratings and reviews. 63% of American buyers are likely to trust brands that enjoy positive recommendations, reviews, and recognition from consumers. According to BrightLocal, positive reviews encourage 91% of consumers to use a business, whereas 82% are put off by negative reviews.
3. Positive treatment of customers. In the US, 56% of consumers say they trust a brand that treats them positively. It’s crucial in building consumer trust to treat every customer like a VIP at every point of their journey.
Brands need to remember that positive treatment equates to delightful customer experiences.“Customers love when a brand is treating them right—and they certainly never forget it when a brand treats them wrong,” says Mark Simpson, CEO of marketing cloud Acoustic.
4. Excellent customer service. 35% of American consumers rate customer service as a major trust factor. The customer service your company provides bears significant weight on consumer trust and loyalty. According to HubSpot, 93% of consumers repeat their purchases with brands that provide them with excellent customer service.
5. Data privacy/Personal information security. Consumers around the world are becoming more conscious about their personal data. 23% of buyers, both globally and in the US, rank data privacy as a main element in brand trust. But this is a pre-COVID figure. The pandemic has caused consumers to value data privacy even more.
6. Positive treatment of employees. 22% of consumers now look into employee treatment as a measure of consumer trust. According to a special brand trust report by Edelman, 90% of consumers want brands to exert more efforts into securing the health and financial security of their workers during the pandemic, even if it hurts their revenue in the short term.
7. Purposeful personalization. In addition to all major drivers of trust mentioned above, personalization of products and services emerges as a crucial factor in consumer trust. 88% of marketers say that modern consumers expect personalization from brands and it is now a vital enhancer of customer relationships. However, excessive personalization can come across as intrusive and scary. Purposeful personalization doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all approach but according to Microsoft, it can be delivered through alignment with customers’ values, individuality, high-quality of products and services, and good value.
The COVID Impact
Working on improving the basics of consumer trust will help your brand improve its trust scores among consumers. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has reconfigured many realities and shifted consumer expectations. As McKinsey discovered, 75% of US consumers have switched brands amidst the COVID-19 crisis. The survey also found that these three major factors now impact consumer trust:
Brands are encouraged to build on these three factors as well. Better visibility and optimized supply chain processes are needed to ensure availability. Companies must also enhance capabilities that add convenience to their consumers. For example, secure contactless payments, e-commerce, and seamless mobile ordering.
1. Honesty. Honesty is when brands tell the truth about products and services. It’s about truthful advertising and messaging devoid of gimmicks and hidden agendas. Consumers expect brands to own up to their mistakes and respond to questions and negative comments with the truth.
2. Transparency. While honesty is about sharing what brands perceived to be the truth, transparency is all about making the truth accessible and known to internal and external stakeholders. This can range from disclosures of business goals, values, as well as business-sensitive data such as pricing, financial reports, and more. The impact of brand transparency on consumer trust is enormous. For instance, 73% of consumers say they are willing to give their data if brands are transparent.
3. Relatability. Relatability is difficult to measure but it matters when building trust. People tend to constantly look for connections that relate them to a particular person, or in this context, a brand. 70% of consumers say they if their beliefs are aligned and in sync with a certain brand, they are very likely to do business with that brand even if it means paying an added premium of 35%.
4. Circularity. Consumers are becoming more environmentally aware and this consciousness is empowering them to choose brands that value sustainability and circularity. They will trust a brand that implements measures to reduce resource consumption as well as recycling and reusing them. In a research on circular economy, 83% of consumers believe their purchasing decisions can have a positive effect on resolving global environmental challenges. The same study found that 59% look at a product’s environmental impact before making a purchase.
5. Credibility. Building customer trust and creating customer comfort also hinges on a brand’s credibility. But how does a brand acquire credibility in these turbulent times? Experts suggest third-party verification and authentic reviews from trusted authorities and figures to support your brand’s image and reputation. 77% of brands say that garnering support and positive comments from communities of existing customers can improve brand credibility and awareness.
Ethics is also becoming a relevant driver in consumer trust. 76% of consumers are now influenced by a brand’s perceived ethics more than competency. In a separate study, 92% of millennial consumers are more likely to do business with brands they deem ethical. In addition, 82% of consumers believe ethical companies perform better than brands that display lack of ethical principles.
The majority of today’s consumers place a premium on brands whose values are aligned with theirs. In a study conducted by the Havas Group, 77% of consumers said they do business with brands that share their values. Brands have to be smart, and cater to this new values-based consumer.
When Adidas launched its new line of athletic sneakers made of marine waste back in 2015 as part of their pro-environment and sustainability effort, several experts voiced their concerns, saying such a move would be counterproductive to their brand. Fast forward to 2019, Adidas manufactured 11 million pairs, an indication how pro-environment consumers relate to Adidas’ commitment to environmental protection and sustainability.
Trust Has Gone Digital
Even before the pandemic, swaths of consumers were already shifting to online and digital platforms for shopping, transportation, food deliveries, groceries, and more. In 2014, an estimated 1.32 billion people bought goods or services via digital channels. By 2021, that number will nearly double, to 2.14 billion global buyers.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown protocols forced consumer segments to fully embrace digital shopping. A report by McKinsey showed growth in essential online shopping categories like household supplies, personal hygiene products, and over-the-counter (OTC) medicine exceeded initial projections by 35%. Discretionary categories such as apparel, jewelry, skincare, and accessories exhibited a 15% increase in online purchases.
Social media platforms provide brands with the opportunity to build and strengthen consumer trust. A study revealed that 74% of consumers use social media to follow brands they like and support. 96% of these consumers interact with brands they follow on social media.
When it comes to online shopping, another report showed that 90% of consumers purchase from brands they follow on social media. Consumers also anticipate brands to engage them through social media platforms, especially when they’re the ones who initiated the interaction. 40% said they want a response within an hour after getting in touch while 79% of consumers expect a reply within 24 hours.
Modern consumers are now moving and living in the digital space and expect brands to be there as well. That’s where businesses ought to be if they are to gain the trust of their customers and strengthen their relationships with them. Consumers have gone digital; this means the sphere of consumer trust has gone digital too.
Harnessing Consumer Data to Build Trust
As you’ve probably heard, data is the new oil. With consumers now overwhelmingly in the digital space, data is incredibly valuable in a variety of ways. Building consumer trust is no exception. It’s high time for businesses to power their marketing strategies with data from apps, websites, online stores, and other sources.
Data helps brands build consumer trust by enabling you to:
- Build a thorough understanding of your customers.
- Develop a holistic loyalty strategy.
- Identify opportunities to increase customer centricity within the supply chain.
- Deliver consistent, seamless experiences across channels, devices, and platforms.
- Discover positive and pain areas to further improve experience, delight, and value.
Building Trust Through Personalization and Transparency
Ultimately, data helps brands build a personalized relationship with their consumers. This is crucial, as 72% of consumers admit they only engage with marketing messages that are highly personalized and aligned with their interests.
To meet the personalization demands of consumers, brands must be able to access their consumers’ data. However, Microsoft reports that 55% of marketers feel they don’t have adequate data to execute effective personalization campaigns.
This is where the paradox lies. 97% of consumers put a premium on data privacy. They want personalization. But also demand transparency and privacy.
A Salesforce report showed that 58% of consumers allow the use of their data if companies are transparent. The problem, however, is that only 63% of consumers believe companies are transparent with their consumer data usage. If brands fail to display transparency as to how brands use their consumers’ data, they are at great risk of losing consumer trust.
In short, personalization is a tricky area that presents brands with a challenge, as well as a unique opportunity, to win their trust. Brands need to personalize their efforts enough to be relevant, without overstepping in a way that feels like they are prying. Consumers want messages that feel tailored to them, but they want to feel like they have given permission to that tailoring.
How do brands solve this paradox? What is the best way to earn trust from customers when they are very sensitive to data profiling?
Ultimately, brands must adjust or rebuild their personalization models with their consumers at front and center while adopting a principles-based approach anchored on data security and privacy. Brands have to provide consumers the option to join their personalization program. This program should give consumers control over information they share or activities they engage in to realize benefits.
As data technologies continue to evolve, brands must leverage these emerging innovations to better protect and manage their consumers’ data.
To fully solidify their consumers’ trust in their brand, companies
have to be transparent about their data management and privacy strategy.
The Loyalty Marketplace: The Future of Customer Trust
For over 35 years, loyalty programs have remained the same. They are largely superficial, detached, and generic. In a time where customers provide massive amounts of information without any sense of control over their privacy and protection, the majority of loyalty programs today fail to deliver value. Worse, customers who bring in an abundance of value to a brand are barely reciprocated and given specialized attention.
On the other hand, brands long to connect with their customers in a more direct and transparent approach. They want to deliver personalized experiences to their buyers in a way that is both scalable and sustainable. They value their customers and want to reward them. However, the lack of actionable information prevents brands from truly knowing their consumers and recognize opportunities to create and foster real, solid connections. On top of that, data security regulations like GDPR and CCPA turn this particular struggle up a notch.
The world is in for economic turmoil and privacy norms are changing. Loyalty programs need to evolve for both brands and consumers alike. Find out more about the loyalty marketplace to understand the direction of travel for the coming years.