Brand Trust and the Importance of Being Earnest

/ 10 May 2022

This article was first published in TheCustomer.

Customer satisfaction is no longer enough to obtain brand loyalty. Consumers now have an overwhelming amount of choice when it comes to purchasing decisions. Brands that go beyond functional transactions and create a trust-based emotional connection with consumers are coming out on top.

Why do we trust brands?

In its purest form, brand trust is defined as “the willingness of the average consumer to rely on the ability of the brand to perform its stated function”.

Any kind of transaction invokes a level of risk and therefore requires a level of trust. Humans are hardwired to avoid unnecessary risk; so if a brand shows it can be trusted to deliver on its promises then consumers are more likely to return and repeat the experience.

Edelman’s Trust Barometer is perhaps the most comprehensive annual survey focused on brand trust. They have highlighted three main areas that consumers consider before putting their trust in a brand:

  • Product: does the brand provide good value for money? Does it sell high-quality products or services?
  • Customer experience: how does the company treat the customer? How quickly does it respond to problems? How well does it protect clients’ privacy?
  • Societal impact: how fairly does it treat its staff? What is its stance on wider social issues?

What are the benefits of brand trust?

In a nutshell, trust drives growth, one of the biggest business metrics of success. Edelman found that brand trust was the second most important factor in why consumers (and businesses) chose certain brands, after price.

Customers that have high levels of trust in a brand are more likely to:

  • Be loyal: buy from the brand even if the price is higher than competitors. Take an active interest in new products and services launched.
  • Engage with brand activity: take an interest in advertising. Share personal information to improve their experience.
  • Actively advocate: share brand content, recommend products and services to friends and family, defend the brand from critique.

The current climate has also put an emphasis on brand trust. With the cost-of-living crisis following the uncertainty of a global pandemic, consumers are more risk-averse and more conscious of making a bad purchase. The uncertainty means they turn to the people and things they trust the most, including brands and businesses. Brand trust becomes an even greater factor in buying decisions.

How to build trust-based relationships with customers

With user experience, it’s the little things that make a difference

Brands need to make every interaction with consumers count: a well-timed recommendation or useful hint; providing help to navigate your catalogue and guide the customer’s search; just being easy to find when customers have a question or issue. All these elements help build trust in the brand that will last past the first transaction.

Providing these services doesn’t just add value to the customer either. Audience engagement tools make navigating a brand’s website easy and fun. By gamifying learning and chaperoning audiences around your website, brands collect preference and interest data that can be used to personalize the customer’s next interaction.

Be open, honest and transparent with your data collection practices

Nothing says untrustworthy like a brand that tries to trick its customer into accepting unwanted cookies or marketing emails. Our own 2022 Consumer Survey shows that being open and honest with data collection practices does not stop customers from sharing their data if they see the benefit in doing so.

Brands offering a clear value exchange – we will collect THIS data and use it in THIS way to give you a better experience – will see their brand trust levels increase. Don’t just collect data for the sake of it though. Customers will presume that if they are not benefiting from the data they share, it’s being used in more covert ways – for example being sold to third parties.

Use experiential personalization to connect with customers

Using first-party data to customize customer journeys is a great starting point to build trust. The next step is experiential personalization. This means using data directly from consumers to uncover sentiment, interest, and motivation. In this way, brands can deliver relevant, in-moment marketing messages that add value to the customer experience.

Experiential personalization is built on the perspective that consumers should be allowed the space to communicate their preferences and interests. Brands can then provide a customized experience that is as relevant as possible for each individual. By allowing customers to make explicit choices about how they wish to interact with a brand, trust follows. Founding the relationship on transparency sets the stage for greater sharing of data and long-term engagement.

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