Edelman Trust Barometer 2023: Our Top 3 Takeaways (+ Expert Tips)

/ 2 February 2024

Trust. It’s the not-so-secret sauce behind successful marketing. Lose consumer trust, and you can say goodbye to loyalty too. But here’s the thing—trust isn’t a static force. It evolves. Just look at the past few years. That’s why it’s so interesting to tune into the latest Edelman Trust Barometer. 

In 2023’s report, Edelman once again peels back complex human behaviours to reveal new trust factors. Whilst this report doesn’t zero in on brand trust like the previous one, it sheds new light on changes in consumer thinking.

We know you’ll unlikely have time to dig through that chunky report and make inferences as to how this impacts consumer decisions. So, that’s where we come in. In this blog, we’ll break down the relevant insights into bite-sized takeaways. The meaty stuff you can act on.

Edelman’s Trust Barometer 2023: Why retailers take note

Edelman’s Trust Barometer is one of the most comprehensive annual surveys on societal trust. Their reports are interesting for marketers because they provide:

  • 💡Consumer insights: The report provides valuable insights into consumer attitudes, behaviours, and expectations. Understanding these aspects is crucial for retailers to align their strategies with consumer preferences and values.
  • 🤝Guidance for building trust: Trust is a fundamental component of customer loyalty and brand reputation. The Barometer offers guidance on how trust is earned and maintained in the eyes of consumers, which is essential for long-term success in retail.
  • 📊Market trends and predictions: Retailers can use the report to stay ahead of market trends, particularly in areas like digital trust, sustainability, and social responsibility, which are increasingly important to consumers.
  • 📑Steer strategic planning: The insights from the report can inform strategic planning, helping retailers to make informed decisions about marketing, customer engagement, product development, and corporate social responsibility initiatives.
  • 🌏Provides a global perspective: The Edelman Trust Barometer often provides a global perspective, which is beneficial for retailers operating in or looking to expand into international markets.

For many, building consumer trust is one of the most important factors. Here’s why…

Why consumer trust matters

The Edelman Trust Barometer 2023 reveals today’s consumers have FOMO—Fear Of Missing Out—on deeper brand connections.

It’s no longer enough to focus on developing quality products. Shoppers expect shared values, social responsibility, and radical transparency. Basically, they want to trust retailers the same way they’d trust a friend.

This opens up a huge opportunity for brands. In fact, the LRN Benchmark of Ethical Culture report reveals a strong correlation between ethical company cultures and business performance. Firms with the most robust ethical frameworks surpass others by around 40% in various business performance metrics. This includes customer satisfaction, employee loyalty, innovation, adaptability, and growth. (Hard stats to ignore.🫣)

But first, let’s have a quick recap of last year’s results.↩️ 

A quick recap on the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer

The 2022 Trust Barometer centred on brand trust. From the importance of trust over brand love to the unique preferences of younger demographics, the findings offered a comprehensive view of last year’s consumer mindset.

Here were our top 5 takeaways in 2022: 

  • Brand trust as a key buying factor: Brand trust has emerged as a vital factor in purchasing decisions, ranking third after price and quality. In an age marked by pandemics and economic uncertainty, 88% of consumers emphasise trust in brands, and 32% consider it a deal-breaker.
  • Trust over love: Trust in a brand proves more critical and enduring than brand love. 40% of consumers would abandon a beloved brand if trust erodes, highlighting the need for continuous trust-building efforts, especially among high-income households.
  • Younger consumers value trust highly: Trust is paramount across all age groups, particularly among the 18-34 demographic, where 75% prioritise it. In a world abundant with choices, young, tech-savvy consumers seek brands that offer more than just functional benefits.
  • Integrity: the cornerstone of trust: Genuine business integrity is essential for trust. Superficial changes aren’t enough; trust must permeate all business aspects. Misuse of data or lack of transparency can significantly damage trust.
  • Growth driven by trust: Trust not only retains customers (57% would choose a trusted brand despite cheaper alternatives) but also loyalty (43%) and advocacy (61%). This cycle of trust leads to increased customer lifetime value, benefiting both the business and the consumer.

In 2022, the bottom line was clear: in a market where consumer expectations are high and choices are plentiful, establishing and maintaining trust is not just beneficial; it’s essential for long-term success.

So, how have things evolved since then? 

The 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer

One of the biggest contrasts since 2022 is how economic optimism has taken a nosedive. People have more fear for their economic future. Only 40% of respondents say they and their families will be better off in five years—a 10-point decline from 2022. 

Luckily, Edelman’s insights reveal clear pathways to be a source of reliable information and nurture consumer trust. But it requires moving beyond transactions into meaningful relationships. Gone are the days of impersonal, functional brand messaging. Now’s the time for resonant narratives that align with what matters most to customers.

The key messages here?

🔶Retailers must embrace authentic transparency—inviting scrutiny of sourcing, sustainability, and more. (Don’t just say you’re doing good…prove it!)
This shift means that the way you engage with consumers needs to evolve too—from one-way marketing to genuine two-way dialogues.

🔶 One way to do this is to use engaging interactive marketing, solicit feedback, address concerns personally, and show customers their voices matter.

Bottom line: Building consumer trust today is more than just saying you care, you actually need to show it too. No small order. But the rewards can be game-changing; loyalty, advocacy, resilience—it all flows from trust.

Let’s now look at how this can be applied with some new strategies 👇

Edelman Trust Barometer 2023: Takeaway #1 = Be transparent

Consumers now crave radical honesty from brands. Putting it simply, consumers want to clearly see how businesses handle data security and privacy. They also want to know where products are sourced, how the business operates, and they want clear and consistent messaging across all platforms.

Here are some tips to be more transparent in your marketing approach:

💡Align messaging with actions: Be honest about product features, supply chain practices, and business ethics. 

💡Open communication channels: Respond promptly and effectively to customer inquiries, complaints, and reviews. This demonstrates a commitment to transparency and builds trust.

💡 Personalise customer interactions: Use customer data ethically to personalise interactions without compromising privacy. Personalisation—when done transparently and respectfully—can enhance the customer experience and create loyalty.

💡 Regularly update customers: Keep your customers informed about changes in your business; be it new product launches, policy updates, or addressing a crisis.

💡 Use social proof: Share customer testimonials, reviews, and case studies. 

Did you know? 🤔 Leading retailers are leveraging zero-party data to build trust too. This is data that’s knowingly volunteered by the consumer in exchange for more tailored experiences from the brand. It makes for fresher insight, more accurate data, and builds greater trust. More on this here

Edelman Trust Barometer 2023: Takeaway #2 = Build a community 

Community building is a strong pillar in the latest trust report. Creating and nurturing a brand community can lead to greater engagement, loyalty, and trust among consumers. 

Effective community-building creates a sense of belonging between customers and brands. Shoppers want spaces to connect, share experiences, and engage beyond transactions. And retailers can share thought leadership, new product launches, offers, and more. It’s a win-win when done right—bearing in mind the transparency mentioned in takeaway #1.👆

Here are some community-building tips:

💡 Host events: Look for opportunities to bring your community together through interactive events aligned with your brand identity and their interests. Consider hosting online webinars, in-person workshops, or local meet-up groups.

💡 Feature user-generated content: For example, get customers involved in content creation by encouraging them to share photos, videos, reviews, and stories about their experiences with your products. 

💡 Collaborate with influencers and advocates: Partner with influencers who align with your brand values. Influencers can promote your community and products and bring in new members and customers.

Did you know? 🤔 Leading brands use gamification—gaming elements—to bring in interactivity and boost engagement. For example, games with leaderboards create a topic of conversation and create fun within a group of like-minded individuals. The ones that do it right are open about data capture and how it is used up front. You can see examples here.

Edelman Trust Barometer 2023: Takeaway #3 = Focus on sustainability and social responsibility

The Edelman Trust Barometer reveals online shoppers vigilantly scrutinise retailers’ digital practices, with 63% saying they buy or advocate for brands based on beliefs and values. To gain and maintain trust, retailers now require uncompromising data security, ethical information use, and authentic interactions.

Put simply, consumers demand transparency into how retailers safeguard and leverage their data. Any perception of misusing or mishandling customer information erodes trust swiftly. 

Likewise, accuracy and reliability in online content influence trust dramatically. Shoppers have little patience for misinformation or inflated claims on retail sites and social channels.

Here are just a few social responsibility tips:

💡Communicate freely: Websites, social media, or advertising—all need to provide accurate, reliable information reflecting brand values. This also involves being responsive and genuine in customer interactions, addressing concerns, and providing valuable information.

💡 Prioritise data security: And be clear to communicate data policies and share the steps taken to safeguard customer information.

💡 Focus on a simple journey: Think clear product information, easy navigation, and a straightforward checkout process.

The future of retail depends on transparency

Think today’s trust landscape looks dicey? According to Edelman, the future promises heightened consumer scrutiny of brand motivations and actions. Shoppers will demand purpose beyond profits. Lip service to social causes won’t cut it—tangible commitments to sustainability and equality become mandatory.

Radical transparency also rockets to the forefront. Consumers will ruthlessly expose any perceived cover-ups, false claims, or unethical practices. And so survival requires welcoming this scrutiny, not avoiding it.

The bottom line? Building future retail trust demands a mindset shift. Are you ready to share it all; your motives, methods, and mistakes alike? Your consumers are poised to hold you to uncompromising standards. 

Those were just the highlights from the report. Want to keep the conversation going? Join our LinkedIn newsletter to stay updated on the latest marketing data trends. 

Or, if you’re looking for more insights, take a look at these blogs:

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