What does it take to earn the trust of consumers?

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Photo: @JIRAIST via Twenty20
Feb 07, 2020
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Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of articles from MarketingCharts, which provides up-to-the-minute data and research to marketers.

The majority of Americans say they do not have much (29 percent) or any (25 percent) trust that corporate America will do what is right. Yet about three-quarters (74 percent) say they trust individual brands to deliver consistently on what they promise, and more than half say that a brand has to do something wrong before they lose trust in them.

With trust emerging as a key lever in brand loyalty, a new report from Morning Consult looks at the factors consumers consider when deciding to trust a brand.

Some 73 percent of the 2,200 U.S. adults surveyed say that protecting their personal data is a “very important” factor when it comes to whether to trust a company — making this the factor with the broadest consensus among respondents. Other primary factors supporting trust involve product dependability, safety and quality, as well as overall customer service.

The report identifies three areas where brands have opportunities to win trust:

  • Data privacy: While 73 percent indicate privacy is “very important” when it comes to their trust in a brand, 25 percent have “a lot” of trust in brands that do so;
  • Fine print: Fifty-seven percent agree not hiding important information is “very important” in trust and 17 percent have “a lot” of trust in companies that do so;
  • Employee treatment: Forty-nine percent agree treating employees better is “very important” in trust and 18 percent have “a lot” of trust in companies that do so.

In line with past surveys, young adults were found to be less trusting of brands.

Forty-two percent of Gen Z adults (ages 18-22) say they tend to not trust the average American company and that trust must be earned. Millennials (30 percent), Gen X (28 percent) and Boomers (26 percent) are less likely to hold this default view, with 63 percent of Boomers having the opposite view in that they tend to trust a company until it does something bad to lose their confidence.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Where do you see the opportunities to win trust with consumers amid the influence of social media and overall engagement in digital channels? What trust factors are the same now as they were before the world went online?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"At its core, trust is all about communication. Digital and social media haven’t changed that timeless truth. "
"Data privacy is a “gimme.” People are very concerned about it. But the one thing missing from this list is “meeting my brand promise.”"
"What really matters to the customer is that the retailer does what they say they will do and, if they can’t, they communicate why and find ways to make it right."

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25 Comments on "What does it take to earn the trust of consumers?"


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Ben Ball
BrainTrust

Things like data privacy have emerged in the online era, but fundamentally the basics still work. Look to brands like L.L.Bean and (the original) Craftsman for your cues. Rock solid performance guarantees and products that live up to them are a great starting point.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

Ben, right on the money. These brands built trust over time. I could bring in my great-grandfather’s broken old Craftsman screwdriver which had obviously been used as a pry bar and get a brand new one in return — no questions asked. That’s brand trust spanning generations.

Dave Wendland
BrainTrust

Trust is serious business and demands careful attention. In my most recent Forbes article I suggested five factors that contribute to a trusting relationship … and they happen to be an acronym: TRUTHFUL, RESPONSIBLE, UNIFYING, STEADFAST, and THANKFUL. Putting these to work purposefully and intentionally with consumers can build enduring confidence.

Ken Morris
BrainTrust

Quality product, impeccable customer service, value and social responsibility are keys to a thriving retail enterprise. This never changed. From brick-and-mortar, to catalog, to web and mobile sales these have always been the constants. You earn trust by living and breathing these core concepts every day regardless of channel. Pay a living wage, staff appropriately, allow frictionless returns, understand where, how and by whom your product is produced and create an entertaining customer journey. It’s back to the future.

Michael Terpkosh
BrainTrust

Consumer trust in brands starts and ends with transparency. As the bar graph shows, consumers want to know brands are safe, socially conscience, and ethical. This comes not just from the brand PR telling consumers how great the brand is — these building blocks of trust must be the foundation of how the brand operates. Social media is a great monitor of actual brand business practices creating unparalleled transparency for the consumer.

Dave Wendland
BrainTrust

Excellent suggestions, Michael. I love the idea of transparency and authenticity — two key ingredients that too many overlook.

Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust

While I believe that quality product and exceptional customer service is essential in any transaction, I am more skeptical about the safety of my data with the company. It is harder to go back to doing business with the company again once a breach has happened. I received an email yesterday saying my data has been compromised by someone in Thailand on a site that I had visited but not made a purchase from…

Zach Zalowitz
BrainTrust

I think data privacy is obviously important in this modern online age, but it’s a foregone conclusion. What really matters to the customer is that the retailer does what they say they will do and, if they can’t, they communicate why and find ways to make it right.

Dave Bruno
BrainTrust

For sure we need to get the basics like data security and product safety right if we want to earn shopper trust. But those are mere table stakes for doing business with the brand, not earning sustained trust. Trust comes from many places, but I think an under-reported opportunity is through philanthropy. People tend to both trust and forgive mistakes from companies who are clearly and visibly committed to helping the broader community. Brands could earn more trust by increasing both their commitment to and the visibility of their philanthropic efforts.

Suresh Chaganti
BrainTrust
Suresh Chaganti
Co-Founder and Executive Partner, VectorScient
5 months 6 days ago

The mandate has always been clear and it is reinforced here. Provide good price-value equilibrium, have policies that ensure that the customer is always treated fairly and respectfully. Do it consistently and the trust will set in. All societal responsibilities ranks lower and it is not surprising at all. Chasing these goals without getting the basics right will not work.

Lisa Goller
BrainTrust

At its core, trust is all about communication. Digital and social media haven’t changed that timeless truth.

Today consumers rely on the increased scrutiny of the social media magnifying glass to decide whether a company is trustworthy. We’re less likely to trust companies that seem opaque, inconsistent or dishonest.

Conversely, earning brand trust can create a competitive advantage, boosting revenue, loyalty and word of mouth.

Opportunities to strengthen brand trust among retail companies:

  • Deliver your brand promise: Meet consumers’ and employees’ expectations every single time. Reliable, predictable results give consumers assurance and peace of mind.
  • Be consistent: Consistent messaging, service and pricing reduce confusion and increase confidence in your brand.
  • Be transparent: It’s okay to make mistakes – it makes your brand seem human and relatable. Promptly admit a mistake, correct it and move on. Honesty, integrity and sincerity greatly increase brand trust.
Lisa Goller
BrainTrust

I’ll add that consumer testimonials and reviews, and proof of quality (awards, video demonstrations, before and after results, case studies) are other forms of communication that help to boost brand trust.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

This Boomer tends to trust a company until it messes up, then I reevaluate. I am also not crazy loyal to retailers like I was when I was younger. Loyalty has to be earned.

Caring for data is so important because it has direct consequences for the consumer; complete transparency is important. We had a conversation earlier this week on RetailWire about companies doing good and then telling the world. People like to know that their stores of choice are good corporate citizens. And I really like the fact that people care about employee treatment and are vocal about it. Consumer input will only make retail better.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

Trust is just now “emerging” as a key lever in brand loyalty? “Quality” is eighth? No mention of “authentic value”? No mention of the product I actually buy in the three areas that hold opportunity to win trust? I thought trust and loyalty could each be part of the definition of the other. Can’t have one without the other. You lose one and you lose the other. Everything on the list makes sense, but I am struck by what is not on the list.

Evan Snively
BrainTrust

One overlooked area is simply for a brand to be accessible.
It’s easy to distrust a faceless corporation but when its employees become more available (from the C-suite all the way down to the customer service front lines), the human connection allows for deeper bonds of trust to develop. Yet another reason that companies need to be so careful with how they implement their customer facing AI, chatbots, etc.

Ken Lonyai
BrainTrust

This is merely a measure of C-suite attitude. Most often they are driving the business based on short-sighted bottom-line thinking rather than authentic User Centered Design Thinking. If they authentically focused on users and how the business can bring value to users, the bottom line would take care of itself and thrive. It’s a decision that takes understanding what UCDT is and the courage to implement it. I explain the whole slippery slope as the CX/Profitability Continuum.

Jeff Weidauer
BrainTrust

The fundamentals of trust have not changed. Trust is a byproduct of transparency. But it has to be genuine transparency, with open lines of communication in both directions. Only businesses that engage with customers on a regular basis – both talking and listening – will build trust. None of this is really new, now there are just more channels available.

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust
Data privacy is a “gimme.” People are very concerned about it. But the one thing missing from this list is “meeting my brand promise.” So for example, back several years ago Whole Foods Market was hit by “scalegate” where it was found fresh items were being weighed incorrectly. This really caused the brand to take a hit that I’m not sure it ever has recovered from. Asparagus water for $14 just added fuel to the fire. The brand promise? “The best quality food, from a retailer you can trust.” That was worth paying a premium for. But seeing the retail “piling on cost” on top of already high prices was very detrimental to the brand. Taking advantage by selling water with a stalk of asparagus in it for $14 was also detrimental. Walmart seems to be having the opposite trajectory. Its “Save money. Live better” is starting to come to life, partly through better treatment of employees, partly through efforts to improve the shopping experience and continued emphasis on sharp pricing. It’s now meeting a… Read more »
Stephen Rector
BrainTrust

Authenticity is key to build trust, particularly with Gen Z. Those brands that fail to do this will end up going away.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust
With full respect, wrong question. The constant mistake branders make is believing that brands can “win” trust. Trust, like love, is something that comes from another — in this case a consumer. It can’t be won, although ironically it can be lost. It is what consumers give brands based on a series of their own internal metrics. Brands can’t ask consumers to “trust” them because they planted a tree, or whatever. Trust is earned by doing lots of things right. In that sense, nothing has changed in the transition to digital marketplaces. As to the list, again with respect, it looks like a collection of “must dos” — sort of table stakes in today’s market. It’s not just that you wouldn’t trust a company selling products that refused to refund your money. In today’s world, you’d sue them. Treating customers well as a basis for trust? Please, I hope we can do better than that. But lists like this are the product of brander “old-think” — the idea that somehow branders still have the power… Read more »
Ben Ball
BrainTrust

Well said, Ryan. Well said.

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust

Companies are now reimagining what the store means as an integral part of the customer experience and gaining consumers’ trust. As companies strive to meet the needs of the changing marketplace, rising global anxieties are impacting all generations. There is a growing sense of self, a new individualism and a change in how people define success. This is leading to the rise of purpose-driven consumption, particularly around sustainability, transparency, and wellness.

Trust is very hard to earn, very easy to lose and is an important part of the delicate relationship between retailers and brands. Consistency matters, and putting the customer at the forefront of every single retail business strategy is a big part of retaining that trust.

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust

Trust in a brand is built only through making a promise and delivering on it. Communication might circle around that some, but people are far smarter than to believe assurances that a company is trustworthy.

And that brings us to the error in the research: This was a list presented to consumers. It clearly does NOT represent what they do in reality.

Look at how widely used online services are which are KNOWN not to keep data private.

So I recommend taking this away from the article: First, this isn’t new. Trust in the brand to deliver has ALWAYS been key. Second, focus on delivering a consistent service or product that is valuable to customers. THAT is the way trust builds.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

One observation is how low most of the soft-side factors scored, including “giving back,” and “ethics/politics.” Maybe retailers and brands don’t focus enough on running the retail business from the perspective that shoppers say matter most, like “protect my data, treat me well, and make good products.” I don’t think this general sentiment has changed much over the decades.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

Trust comes in many forms. There are the non-negotiables, such as data protection. In addition to the areas listed in the article, I’d add the idea of a predictable customer experience. While that covers a lot, the idea the a customer will “always” have a positive experience is a way to increase confidence and increase trust. That leads to repeat business and possible customer loyalty.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"At its core, trust is all about communication. Digital and social media haven’t changed that timeless truth. "
"Data privacy is a “gimme.” People are very concerned about it. But the one thing missing from this list is “meeting my brand promise.”"
"What really matters to the customer is that the retailer does what they say they will do and, if they can’t, they communicate why and find ways to make it right."

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