Over the past year, American consumers’ trust in brands has declined by 7%.

  “A brand is simply trust.”

– Steve Jobs

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Customer Trust is Paramount

It’s often illuminating to go back to the basics for a moment. So: Why is customer 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 customers 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 customer is to do business with it.

However, customers are also skeptical by nature. The same study only identifies 34% of customers as trusting. In a different yet related research, 42% of customers 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.

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Customer 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 customers are extremely valuable.

In the US, 8 out of 10 customers (82%) say they will likely remain to do 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 a 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%) comes from existing customers. Also, 43% of customers 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.

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When customers trust you, they will stay loyal to you. This is why building customer trust should be at the forefront of all companies’ minds.

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The average US major brand enjoys a positive trust rating from 59% of American consumers. That is a lot of trust left on the table. How can brands go about building trust with customers so that the 41% aren’t left out? How do you build trust with customers during a pandemic, and when savvy consumers are wise to cheap ploys?

The major drivers of customer trust can be broken down as follows:

1 good quality products

1. Good quality products or services

73% of customers 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 ratings2. Positive ratings and reviews

63% of American buyers are likely to trust brands with positive recommendations, reviews, and recognition from customers. According to BrightLocal, positive reviews encourage 91% of customers to use a business, whereas 82% are put off by negative reviews.


3 positive treatment of customers3. Positive treatment of customers

In the US, 56% of customers say they trust a brand that treats them positively. It’s crucial in building customer 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 service4. Excellent customer service

35% of American customers rate customer service as a major trust factor. The customer service your company provides bears significant weight on customer trust and loyalty. According to HubSpot, 93% of customers repeat their purchases with brands that provide them with excellent customer service.


5 data privacy5. Data privacy/Personal information security

Customers around the world are becoming more conscious about their personal data. 23% of buyers, both globally and in the US, rank data privacy as the main element in brand trust. But this is a pre-COVID figure. The pandemic has caused customers to value data privacy even more.


6 positive treatment of employee6. Positive treatment of employees

22% of customers now look into employee treatment as a measure of customer trust. According to a special brand trust report by Edelman, 90% of customers want brands to exert more effort 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

7. Purposeful personalization

In addition to all major drivers of trust mentioned above, the personalization of products and services emerges as a crucial factor in customer trust. 88% of marketers say that modern customers 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 products and services, and good value.

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The COVID Impact

The survey also found that these three major factors now impact consumer trust:

Value

Availability

Convenience

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 customers revealed that 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 customer 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.

Working on improving the basics of customer trust will help your brand improve its trust scores among customers. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has reconfigured many realities and shifted customer expectations. As McKinsey discovered, 75% of US customers have switched brands amidst the COVID-19 crisis.

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 customers. For example, secure contactless payments, e-commerce, and seamless mobile ordering.

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In these disruptive and uncertain times, brand authenticity is more critical than ever. According to a survey, 86% of customers say authenticity is crucial when choosing brands they like and support. Customers are wise to techniques like false reviews on forums and paid-for likes on social media platforms.

Brands must take heed. Brand authenticity relates to consumer trust. But what makes a brand authentic? Experts urge brands to build on the following drivers of brand authenticity if they are to earn their customers’ trust:

honesty

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. Customers expect brands to own up to their mistakes and respond to questions and negative comments with the truth.


transparency

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 customer trust is enormous. For instance, 73% of customers say they are willing to give their data if brands are transparent.


relatability

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%.


circularity

4. Circularity

Customers 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 customers 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.


credibility

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.

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Values Drive Today’s Consumers

Ethics is also becoming a relevant driver in customer trust. 76% of customers are now influenced by a brand’s perceived ethics more than competency. In a separate study, 92% of millennial customers are more likely to do business with brands they deem ethical. In addition, 82% of customers 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 customers said they do business with brands that share their values. Brands have to be smart, and cater to this new values-based customer.

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.

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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 customer 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

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Ultimately, data helps brands build a personalized relationship with their customers. 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 customers, brands must be able to access their customers’ 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 customers put a premium on data privacy. They want personalization. But also demand transparency and privacy.

A Salesforce report showed that 58% of customers allow the use of their data if companies are transparent. The problem, however, is that only 63% of customers believe companies are transparent with their customer data usage. If brands fail to display transparency as to how brands use their customers’ data, they are at great risk of losing customer 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. Customers 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 customers at front and center while adopting a principles-based approach anchored on data security and privacy. Brands have to provide customers the option to join their personalization program. This program should give customers control over the 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 customers’ data.

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Solidify their consumers’ trust in their brand.

To fully solidify their customers’ trust in their brand, companies have to be transparent about their data management and privacy strategy.

As you’ve probably heard, data is the new oil. With customers now overwhelmingly in the digital space, data is incredibly valuable in a variety of ways. Building customer 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 customer 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.

The Loyalty Marketplace: The Future of Customer Trust

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 customers alike. Find out more about the loyalty marketplace to understand the direction of travel for the coming years.

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