I have a question for you.
How many brands do you use on average daily? You may not realize it but, if you really think about it, there are more than a dozen brands that are part of your daily routine.
Take me, for example.
When I wake up, I turn off the alarm on my iPhone 7. Then, I go to the bathroom and brush my teeth using an Oral-B toothbrush and Blend-a-Med toothpaste.
Next, I go to the kitchen where I make coffee using my Nespresso machine, I grab an IKEA drinking glass and pour myself some Aqua Carpatica tap water.
And so on.
I think you got the point of what I was trying to say. Now, the question is, how many of the brands you use daily do you really trust?
Before you go ahead and answer that question, let’s define brand trust.
What Is Brand Trust?
Brand trust is a valuable intangible asset determined by the customer’s expectations of how the brand’s products or services can deliver on its promises.
Because we live a fast-paced life, brands are in a race against time to gain potential customers’ trust by meeting their expectations. To achieve this, businesses need a data-driven approach to make every customer interaction valuable.
Even though it isn’t something that can be reached easily, once a brand succeeds in being reliable, people will purchase its products and services again and again, without question.
Or until something better comes along.
Is Brand Trust Really that Important?
Faced with previous bad experiences as buyers, modern consumers are slowly drifting away from traditional marketing channels and turning to their inner circles or social media platforms.
They search for proof at every step of the process, starting with reading lots of reviews about the product, which may convince them to make the purchase.
According to Salsify, a consumer needs to read on average 100 reviews until they’re confident enough to purchase a product online.
After establishing trust with their customers, brands can reap the benefits as their clients become their very own advocates.
To successfully turn your clients into advocates, your brand will have to meet their needs, but also it will have to build a solid online reputation backed by social proof.
In the last decade, social media reshaped the way consumers and brands interact.
We trust ads less and influencers more. The demands of the modern consumer are higher. Customer experience has become so crucial for today’s shoppers that brands cannot allow themselves to make any mistakes.
Nowadays, it’s easier than ever to buy something online, yet the purchase decision is influenced by so many factors.
Edelman’s Trust Barometer report from 2019 revealed that consumers’ trust in brands is influenced by what’s happening in the world.
As a result, growing concerns about the product experience, the customer experience, and about brands’ impact on society were ranked as the top three ones.
Among other questions, the respondents were asked, which is the top deciding factor when making a purchase, and brand trust came out to be noteworthy.
The Global Consumer Insights Survey made by PwC asked over 22,000 consumers which factors influence their purchase decision (other than price). Trust in the brand was ranked number two.
To sum it all up, yes—brand trust is critical to your business’s growth and can definitely influence your revenue.
That being said, let’s see how you can build a brand that potential customers are going to trust.
8 Steps to Building Brand Trust
According to the Edelman report, consumers have a tendency to distrust. Only 34% of the respondents say they trust most of the brands they purchased and used.
How to cut through all the obstacles?
Like in any honest relationship based on trust, there are a few rules which need to be followed.
1. Gauge brand sentiment
Understanding how people feel about your product and services and identifying where there’s room for improvement is critical.
To get answers regarding this, try to get constant feedback from your clients and make good use of it.
Their feedback can come in the form of online reviews on social media or, you can implement tracking systems directly on your product’s website for your current and potential clients to reach you faster.
You can use different tracking systems, such as:
- A live chat
The live chat is a form of help for the customers.
At Bannersnack, we use Intercom to connect to website visitors or users in real-time. Thanks to this option, they can contact us directly from the platform, without having to search for our email or social media profiles.
Customers’ questions will show you where they encountered difficulties, whether it’s on your pricing page or using the features. Paying attention to their questions will help your business move forward.
- A feedback system
The feedback system is a great way to take the pulse of your business and to see how your visitors and users evaluate your product.
Embrace the good and the bad feedback and proactively answer to all of them. This way, your clients will know their feedback matters. The worst thing you can do is to ignore their messages.
Like Richard Edelman said, “Silence is a tax on the truth,” so don’t risk overpaying just for not replying to your customers.
After a customer purchased online a product or service from your company, you can send them an email after a while and ask for their feedback. Here is an excellent example from Netflix:
2. Refine the customer experience
According to Hotjar, “customer experience is the result of every interaction a customer has with your business.” It sums up everything from a customer’s interaction with your website to receiving the product they purchased from you.
At every step of the way, a consumer can form an opinion about your brand, which can influence their purchase decision in the future.
Offering excellent customer experience is extremely important. This will help you get more positive reviews, reduce complaints and returns and, of course, increase customer loyalty and satisfaction.
In order to deliver your clients the experience they need, listen to their suggestions. After all, who can tell you better than them, how to personalize their needs and, ultimately, improve your product?
According to Edelman’s Trust Barometer, the respondents placed the customer experience on the second place after the product experience:
Personalizing consumers’ purchases can help you improve the customer experience.
Over 40% of the PwC’s survey respondents said they were happy having a retailer monitor their shopping patterns and purchases. They even expect a retailer to have up-to-date information on how they interact across all social media and other platforms.
Moreover, a study from Oracle shows that millennials are ready to pay 20% more for an exciting customer experience. In comparison, 42% of customers are willing to purchase from a company that has new and innovative ways to deliver their services.
The same millennials in question need flexibility and freedom of choice, so they will do their own research and often purchase from Direct to Customer (DTC) brands. Being more comfortable with technology, this will be their first impulse.
So if your brand is in retail, find appealing ways to attract customers.
For example, at lookfantastic, you can subscribe to their Beauty Box. This means that for one, three, six, or 12 months—depending on your choice—they will deliver six curated beauty products worth over £50.
And the real beauty is that the person won’t know what they’ll receive until they open the box.
3. Be present on social media
Modern consumers slowly detach themselves from ads if they don’t know the brand. Instead, when it comes to trying something new, they seek answers on social media by asking their inner circles.
This is why it’s absolutely vital to be present on social media. See where your target audience is spending their time and be there too.
Post useful information regarding your product and engage in conversations. Answering your customers’ questions is the holy grail of building brand trust.
After the trust is earned, they will pay attention to your ads.
If your brand’s name appears on three different channels, people will slowly start trusting it, as it becomes credible to them.
We can pair this theory with the PwC Survey’s findings. People were asked where they found inspiration for their next purchase. 37% of the respondents chose social networks.
4. Embrace user-generated content
User-generated content can come in the form of a review, article, video, podcast, picture, tweet, or a message on social media.
This refers to any kind of content created by someone outside your organization. Usually, it comes from consumers who already used your products and services.
If you have an official page where customers can leave reviews, showcase them on different channels as well.
Any user-generated content can be useful when handled correctly. Modern consumers don’t rely strictly on classic advertisement techniques as they are more research-driven and more active on social media.
Through user-generated content, consumers are expressing their feelings, thoughts, and experiences with a brand. It’s also a proven technique that can help you turn current customers into advocates.
This method of promotion can only expand your brand’s reach.
If you have loyal customers that always leave feedback, share their testimonials. This will drive them to recommend the product even more.
Take, for example, Bizzabo, a platform for creating in-person or virtual events, and their creative way of shining the light on loyal customers.
5. Always be authentic and transparent
To be trustworthy, your brand must present itself as honest. Share content that shows your brand’s culture and values. Tell the story of your brand and maybe pair it with customers’ testimonials.
Sometimes a rating of 4 to 4.5 stars out of 5 will be more trusted by consumers as it appears more real. Never pump up the numbers in a fake manner. It’s understandable to also have negative reviews, as long as you address them.
Always be true to your brand reviews, because, people can spot ‘trust-washing’.
As previously mentioned, a brand’s presence on social media is vital. Consumers start to search online for other people’s opinions and reviews before deciding to buy a product or service. This reinforcement comes as a validation to their future purchases.
Brands began to take notice of this behavior, and they grew their presence on social media, not only to sell products but also to answer questions when in need. This is a sign of the brand’s authenticity and caring for their customers.
Grow your online presence by being present on business review sites. According to ReviewTrackers, 63.6% of consumers check reviews on Google before visiting a business.
Another proof of a customer’s search of authenticity is trusting others’ experiences more than a voice-activated service. According to research from Oracle, 89% of the respondents (out of 1,100 US citizens) do not trust Alexa or Siri for recommendations.
A brand’s authenticity addresses almost exclusively people’s emotional parts of the brain. Therefore, always consider a human approach of a product or service, namely:
- Be honest about your mission and values
- Have transparent policies
- Be consistent
- Always be reliable and deliver on promises
- Provide great quality
- Treat your customers with respect and consider their privacy
- Personalize their purchase so they will feel more connected to your brand
- Keep up with the trends in your industry
Keep in mind that when a customer chooses your brand, it is a way of expressing themselves. So, by being true to your brand’s values, you’re true to the customers’.
6. Get involved in CSR
Let’s say you’ve done all the things mentioned above and still feel like something’s missing to be your customer’s first choice. One way to get there is to be actively involved in societal issues.
The best example and the most mentioned one in articles about brand trust is the Edelman trust barometer, where we have this graphic:
Apparently, for most of the respondents, brands can be more credible than their own government when it comes to dealing with social problems that don’t affect their brand directly.
Although these numbers have decreased a few points from the previous year, the gap of trust between brands and government still exists.
My purchase of products each week makes more of a difference than my vote every four years in the broader debate on issues such as tolerance, environment, and education.
One example of a brand involved in social issues is the famous Ben & Jerry’s. In 2015, they introduced a new ice cream flavor to increase awareness regarding climate change, delivering a powerful message to their audience: If it’s melted, it’s ruined.
In 2018, they also introduced a list of flavors we could lose to climate change.
This campaign manages to send a strong message not only because this is a critical issue that affects the entire planet, but also because it’s in the brand’s nature to be involved in social issues. So they were perceived as trustworthy from the beginning.
7. Work on brand consistency
Once you manage to reach your target audience, keep pampering the relationship. Don’t let them slip away.
This can be done through brand consistency, which is going to help you create a context for people. Words and visuals are the two mainstays of marking a brand’s personality.
Here are the essentials for consistency:
- Create a visual brand identity.
- Establish the brand’s personality and build your voice and message around it. Needless to say, the message should be consistent on every channel, whether it’s email, social media, or website.
- Create branding guidelines available for all the employees (logo, color palette, fonts, brand’s voice, and tone).
No matter how tempting change would be, consider rebranding only after careful consideration and a lot of brand testing. If you don’t get the desired results, make a change to align with the business goals.
Consistency also refers to how frequency you publish or send stuff. For example, you can keep in touch with your target audience by sending them newsletters or a daily/weekly /monthly digest.
If you choose this method, increase personalization. Just think of how many emails you receive per day and how many of those you ignore.
Start your email with a catchy title. This is going to help you get your viewers’ attention from the beginning. The newsletter should contain useful information like updates, sales, or a summary of your latest work.
Be consistent with the style and design, so you become a familiar voice for your audience.
Take, for example, our Bannersnack Digest. Since we started sending it, we kept the same visual style. Just like that, we were consistent, and our audience can easily recognize who’s the newsletter from.
8. Understand customer behavior
The 2019 Consumer Research Report by Salsify looked into consumer behavior and questioned 1,000 consumers from the United States.
The survey revealed that shoppers rely heavily on descriptions, reviews, and product images to decide what to purchase or where to eat their next meal.
Their expectations tend to be higher with each year and with all the new products and brands that are released.
The results of this survey are incredibly helpful for any brand that wants to understand what they should focus on in order to gain shoppers’ trust.
Signs a brand understands its customers
When asked what the markers that show a brand’s interest in its customers are, these were the most important answers:
Not being able to afford a bad purchase, shoppers expect to see an average of 112 reviews for a single product.
What drifts customers away
People can be interested in a product, but they may not go all the way through the purchase process. When asked what that something was that triggered this change of heart, the respondents answered:
I honestly find this highly accurate. If a product lacks sufficient information or the images are low-quality, I would prefer not to take the risk.
The last answer on the list—unfamiliar brand—shows that the customers don’t really care about a brand’s popularity, as long as it looks trust-worthy.
If your brand is not that popular, it might help to share its story with the people visiting your website.
Product images and videos: the more, the better
Another research from Salsify also revealed the fact that consumers expected to see an average of three images per product, and videos were optional.
Three years later, consumers’ expectations have increased. Shoppers expect to see six images per product and at least two videos. Shoppers aged 18-24 and 35-44 want even more—eight images and 4-5 videos.
The results of these surveys show that consumers’ behavior changes every year and that if you fail to provide the experience they’re expecting, they will go to someone else, until they find a company that matches their criteria.
3 Top Brands that Consumers Trust
Here are some of the most trusted brands in the world, according to consumers’ votes.
IKEA was voted among the best brands in 2018. Besides having affordable products, IKEA’s designers made them look good and space-friendly.
On top of that, the brand got involved in social responsibility programs by supporting local communities, educating and empowering workers, respecting gender equality and minorities at the workplace, working on reducing energy consumption and waste, and deriving energy from alternative sources that use sustainable sourcing.
One of IKEA’s designers has an active presence on Instagram and shows people how she creates furniture for the masses. It’s a very authentic way to address consumers.
Here’s a sneak peek from her Instagram account.
According to Morning Consult’s first annual Most Trusted Brands, our friend in need, Google, is another highly trusted brand, as its CEO takes a stand on social issues.
The giant regularly gets involved and sustains environmentally friendly initiatives, such as using 50% less energy than other data centers in the world and contributing to renewable energy by investing more than $1 billion on renewable energy projects.
But Google’s primary philanthropic focus is on closing the global education gap and improving primary education in developing countries.
It invested millions of dollars in the organization Learning Equality, which developed an offline app, Kolibri, for children who do not have access to the internet.
Another notable and reliable brand is Spotify. It was chosen by US citizens among one of the most trusted brands.
What makes it special is the thoughtfully personalized platform according to each user’s preferences and an affordable monthly subscription.
From a social perspective, people expect to see big names doing big things and make improvements in society.
Spotify addressed a critical matter that has a significant impact on families. It offers six months of paid parental leave to all its full-time employees.
On top of that, after the parental leave is over, the company fully supports their transition back to work, offering them flexible hours and the ability to work from home.
The process of gaining brand trust and loyalty may be extended and require tremendous consideration of customer experience.
Work on your brand’s reputation until the brand trust becomes brand affect.
To increase popularity and reputation fast, you may consider the possibility of bringing an influencer, who has become a reliable person among younger generations. But keep in mind all the next steps mentioned previously in How to build brand trust.
Because the terms authenticity and personalized shopping were mentioned several times before, I want to end with a quote from Susan Solovic, a small business expert, who highlighted the importance of personalizing the customer experience by offering them a sense of identity:
We live in a high-tech world, yet consumers crave high-touch. They are tired of their calls being answered by Silicon Sally, and they want to be recognized as human beings, not a username and password or account number.