Do brands currently have a rare opportunity to build trust with consumers?

Discussion
Photo: @9_fingers_ via Twenty20
May 18, 2021

A slew of corporate and governmental scandals and an influx of misinformation have destabilized the public’s trust in many traditional institutions, according to Forrester’s Trust Imperative study. These failings, however, have created “an unprecedented opportunity” for brands to build trust with consumers, employees and other partners.

“Established societal institutions have often failed to unify and guide their communities,” wrote Enza Iannopollo, a senior analyst at Forrester, in a blog entry.

Beyond misinformation, growing uncertainties and concerns over income inequality, job insecurity and social unrest, as well as systemic risks like climate change, pandemics and global recessions, all contribute to a trust void that brands have an opportunity to fill.

The study notes that consumers are giving brands permission to play a bigger role in their well-being: Forty-seven percent of U.S. consumers rely on brands for overall advice on how to stay healthy and about a third (32 percent) look for brand guidance on how to manage stress and anxiety. Similarly, if consumers observe that a company has contradicted its values, 18 percent of U.S. consumers say they would stop doing business with that company permanently.

Forrester’s study highlights the importance of relevance and context in building trust.

“Organizations that succeed at building and continuously reinforcing trust have the unique opportunity to build enduring bonds with customers, attract the best, most dedicated talent, and create unique experiences with an ecosystem of partners and emerging technologies that people embrace, not fear — all while minimizing risk,” wrote Ms. Iannopollo.

Morning Consult’s “Most Trusted Brands 2021” found that, while brands have historically needed to meet rational, functional needs in order to earn the permission to connect emotionally, emotional connection is rapidly becoming as important to initial consideration in the first place.

Morning Consult wrote in the study, ”Accelerated by the events of the past year, loyalty dynamics are undeniably changing as the rise of e-commerce has democratized discovery, consumers experiment more, and switching is easier than ever. Still, transaction-based rewards programs will continue on their trajectory towards interchangeable commodities, while true brand loyalty will be forged by emotionally powered ties that elevate relationships.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Has the last year created a bigger opportunity for retailers and brands to build trust with consumers, employees and other stakeholders? What factors have become more important in building trust?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Deliver products your customers want, treat them well and make it easy for them to engage with you and deliver on a value proposition that customers believe in."
"Brands and retailers have more of an opportunity to build trust with their customer because they know so much more about their customer today than ever before."
"While the value of time is increasingly obvious, there are lots of skeptics about stakeholder capitalism, which makes it that much more of an opportunity for others..."

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12 Comments on "Do brands currently have a rare opportunity to build trust with consumers?"


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Dick Seesel
BrainTrust

Building trust depends at its core on the assumption that truth is truth, and facts are facts. Unfortunately, we are living in an era (fueled by social media) where “choose your own facts” becomes the motto of the day — and I’m not just talking about political divisions. Brands are learning that their consumers expect them to take stands (on voting rights, for example) but getting off the fence makes trust-building that much more difficult with a wide swath of customers.

Jennifer Bartashus
BrainTrust

There is no doubt that there is more opportunity than ever for brands and retailers to build trust with consumers. After so much disruption from the pandemic, those who can strengthen ties with shoppers will be positioned to win their loyalty and spending. Transparency will be key – whether that is from a corporate values perspective or on the attributes associated with an individual product. Consumers want to support brands and retailers that resonate with them.

Gary Sankary
BrainTrust

The fundamentals of brand trust in retail haven’t changed in decades. Deliver products your customers want, treat them well and make it easy for them to engage with you and deliver on a value proposition that customers believe in. This always builds trust and engagement with customers and teams.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

There are several ways retailers can build trust. Transparency is key. Authenticity, which was covered in a RetailWire article a couple of weeks ago, plays a role. And safety and health have become important to building trust and confidence. Trust has become an asset that helps create customer loyalty.

Regarding safety and health, that has become table stakes. If a retailer chooses not to follow protocols that make customers uncomfortable, they risk losing customers – even their loyal customers. This opens up the opportunity for competitors who do make their customers feel comfortable to grow their market share.

Lisa Goller
BrainTrust

Yes, retail companies are investing in trust, as it’s a top buying motivator.

Trust-building factors include:

  • Purpose: Companies are aligning with consumer values, like diversity. Sephora, Ulta, Gap and Nordstrom are all adding more Black-owned brands to their assortments.
  • Proof: Companies can stand out with certifications like certified organic, gluten-free certified or minority-owned. Also, product ratings and reviews act as testimonials for companies and products.
  • Transparency: Consumers are demanding more metrics that reflect corporate social responsibility and sustainability programs.
  • Authenticity: As more consumers buy premium and luxury products online, Amazon’s Counterfeit Crimes Unit protects genuine goods.
  • Tech: Augmented reality gives online shoppers a preview of a product so they know exactly what they’re buying.

As e-commerce grows, trust will remain vital to drive sales growth, as consumers aren’t in a physical store examining a product.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

I am not sure what “emotionally powered ties” mean. Certainly every marketer wants the customer to be emotionally tied to the brand. The more the competition is alike, the more emotional connection is important. (See: Coke vs. Pepsi.)

But with regard to today’s environment, aren’t we really talking about transparency and truth? That is something hard to find among marketers. If they are presenting sculpted truths, they are involved in sins of omission. “Just the facts, ma’am” marketing generally isn’t a strong message to consumers. Too bad.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

This discussion took me back to my Hefty days, four decades ago.

The key competitors in the trash bag business were Hefty and Glad. The products were essentially the same. There was no way to make a substantive performance claim of one over the other.

Our research showed that The Man from Glad was often looked at askew by consumers. We wanted to take advantage of this soft spot, so we found Jonathan Winters, who was loved by everyone. It worked. It separated us in a very positive way from the other guy and many of his in-commercial adlibs morphed into the vernacular at the time.

Phil Rubin
BrainTrust
1 month 1 day ago

Like a lot of last year’s impact, it wasn’t as much about change as accelerating trends – opportunities – that were already in flight pre-COVID-19. Trust was absolutely one of them and perhaps the most critical for brands, given the growing mistrust in governments, NGOs and the like.

Building trust in today’s environment, and especially with younger consumers, starts with brands showing a focus on consumers but it increasingly extends through purpose and social values that resonate. Relevance has always been a factor in trust, as in loyalty, and likewise context has mattered but now things like time (trusting brands not to waste your time and ideally to save you time) and stakeholder capitalism (brands being good citizens not just for customers and shareholders but also for employees, partners, suppliers and communities) matter just as much.

While the value of time is increasingly obvious, there are lots of skeptics about stakeholder capitalism, which makes it that much more of an opportunity for others (i.e., the non skeptics).

Liza Amlani
BrainTrust

Transparency is the key to loyalty which will not only drive authenticity, but also gives brands the possibility to align their values with their customer and what’s most important to them.

Brands and retailers have more of an opportunity to build trust with their customer because they know so much more about their customer today than ever before. Data is in abundance.

The customer also has a lot more access to information. For example, if a brand makes sustainability claims and they don’t hold true, the customer’s trust will not only be broken, but they will also share this with the world. They will take it personally.

George Anderson
Staff

Consumers feeling vulnerable in ways real or imagined look for people, products, beliefs, etc. to help them feel less vulnerable at the very least and powerful at most. Items or services that reduce this sense of vulnerability such as products made from sustainable materials or using eco-friendly processes, for example, may help those who value this to feel as though they are making a difference in safeguarding the environment and addressing climate change. Brands that authentically (there’s that word again) speak to this emotional need are more important than ever when so many people have so many fears when it comes to so many things (again both real and imagined). It takes empathetic product development and marketing to make it happen. That requires unwavering consistency, which can be a challenge for some companies when expectations and balance sheets are factored in.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

“Honey I’m replacing you on my Emergency Contact with Campbell Soup…” What? That’s not what they mean by “bigger role in well-being?

OK, OK, it does seem like this study takes things a bit seriously — for me at least — but back to the main question: for some brands this has been a big opportunity, for others less so, but … for EVERY brand EVERY day is an opportunity. It’s an ongoing, continuous process; don’t fixate on the ebb and flow.

Venky Ramesh
BrainTrust

For a long time, customer trust was built by delivering quality products, but in today’s world, to earn the consumer trust, the brand must not only ensure the end product is of quality, but the ingredients are healthy, sourced sustainably, without putting labor and forests in jeopardy. They also want to support companies that are selling products for a meaningful reason beyond just making profits.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Deliver products your customers want, treat them well and make it easy for them to engage with you and deliver on a value proposition that customers believe in."
"Brands and retailers have more of an opportunity to build trust with their customer because they know so much more about their customer today than ever before."
"While the value of time is increasingly obvious, there are lots of skeptics about stakeholder capitalism, which makes it that much more of an opportunity for others..."

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