Is trust the next omnichannel inflection point?

Discussion
Image: Getty Images
Feb 01, 2019
Nikki Baird

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is an excerpt of a current article from the blog of Nikki Baird, VP of retail innovation at Aptos. The article first appeared on Forbes.com.

Transparency was the first shift that changed the retailing game with the rise of internet shopping and mobile followed. In 2019, trust will become omnichannel’s third inflection point.

We’ve seen all the elements of it – a demand from consumers for greater corporate responsibility, whatever that means, alongside the rise of Instagram brands and online-only brands that thrive on personality.

The big inflection point: retailers traditionally have used discounts to entice consumers to do business with them, in the hope of providing a good enough customer experience to earn their trust. In 2019, retailers must earn consumers’ trust, if they ever hope to gain their business.

And that trust is won or lost almost exclusively in digital channels – specifically, social channels.

Social channels are for being social, not for selling. And personality is exactly what makes social work. People follow you because you’re interesting or funny or helpful. And when you can demonstrate that you offer value as well as entertainment – valued advice, helpful hints, and yes, even product recommendations – that’s when you earn the mindshare that makes them think of you when it comes to actually buying something. In short, their trust.

This is antithetical to big brands, whose operating mode is to protect and control the brand at all costs. Moosejaw, Casper, Dollar Shave Club and Glossier – these are all companies that are not afraid to put some people off in order to be true to the people who “get” them – and love them. And they carry that through to all of their touchpoints.

The playbook here is unknown. Yeah, you can copy digital-first brand methods, but , but if you don’t have conviction and authenticity behind it, consumers will smell that out a mile away. And how to truly bring a digital personality to life in stores – not even digital-first retailers have figured that out entirely.

To paraphrase Casper ‘s Philip Krim, the 2008 downturn took out the retailers who were financially weak. The next downturn will take out the retailers who are experientially weak  If you can’t win consumers’ trust with something – anything – other than a discount or a search term, you’re in trouble.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is what it takes for a consumer to trust a brand fundamentally shifting with the rise of social media? Should traditional brands be copying the playbook of digital-first brands in creating online personalities?

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Braintrust
"The fundamental element of brand trust is, and has always been, consistent delivery of the product or service brand promise."
"Yes the great brands get ADOPTED by their best customers. They get relied on and integrated into families — like treasured pets! "
"Trust is more than telling the truth and being transparent. It’s about creating confidence."

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19 Comments on "Is trust the next omnichannel inflection point?"


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Charles Dimov
BrainTrust

It is an interesting paradigm that we all have known instinctively, but it has not been discussed enough. Nikki hits it on the point that building trust isn’t about brand protection and being the brand police. It is about authenticity and focusing on your core customers rather than trying to cater to all (which just does not work).

Copy the digital-first playbook? That completely depends on the retailer’s audience and shoppers. Be and do what resonates with your core shoppers. These being the ones that “get” you. If digital isn’t their thing, then maybe the experiential retail and marketing is what they crave. Experiment and find your fans.

Bethany Allee
BrainTrust

Completely agree with what Charles articulated.

I would add, brand trust is no longer squarely in Marketing’s domain. There’s a tangible component of trust that must be considered: Consumer data protection will play a critical role in overall brand trust. The point being, the roles of IT and Marketing blur and must be fully aligned when it comes to brand trust.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

Trust grows out of performance. Consistently delivering on the brand promise. Authenticity. Transparency. I don’t see digital or physical as having an advantage here. If anything digital has an extra step or two to authenticate the reality of the promise. Turns out physical stores are very handy in accomplishing that.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

Jeff, I have to disagree. I find the major online retailers much more trustworthy and transparent than anything I find with the physical store experience. I believe the reason is that they know their business depends on confidence that shoppers have in them, while the physical store operators rarely think of that.

It is a matter of what comes first in the retailer’s mind. For the online retailers it has to be the shopper because they have no place else to start.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

Good point. So the digital guys had the advantage of learning from the malaise the brick-and-mortar stores fell into. They had the advantage of extremely limited choices. Be honest or die. Be authentic or die. Perform or die. Perform or never be clicked on again. The consumer has LOTS of choices. Ultimately I still think it comes down to authenticating the reality of delivering on the promise. For me, internet shopping is enabled after trust is established. I personally have to migrate from “unknown” to “known.” Thanks. I always learn from a good pressure test.

Kenneth Leung
BrainTrust

I think the challenge of physical stores as far as trust is concerned is that there are physical experiences to deliver, whereas there isn’t online. Online you are delivering messaging, information and promise: “we stand for X because you see us doing X,” “the product you are looking for is in/out of stock,” “your product will arrive by date X.” That is manageable by technology or people. In the store you are relying on store associates for assistance, merchandising and product availability on limited shelf space, plus physical checkout lines.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

All true. There are lots of opportunities for a physical retailer to disappoint. But they are also opportunities to delight. The messaging, information and promise I read on websites is sometimes rock solid and sometimes total puffery. And both physical and digital stores have ultimately the same physical promise to execute to — the product. Does it deliver the brand promise? The transaction may disappoint. Does the product perform? I find that the skill level of overall execution falls into a bell curve for both physical and digital stores.

Casey Golden
Guest
4 months 15 days ago

When you are in a store consumers engage in the activity of “shopping,” online the engage in search and find AKA “scrolling”; these are very different fundamental activities and the experience is not comparable; therefore they do not convert at the same rate. When ecommerce begins to fill the void of retail therapy, I believe we will see triple digit increases.

Ben Ball
BrainTrust

The fundamental element of brand trust is, and has always been, consistent delivery of the product or service brand promise. But Nikki is right in that other elements of brand trust — things like character and appearance and, yes, trust — are harder to both establish and to judge in the digital world. In the good old days of physical retail these things were almost unconsciously assessed by shoppers as they interacted with the brand in its retail environment. Did it look stable, prosperous, clean and honest? Were the people representing the brand competent, engaging, perhaps even attractive? Could you count on good service and fair treatment if you had a problem? All of this was relatively transparent in person. It is much more difficult to judge online, so we substitute others’ reports of their experience for our own experience, at least to begin with. But in the end, it all still comes back to consistently delivering on the promise.

Michael Decker
BrainTrust

Like many things in human life, trust is hard to gain and easy to lose. It’s not just clever quips on social media — although that decidedly can help! It’s hard work to make your customer experience in your stores and on your e-commerce site enjoyable, productive and “adoptive.” Yes the great brands get ADOPTED by their best customers. They get relied on and integrated into families — like treasured pets! The bar is very high these days, as Nikki Baird expertly suggests. Retailers and retail brands need to excel and stand for something on every channel these days. Or start printing orange close out signs!

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

I think trust in brands is dead. Amazon believes it’s the key differentiator for it, but the trust was broken by third-party Prime fulfillment. Apple was a trusted brand until it wasn’t.

Just delight your customers and they’ll come back. But trust? Nah.

Ken Morris
BrainTrust

Trust has become a more salient issue in the past few years due to the increased cases of retailers and Facebook not properly protecting the security and privacy of customer payment and personal information. Consumers are now more cautious in providing their personal information on any website unless they trust that it will be safe. To earn customers’ trust, retailers need to assure consumers that they have the proper security and data privacy policies in place.

From a social media perspective, while I agree that consumers don’t want to be “sold to,” most do understand that the retailer is in the business of selling things or services. As long as they are authentic and offer additional value of tips, entertainment, etc. and don’t rely on pitching new products and discounts, I don’t think they will lose customers’ trust or annoy them. The approach that resonated with me in the last year was Naadam, their socially responsible, sustainable, affordable products that disrupt the traditional supply chain were a “trusted retailer” to both me and my extended family.

Casey Golden
Guest
4 months 15 days ago

Naadam did a beautiful job taking the shopper on the journey and making them feel like they were experiencing it first hand. They turned owning a piece into a souvenir and treated customers as part of the brand. Very well executed launch and growth stages.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

Trust is more than telling the truth and being transparent. It’s about creating confidence. Brands should be looking at the customer journey and finding places where the interaction points create friction, confusion or anything that puts a question in the customer’s mind. Opportunities for trust are in delivery of a brand promise, no inventory issues, on-time delivery, and any other expectation the brand creates. Falling short in any of these areas will cause a lack of confidence.

Jeff Hall
BrainTrust

Brand trust can certainly be an influencing factor in the customer purchase decision based on the type of product or service, though I see it as part of a larger set of considerations within the consumer mindset. If we’re looking at brand trust through the lens of digital-first brands and the influence of social media, social channels enable brands to be a part of the conversation, though they need to recognize that in large part the consumer/customer significantly controls the dialogue and very often influences the purchase decision of family, friends and co-workers.

Brands can leverage social media to more creatively and consistently convey their promise, values, authenticity and humanity — in turn helping consumers determine if these qualities align with what is important to them, and if the brand is able to connect on these emotional levels in an authentic manner, then the element of trust surfaces.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

Trust has always been a part of a brand’s value. In today’s retail world, the channels have increased over the years, yet the basic requirement of trust remains strong. For simple, commodity-type transactions, perhaps trust is less of a determining factor in the purchase decision. However, trust still is a component in those transactions. Even something like bottled water has a definite level of trust involved in the brand. So, as social channels continue to proliferate in society, trust becomes an evolved aspect, but it remains critical to the shopper experience.

Casey Golden
Guest
4 months 15 days ago

Well stated.

Casey Golden
Guest
4 months 15 days ago
Hot topic for me and great quote! “Social channels are for being social, not for selling.” Social was the first channel that opened communication between corporate and consumers; a golden opportunity quickly tarnished by bad manners and marketers. Short-term goals and lack of importance put social channels at the bottom of the funnel from day 1. When they grew and could no longer be ignored, retailers were late to the party. Everyone scrambled to pick-up the slack and it turned into marketing departments instead of Customer Success channels. It fueled a loss of authenticity as we are bombarded by images and conversations that are purely well crafted advertisements. What used to be IRL raw, is now assumed fake. There was a time that a brand inherently evoked immediate trust from a consumer. You have it, until you lose it. Today, consumers have been burned with privacy abuse, degrading service and an innate sense of mistrust to the point where every brand is starting at -1; leaving the entire industry at a disadvantage. I think we… Read more »
Oliver Guy
BrainTrust

People trust brands because they know (or think they know) what they will get. Some fascinating things going on in this area and look set to continue … came across an interesting one yesterday with AirBnB where they remove negative feedback about a property after they provided a refund. If a retail platform (like Amazon or eBay) had a similar policy it could well make consumers question the reliability of the brand and associated feedback — making them look towards alternative sources — perhaps like social media!

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"The fundamental element of brand trust is, and has always been, consistent delivery of the product or service brand promise."
"Yes the great brands get ADOPTED by their best customers. They get relied on and integrated into families — like treasured pets! "
"Trust is more than telling the truth and being transparent. It’s about creating confidence."

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