6 Ways to Earn Consumer Trust in an Untrusting Era
"Fake news" has taken a big bite out of consumer trust in brands. Here's how to restore it.
Trust has always been an important part of brand-consumer relationships; without trust, customers may not feel confident in their purchases, or may opt for a more trustworthy competitor brand, leaving that perceived untrustworthy company high and dry.
This is particularly important in the digital age: We're now on pace to see 60 percent of retail transactions happening online, and face-to-face interactions are on the decline. That's why trust is more important than ever. Yet, at the same time, trust is harder than ever for brands to earn.
So, why is customer trust so hard to build, and what can brands do about it?
Why trust Is rare.
Customer trust was never easy to win, per se, but it has also never been this difficult. We’ve entered an era of distrust, due to a perfect storm of different factors:
Misleading advertising. The overabundance and misleading nature of advertising is partially to blame. Only 4 percent of Americans believe that the marketing industry acts with integrity, and the remainder are skeptical of advertisers’ intentions. They know companies are out for a profit and are willing to bend the truth to get it.
Economic turmoil. The financial crisis of 2008 didn’t improve consumer trust, especially with regard to the financial industry. With so many homeowners misled and with the subsequent troubled financial times that damaged people's savings, our generation is dubious of corporate goals.
Western society. We live in a capitalistic society that strongly encourages individual achievement. For better or worse, those conditions force consumers to look out for themselves, and not always be generous toward others.
Content overload. The digital era has millions of businesses all clamoring for attention. That sheer overabundance makes it harder to figure out what’s real and what isn’t.
"Fake news." Of course, the recent (and ongoing) "fake news" epidemic is also meddling with consumers’ trust. Everything is to be doubted, and nothing is to be believed.
How to earn more trust
So, what can brands do to earn more trust in this unforgiving age of distrust? Here are six ideas:
Give before you take. First, show your customers that you aren’t solely driven by profit, and give them a reason to interact with you for the first time. Give them something of value before you ask anything in return. For example, if you have a landing page designed to capture email addresses, give your customers a downloadable white paper they’ll find useful. Thanks to the rule of reciprocity, they’ll be more likely to give you something in return in the future, and they’ll walk away with a better impression of your brand without having to sacrifice anything to get it.
Be human. In order to sound more professional or corporate, hundreds of businesses have resorted to using a brand voice that, frankly, sounds robotic and cold. You may have perfect grammar and speak with a level of formality usually reserved for aristocrats, but none of that matters if your audience thinks less of you for it. Writing in a more conversational style, with all your personal quirks and defects, will make you seem more human and approachable.
Sympathize. Next, try to connect with your customers on an emotional level. Show them that you know what struggles they’re going through by sympathizing with a core need. You can do this through messaging, advertising or even a one-on-one conversation with a client. Whatever medium you choose, showing that you understand their main concerns helps them feel closer to your brand and makes you seem like a more knowledgeable authority -- both of which can build trust.
Prove yourself. If you’re new to the business world, you’ll need to give your customers some kind of proof that you are who you say you are, and the best way to do that is with some kind of social proof. As soon as possible, earn some reviews and testimonials that you can use to show others how effective your products or services are. You may even want to put together a case study, especially if you’re offering professional services. In the meantime, building your personal brand through guest blogging can help you build your reputation by proxy.
Be transparent. Transparency is important in an age where consumers feel like brands have something to hide. If you make a mistake, admit to it. If you have some bad news, reveal it in full. The more open and honest you are about what happens behind the scenes of your company, the more people will be able to trust you -- even if everything you say isn’t 100 percent positive.
Remain consistent (and be patient). The best way to earn consumer trust is to do so naturally. Give your customers value on a regular basis, whether that’s in the form of a great product or a high-quality content marketing strategy, and provide excellent customers service. Over time, your most loyal customers will learn just how trustworthy you are, and word will spread about your business practices. The only downside here is the amount of time it takes; this is definitely a long-term strategy.
Though they aren’t all easy to execute, these strategies should give your brand everything it needs to build trust -- even in this cynical age of consumer-brand relationships. New brands have much to prove, and brands with questionable pasts will have an even harder time rebuilding the trust of their customers, but even these underdogs can get the consumer trust they need to thrive.All it takes is a better understanding of your customers’ psychology, and a commitment to proving your worth.