Increase brand trust with these steps

5 steps to increase brand trust and give your brand a trust advantage

Trust has the ability to define a brand’s market share – it can both create as well as destroy brand value. When people have trust in a brand, they are likely to purchase more, try new product lines and pay a premium (the ‘trust premium’ is a well-known factor in neuromarketing).

Brands who are trusted can enjoy closer and more in depth relationships with their customers. This is critical in a world where consumer’s attention is at a premium and customer disloyalty is commonplace. Building trust has become more complex:

  • Implicit brand trust has gone. Implicit trust is a thing of the past in the reviews driven world of Amazon. Consumers simply do not trust brands, business and institutions like they used to.
  • Trust is impacted on a real-time basis. Social media has driven us into a totally transparent world where every brand mistake and wrongdoing (real, perceived or even fake) is often amplified in minutes. Combining this with political uncertainty and polarisation, consumers are also less trusting in institutions. Trust in “people like me” has gone up (hence the rise of the Instagram Influencer).
  • Trust is more nuanced. What builds trust in a brand or business has become more varied by market, sector and audience – there is no standard solution. Trust needs to be mapped and then – and only then – can a trust development programme be developed.

What are the eight primary drivers of brand trust which brands need to get right?

A recent study by Carat concluded that there are eight elements which drive overall trust levels:

  1. Reliability: “You consistently deliver”.
  2. Credibility: “You know what you’re talking about”.
  3. Establishment: “You’ve been around for a long time”.
  4. Transparency: “You don’t hide anything”.
  5. Provenance: “I know where you come from”.
  6. Mutual disclosure: “I want you to value me”
  7. Closeness: “I feel close to you”.
  8. Consumer first: “You act in my interests”.

The top 3 brand trust drivers broken down by geography

The top 3 brand trust drivers broken down by geography

Whilst this is a helpful indicator of what shapes brand trust with consumers, we also know that there are a number of behavioural insights which can be used as inspiration to cement further trust. These are:

  • Social proof – Beyond online reviews, there are a wealth of other initiatives that brands can use to demonstrate their capabilities, such as industry body endorsements, case studies, results and industry influencer endorsements.
  • Authority – Taking an industry leading position by championing a cause or sharing a strong opinion on topical industry issues can elevate a brand’s authority above its competitors.
  • Reciprocity – Brands who ‘pay it forward’ and deliver value up front are much more likely to endear potential customers to them. They’ll also be seen as more trustworthy.

From the study, reliability was found to be the single most important driver in every market studied, accounting for up to 25% of brand trust. Whilst this shouldn’t surprise us, it does make very clear just how important it is to get the customer experience right and to meet customer expectations. Bad experiences can be shared globally at the touch of a button. The basics simply have to be exceptional.

Reliability may be key but smart brands can understand the key trust drivers for their business and proactively strengthen and build trust. Outperforming the competition in trust metrics is a clear opportunity to develop a competitive advantage.

What are the Five steps towards a competitive trust advantage?

1. Measure and prioritise: Understand the brand’s performance on the 8 trust drivers versus competitors and then prioritise the different drivers of trust to help focus resources more effectively.

2. Plan the right channel to drive brand trust: Identify the appropriate way of communicating with your audience to increase trust. For example, to drive reliability, research shows customer reviews and customer service are key channels. Transparency can be cultivated by having the brand’s leadership team members being highly visible and transparent about their mistakes and triumphs.

3 . Rally the business behind trust: Strengthening customer trust is key to retaining and acquiring new customers. It is so important that we’d argue that trust should be integrated into core business decision-making. Needless to say, marketing and communications functions should collaborate closely with management to be responsive and focus on building brand trust.

4. Engage brand detractors and advocates: By engaging with brand champions as well as detractors, brands can measure how they are trusted and track their brand trust levels over time.

5. Track the business impact: Consumer trust impacts the bottom line. Specific metrics which businesses should track to evaluate trust over time are NPS, loyalty and retention. Placing hard commercial numbers against a trust-building initiative can demonstrate the value of a trust-building consumer engagement strategy.

If a brand is trusted it will be successful. It’s that simple. Building trust is all about understanding your customers and making them feel that your brand is able to deliver. Once customers feel comfortable, they’ll become more confident in you, and then they will start to trust you.

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About James

James is the founder of Customer Devoted and was previously the managing director of customer engagement agency Ogilvy One and the strategy director for customer loyalty consultancy The Collinson Group.

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