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Consumers are increasingly trusting brands that take a stance

Author's avatar By Expert commentator 30 Sep, 2019
Essential Essential topic

Chart of the Week: 64% of consumers are now belief-driven buyers who want brands to deliver on societal issues, as well as products

We all know that trusting a brand increases the chances of a customer buying from it. Building trust turns customers into advocates, providing priceless word-of-mouth marketing. On top of this, brand trust means customers keep coming back, which is hugely beneficial considering the fact that customer retention is cheaper than acquisition.

But exactly what does brand trust mean to customers and how can it impact their decision making? Today, brand trust is everything to customers, meaning that once you’ve lost it, you’ve likely lost them.

In fact, according to Edelman’s latest research, businesses are trusted even more than governments, showing the impact that a good brand can have. Edelman’s trust barometer shows that there is a 14% gap in trust between business (54%) and government (40% in the US and a 5% gap in the UK (business 47% versus government 42%).

Gap in trust, business vs government

This alone shows the importance of brand trust, however, there are more factors that need to be taken into account if you want more customers to put their trust in your business.

Trust-driven purchases

It goes without saying that when presented with a brand a customer has experience with and trust in, along with a new brand, that customer will go with the one they know. This is because they expect that brand to deliver, both in terms of service and product. While the new brand may be comparable in every way, that trust gives the customer more trust in their purchase.

Even if a customer has heard of a brand and it seems to have a good reputation, it isn’t enough to turn them into a repeat customer. The research shows that 67% of customers say that a good reputation may get them to try a product, but they will stop buying it if they don’t come to trust the company behind the product.

Percent who are belief-driven buyers

On top of this, brands are now expected to take a larger role in society, with this helping to further customer trust. The figures show that 64% of consumers are belief-driven buyers, which is up by 13 points in 2017. In fact, this is the same percentage as in 2018, showing that buying based on belief is the new norm.

These buyers will switch, choose, avoid or even boycott a brand based entirely on its stance on social issues. This means that you need to provide more than a great product to win them over and can lose them with just one small slip up. Brand trust now embodies the impact a brand has on society, as well as the product and customer experience it offers.

Why is brand trust becoming more important?

For customers, trust in brands is more important than ever, which means this should be the same case for businesses. After all, addressing customer concerns will help enable you to deliver the expected level of service and deal with any customer pain points.

For 62% of customers, there are growing concerns about product experience that need to be addressed. This includes issues around the pace of innovation and the increasing reliance customers have in terms of brands automating their lives. In addition, customers can’t afford a bad purchase, so they need to trust in the brand, the product and the service.

Growing concerns about product experience

There is also a growing concern when it comes to customer service, which is experienced by 55% of consumers. Customers are increasingly worried about what brands are doing with their personal data, how businesses track and target customers and how they use AI to provide customer service.

Mirroring the fact that more consumers are now belief-driven buyers is the fact that 69% have growing concerns about the impact that brands have on society. More customers are worried about the impact of fake news and misinformation, as well as how brands are more involved in societal issues. Consumers also want brands to express values that mirror their own, which can improve trust levels.

Trust is a top buying consideration

One of the most important findings from the research is the fact that brand trust is one of the biggest considerations for consumers when making a purchase. Some 81% say that the ability to trust a brand to do what is right can be a deciding factor or deal-breaker.

Only product attributes ranked higher, with all brand and company attributes (such as supply chain, reputation and good reviews) falling below this key point. This goes to show that you may say you have the values and you might have the reputation, but if customers don’t trust you, they won’t buy from you.

Trust in product and brand attributes

This result is almost identical across the board, regardless of age, gender or income. However, it is worth noting that the ability to trust a brand to do the right thing is slightly more important for women (82%) than for men (79%), as well as for those aged between 18 and 54 (81) compared to those aged 55 and over (79%).

Consumers need to trust brands

When it comes to consumers by country, this type of trust is less important for those in France (63%) and Japan (70%). However the UK is bang on average at 81% with Germany (83%), the US (83%), India (85%), China (88%) and Brazil (91) all saying that brand trust is more important. 

Current levels of trust

Considering the importance being placed on brand trust today, only a third (34%) of consumers say they can trust most of the brands they buy or use. This suggests that brands are failing to consider exactly what customers see as important trust factors, with many brands likely overlooking their impact on societal and instead focusing solely on customer service and product performance.

Although trust levels were higher for those aged between 35 and 55-and-over, these figures still only stood at 35% on average. In terms of income levels, trust levels were lower among low-income consumers (29%), with a pretty substantial difference compared to top earners (38%).

Current trust levels in brands consumers buy

Once again, there was a difference in trust levels in terms of country, with just 23% of consumers in both France and Germany saying they could trust most of the brands they buy or use. India is the best-performing country, with 45% of consumers trusting their chosen brands.

The rewards for brands

It isn’t just customers that benefit when brand trust is built, brands do too. In fact, 53% of consumers who have trusted a brand for a long time will go to them first to make a purchase compared to the 25% who do not fully trust a brand.

On top of this, 51% will be a brand advocate while 43% will defend the brand they have trusted for a long time. More importantly, 62% of those who trust a brand will stay loyal to it, meaning these consumers will have a higher customer lifetime value.

Brand trust rewards

Brands need to make a difference

With so much at stake, exactly what can brands do to help improve the trust that customers have in them? According to the research, showing a commitment to society can make a huge difference, especially when you factor in belief-driven buyers.

Some 53% of consumers say that every brand has a responsibility to get involved in at least one social issue that doesn’t directly impact its business. However, to do this, a brand has to show that it honestly cares about this issue and is not simply jumping on the bandwagon.

Brands making an impact not a difference

This is proven by the fact that 56% say that too many brands use societal issues as a marketing ploy purely to improve product sales. Being seen to do this can actually do more harm than good and see people trusting your brand less – as many brands found out when producing marketing for Pride Month.

This is perhaps why just 38% say they can trust a brand based on societal considerations, compared to the 87% who say they can trust brands based on product considerations. Looking to fill this gap in a meaningful, honest and transparent way could mean you tap into an important aspect of customer trust, which will result in a huge number of benefits.

In fact, when brands earn full trust (product, customers and society), the benefits for those brands triple. All three trust factors mean that consumers are 68% more likely to buy from them first, stay loyal, become advocates and defend the brand. This is 21% higher than if consumers trust the product only.

Brand benefits of consumer trust

What can brands do?

With consumers being so focused on the societal impact that brands can make, you need to act on your values and promises. While creating a marketing campaign around a societal issue may get you noticed, it won’t do any good if other aspects of your business don’t support the same beliefs.

Brands making a promise and a difference

You also need to take into account the fact that 74% of consumers use one or more advertising avoidance strategies, such as ad-blocking, changing their media habits or paying for streaming services. This means that it isn’t the campaign that gets you noticed, it’s the stories around you living up to your promises.

In fact, 76% of consumers that trust a brand fully will pay attention to its advertising and communications compared to the 48% of those who do not fully trust the same brand. Build trust through your actions and more attention to will be paid to your future marketing efforts.

Final thoughts

While a great marketing campaign may make an impression, a brand that shows it cares will make a difference. Brand trust is now about more than providing great products, delivering on time and providing exceptional customer service. Consumers want to support brands who care and prove that they do.

Aligning yourself with a societal issue and making it a part of your business strategy as a whole, rather than just your marketing strategy, is the most powerful tactic you can use to build trust in your brand. Be honest in the communication of your values and ensure that these are represented throughout your entire organization before talking about them in your advertising.

This will allow you to create authentic experiences and ultimately build a stronger brand identity, which will end up paying dividends.

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By Expert commentator

This is a post we've invited from a digital marketing specialist who has agreed to share their expertise, opinions and case studies. Their details are given at the end of the article.

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