Trust me, I’m your favourite brand

Trust me, I’m your favourite brand

Almost every customer trust indicator shows a downward trend. How can businesses build trust while remaining profitable and competitive? And what will trust mean for the next generation of consumers?

How far should consumers trust their favourite brands? With the latest revelations about Cambridge Analytica’s alleged mining of Facebook user data, it’s perhaps unsurprising that consumer trust of brands is firmly on a downward trend. Almost all recent indicators and research show a decline in trust of brands and advertising.

So, what can marketers do to help establish stronger relationships with their customers and build trust?        

“Putting customers at the heart of a brand’s organisation, within its DNA, is key,” says Sharon Whale, chief executive at on-site specialist agency, Oliver UK. “Everyone talks about it, but hardly anyone really does it – especially battle-hardened, legacy brands.”

Indeed, there is still a gap between how focused brands think they are on the consumer – and customers’ actual perceptions. A June 2017 survey by Capgemini’s Digital Transformation Institute, for example, found that while 75% of organisations considered themselves to be ‘customer-centric’, only 30% of consumers agreed. Clearly, much work is required to close that gap – and marketers have a key role in this.

“To do it properly, you must embrace technology and data connectivity, enabling you to anticipate customers’ needs across all channels, creating a seamless, mutually beneficial relationship. It’s all about trust, honesty, both internally and externally,” says Whale.

GDPR and transparency

“With GDPR looming, we are seeing a great shift in power towards consumers when it comes to how brands interact with them,” says John Snyder, chief executive of Grapeshot. “Brands will need to shift their mindset in how they perceive consumers. No longer can they be seen as tradable commodities, where their personal information was freely available on the open market.” 

Snyder believes that the pressure will be on brands to get to know their customers better and earn their affection through relevant interactions, in the right time, right place and with the right content. “Brands will need to drive value through contextually relevant content and creative to prove their worth in a consumer’s life. In turn, this will build trust.”

Tim Mason is chief executive of tech firm Eagle Eye Solutions, and was previously deputy CEO and chief marketing officer of Tesco, where he was responsible for the launch of its Clubcard. He says: “Trust means taking the time to understand your customers and demonstrate this in the way you engage with them. Impersonal or, worse still, inappropriate marketing erodes the goodwill a business or brand can build up with a regular, loyal customer.”

Mason believes that, while GDPR raises the bar for data protection, businesses have the opportunity to make extra assurances to customers as to how their data is used: “Where data is collected, I also think a business or brand should develop and publish its own ‘customer charter’ on how it’s used.”

James Ray, CEO of Armadillo CRM, believes the industry should be harnessing the opportunities offered by personalisation to help dial up engagement by delivering compelling brand stories and propositions. “But close monitoring and scrutiny of trust metrics is also essential to ensure the tone and weight of data comms doesn’t start to have a negative impact on this engagement.”

The benefit of platforms

“Brands add value by making customer experiences relevant and personalised,” agrees Snyder of Grapeshot. “But the internet is its own living, breathing entity that is constantly changing; it’s harder than ever for marketers to deliver relevant messages at the right time.”

Platforms that enable marketers to analyse trends are therefore crucially important to building customer relationships. “Marketers need to be gaining intelligence in real time so their interactions with a consumer are constantly evolving just like our own likes and loves from one moment to the next,” he says. “Personalisation should be seen as an ever-evolving reflection of the consumer’s own interests, as they wander around the digital and analogue world. Marketers therefore need to be constantly automating and evolving the next recommendation based on current and previous behaviours.”

From a practical perspective, brands can also use ‘owned’ platforms, such as the company website and social media channels, to demonstrate their commitment to transparency and ethical marketing. Indeed, this is an opportunity to involve customers with the day-to-day operation of the business. Not only is this transparency in practice, but it builds engagement and trust too.

Transparency can reap rewards

So, what will trust mean for the next generation of consumers? “It’s going to be a form of contract,” says Ray of Armadillo. “Consumers will be trading their data with every brand they engage with, and expecting them to use it to anticipate and meet their needs perfectly in return. Brands that do this successfully, responsibly and transparently will win, and those that don’t will be the losers.”

Sharon Whale of Oliver believes transparency is the key: “Trust is built on authenticity, and to the next generation, that means transparency. Sourcing of product, how it was made, sustainability, authentic ingredients – no weaseling out of it. Having a genuine brand purpose, rather than just on-off corporate social responsibility initiatives, can help achieve that trust, that believability.”

In essence, the trust in the future will come down to how well brands respond to customers. In the words of Whale: “It’s a two-way relationship and consumers will want to feel personally tailored to. They’ll want the in-store experience to be as seamless and interactive as it is online - so you can’t rely on super-polished celebrities, airbrushed to perfection. The next generation of consumers want reality, and would much rather you answer their FAQs efficiently than just shove a flavour-of-the-week influencer their way.”

If you're a CIM member, listen to our webinar on the future of branding on demand now. 

Phil Lattimore Journalist and Editor
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