In a context of tanking consumer trust, how can brands foster authentic relationships and encourage confidence in their customers? Here's how innovators are addressing key consumer concerns and needs to garner trust and encourage loyalty

A new research and science-based platform recently launched to help consumers discover and connect with holistic health care providers. Called Kenshō, the site was created to address a lingering consumer need for reliability when it comes to finding the best offers for them—and requires companies listed on its platform to undergo a thorough vetting process. By using terms like “safe,” “verified,” “experienced” and “real” on its site, Kenshō is trying to overcome the lacking confidence consumers can have in new businesses appearing online.

The creation of this platform points to an overarching trend PSFK researchers have been tracking related to consumer confidence in the brands and services they interact with. Over the past month, we've explored topics like the popularity of peer-to-peer exchange and new privacy demands, as well as how these both are reshaping the way that brands and retailers relate to their consumers by cultivating relationships built on mutual understanding and reliability. Looking back, we found one common and important sub-thread present that we feel merits a spotlight of its own: trust, and how brands today can foster it.

Gaining the confidence of consumers today is no easy feat: Just one third of surveyed respondents reported trusting most of the brands they buy with, while 55% are increasingly concerned about customer experience and 69% about a brand's societal impact (1). But does whether consumers trust brands or not matter? Evidence says overwhelmingly yes, with 81% of consumers stating that a top consideration in purchasing with a brand is being able to trust it to “do what is right,” and 70% connecting their past purchases with trust-related considerations like reputation, values and eco impact (1). Further, when it comes to important or high-stakes purchases like the financial or medical, roughly 90% of U.S. and U.K. residents prefer doing business with established brands over startups (2).

So, how to encourage cynical consumers to hand over their faith in a climate where the most trusted brands are overwhelmingly CPGers, and the top trustee is none other than the USPS (3)? First, a quick look at where consumers want most to hold brands accountable: According to Edelman research, product experience figures as the top area where consumers need to trust brands, followed by consumer experience and finally societal impact (1). Moreover, customers want brands that have strong values and take a stand, with 78% of Americans stating companies should positively impact society and 77% reporting that they feel a stronger emotional connection to purpose-driven groups (4).

Startups and established names alike are finding ways to integrate trust-encouraging practices into their business models—and even build new ones centered around building confidence and rapport. To address product and experience-oriented concerns, highlighted above as top of mind, retailers are taking the following steps: LVMH selected product authentification tech startup Entrupy to join its brand incubator, eBay debuted its own program that verifies more expensive purchases like watches or jewelry to build shopper confidence, and Amazon established an IP Accelerator designed to connect the e-tailer's vendors with law firms that can help the former trademark property to protect against fraud production.

But what about some more general guidelines that brands and retailers can follow to encourage consumer confidence and foster loyalty? Here are a few drawn from PSFK research:

Ensure End-To-End Transparency

For brands today, creating a platform built on transparency is not just about sharing product information—it is also about empowering consumers with simple, direct tools to trace supply chains and buy into a brand that is clear about the realities of production. H&M is a prime example of a retailer that has taken a variety of measures to make manufacturing processes, and, more broadly, businesses ethics, clear and accessible to customers.

Offer Digital Agency

As data and privacy concerns take center stage, brands are faced with a number of questions on how best to handle data. Despite the benefits of data sharing, mishandling of data can be disastrous. Organizations that rely on data to service their customers can still establish themselves as trustworthy proprietors of customers’ security by informing users how, when and why data is being leveraged and empowering them to manage their own data. A great way to involve consumers more and establish rapport is by giving them opt-in experiences allowing insight and control over sharing personal information in exchange for incentives, rewards and convenience.

Align The Mission

Brands can commit to being a force for positive change, introducing consumers to impact-driving initiatives and inspirational content through curiosity-provoking, socially-conscious narratives alongside compelling entertainment to create deep connections. One way is by collaborating with other brands or changemakers to tackle a challenge that aligns with the core principles of a brand and provide ongoing updates on progress.

To conclude, a final and important element for purpose-led brands: From Tom's and Sweetgreen to Patagonia, so many top names today are mission-driven. But integrating the right purpose for a business is crucial, and not as easy as it might seem: As Afdhel Aziz, founder of social impact consultancy Conspiracy of Love and author of Good Is The New Cool: How To Market Like You Give A Damn, told PSFK, for a business to be sustainable long-term, its purpose must also be profitable. That way, the more a business grows, the more impact it can drive—and the more confidence and trust it can earn in the eyes of today's conscious consumers.

Sources:

(1) In Brands We Trust? Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report. Edelman, 2019.

(2) “Global Consumer Trust Data.” SurveyMonkey, Inc., 2018.

(3) “The State of Consumer Trust.” Most Trusted Brands 2020. Morning Consult, 2019.

(4) “How to Build Deeper Bonds, Amplify Your Message and Expand Your Consumer Base.” Cone/Porter Novelli, 2018.