6 Ways to make trust your essential brand differentiator

Thursday, August 1, 2019

In business, they say your reputation is everything. This couldn’t be more true in today’s digital age, where just one brand blunder can alienate customers, break trust, and stop consumers from buying from your brand.

Our research shows that 90% of online shoppers have chosen not to purchase from a company because of its bad reputation. Customers pay attention to brand reputation, and most decide to take (or not take) action based on what they hear about a company.

Reputation management may have once been a passive tactic that brands used only if something went wrong at their organisation. But today, brands of all sizes must have a proactive reputation management plan that prioritises ongoing communication and transparency if they want to get customers to trust and buy from them.

To see which parts of a brand’s reputation matter most to customers, we surveyed nearly 1,700 online shoppers from major markets around the world, and found that:

  • Online reputation is the No. 1 way to improve trust with customers. Over 93% said they read reviews before buying online from an unfamiliar company.
  • Nearly 62% of online shoppers perform a search for the company when unfamiliar with it and few are likely to buy if they see negative reviews on the first page of the search results.
  • Nearly 48% of online shoppers had recommended a brand to others because of its stance on social issues.
  • Almost 83% of Gen Zers, the up-and-coming generation of consumers, said they’d recommended others stop purchasing from a brand with a bad reputation.

If your brand wants to connect with new consumers, keep existing customers, and build lasting brand affinity, loyalty, and trust, building a strong brand reputation is key. To help you identify how to do that, here are the top brand reputation and trust trends you need to know.

Top Brand Reputation and Trust Trends

Online reputation management has never been as important as it is today

Our survey found that customers care more about brand reputation than ever before. They are primarily influenced by information they find online and are more likely to trust brands with an active and modern online presence, transparent approach to feedback, and willingness to share their brand’s mission.

On the other hand, brands can quickly lose the trust of consumers when they are silent, secretive, or presenting an outdated online presence. Customers want to be able to search for and find information about a brand online, and they lose trust in brands that have outdated websites (77%), unsecured websites (88.4%), or no online reviews whatsoever (81%).

Trust in advertising continues to plunge. According to a study by Credos, an industry think tank, and Mediatel, a top UK publisher, favourable opinions of advertising hit a low of 25% during December of 2018.

As customers lose trust in traditional advertising, more and more buyers rely on online research to inform their purchasing decisions. Customers research brands before they buy, and what they find can have a big impact on how they feel about a brand and whether they want to do business with them.

Survey respondents said online reputation was the No. 1 way to improve trust with customers, and 61.9% of online shoppers performed a search of the company if they were unfamiliar with it.

But the importance of an online presence isn’t something that only matters when customers are at home researching from their desktops. Google research shows that 42% of in-store customers conduct research online while in a store. Brands must realise that customers have access to their online reputation at any time, anywhere. As shoppers use their phones and tablets to research on the go, a brand’s online reputation and visibility are more important than ever.

Customers search to compare pricing (77.5%), look for secure payment processing (66.2%), perform a general search on the brand (61.9%), and look for coupons and discounts (60%). However, the most important thing customers look for are reviews (93.4%).

Reviews are the backbone of a brand’s reputation.

Reading reviews is almost always a part of the customer research process. Today, 93% of customers read reviews before buying online, and reviews have become the second best way (next to having a strong online reputation) to build trust with consumers.

When brands collect reviews and make them public, consumers see that as an indicator of transparency and trustworthiness. Even just one customer review can drastically increase trust. Indeed, only 9.3% of people would trust a company with zero reviews, whereas nearly 60% would trust a company with only one review.

When considering reviews, customers can see through fake or fabricated feedback, and trust ratings that look more authentic. In fact, customers are slightly more likely to trust a brand with a range of reviews than a brand that has only positive reviews.

Today’s customers are also more aware that some fake reviews are out there. A recent customer review study found as many as 52% of reviews on Walmart.com and 30% of the reviews on Amazon.com were fake, inauthentic, and unreliable. This is why it’s important for reviews to be on a platform that customers know is actively working to flag and remove fake feedback.

Authentic, accurate, and truthful reviews lead to more trust, and even negative reviews can allow you to rebuild relationships with your customer base, identify areas of development, and improve customer experience in the long run. Companies have begun to address these concerns offering through a variety of best practices including the ability for customers to flag fraudulent reviews, investment in machine learning to identify fake reviews, and the encouragement of a more open dialog between reviewers.

Our study also found that reviews aren’t the only thing that can substantially change customer opinions and alter their buying decisions.

A brand’s stance on social issues can change customer opinion.

Whether it’s leading the charge on large ethical issues (Patagonia), or simply reimagining makeup as skin care (Glossier), brand reputation and values can impact customer buying decisions and brand affinity.

In our study, 44.3% of British shoppers and 41.5% of American shoppers said their trust in a brand increased when it took a position on social issues. Younger generations, in particular, were more likely to care about a brand’s stance on social issues. Millennials were most likely to make purchases based on a company’s social stance, followed by Gen Zers (which are the two youngest demographics of buyers).

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