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Trust Gone Bust: Why Consumers Are Losing Faith + How Brands Can Get It Back

Updated: Apr 30

Trust has never been more critical for brands than it is right now. That’s because several factors have been testing consumers’ trust in brands in recent years. The pandemic disrupted factors that engender trust, such as having products available on store shelves and reliable, familiar staff, and for some industries there are still lingering kinks in the system. The rise of drop shipping means customers don’t necessarily know who they’re buying from or where products come from, and thus cannot develop a trusting relationship with the brand. The traditional funnel of awareness > consideration > research > purchase has been condensed to a span of seconds by the opportunity to buy with a single click on Tik Tok, with many shoppers left ruing rash decisions. The effect on trust is pronounced: consumers are 3X more likely to say they have lost trust in companies than gained trust in companies in the past year, according to empatiX Consulting proprietary research.

Consumers feel vulnerable as they continue to confront the unexpected. Faith in financial services eroded when Silicon Valley Bank collapsed. In the case of home insurance, people in some markets feel abandoned by brands they’ve worked with for years as premiums skyrocket. Trust in healthcare companies is lagging. In its annual survey, PwC found a widening gap between consumers who “highly trust” businesses and leaders who feel their industry is highly trusted, with one of the largest gaps being in the healthcare industry where trust declined year over year.

These shifts are signifiers that consumers’ expectations aren’t understood or being met by the brands they work with—either because declining performance on known drivers of trust, or, potentially, lack of awareness of emerging drivers based on consumers’ evolving lifestyles and needs. If you haven’t recently examined your brand’s drivers of trust, now is the time.

Trust is a catalyst in driving desired outcomes among consumers. According to Forrester, “data shows that a consumer’s level of trust in a company drives revenue-generating behaviors such as the likelihood to purchase again, preference for a company over competitors, trial of unrelated products, and propensity to share personal data.”

To begin to re-establish trust with your consumers, here are some core strategies:

  • (Re)Explore the consumer journey. Identify areas of friction or barriers that are undermining the experience and address them. Capture touch point feedback along the journey to pinpoint opportunity areas.

  • Set expectations + communicate. When consumers understand what to expect and when—and see brands deliver—their confidence grows. Act with transparency, sharing how customer data is used, why an experience wasn’t delivered, and what the brand is doing to support social good.

  • Increase consumer engagement. Expand your ongoing relationship with consumers, looking beyond moments of purchase, to maintain trust over time.

Whether you want to take a fresh look at brand drivers, examine your consumer journey, or gain contextual insights from your customers, empatiX is your trusted advisor to help you solve your toughest challenges. Reach out to discuss our solutions at Together, we’ve got this!

By: Melanie Shreffler, VP Cultural Strategy + Insights

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