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Maximising Your Brand's 'Trust Currency'

Friday 14 December, 2012
In this increasingly complex social marketplace, consumer trust is emerging as the new currency you cannot trade. As the strength of this currency increases, it falls upon brands to create their own stable 'Trust Economies' that will weather the rise and fall of the external local and global movements around them. So just why has trust become so important to consumers? And how do you, as a brand, build your own Trust Economy to build loyal and profitable customer relationships?

Trust currency definition: "A system of such firm and absolute belief in the reliability, truth and ability of someone or something that you are willing to spend to receive it or recommend it to others."

The Ebeltoft Group through their research, have identified what the drivers are behind building a brands' Trust Economy, and which orgnaisaions are most successful in building such trust amongst their clients.

The results prove, beyond doubt, the value of trust as a currency. According to the research, trust helps organisations improve their performance due to three main factors:

  • Recommendations
  • Increasing future expectations
  • Preference of one organisation over its competitors

The Trust Research key findings

To really understand the value of trust, Ebeltoft Group researched the trust standards for each country and sector, as well as what the key trust components and levers were. What makes a Trust Champion? How do they achieve such high trust scores and what can we learn from them?  The research identified the following key findings:

  • The strongest driver of trust all over the world is reliability. No surprises. No deception. Just the absolute fulfillment of customers' expectations every single time and the complete understanding that non-fulfillment is your biggest trust threat
  • The corporate strength of an established brand is necessary - but not sufficient - to build trust
  • Staff and effort contribute to high trust, but being weak in these areas does not necessarily prevent brands from receiving good overall trust scores. However, extraordinarily high trust scores do depend on staff
  • Brand trust is driven by honesty, advertising credibility and customer orientation. In our world of incredible connectivity, brands are being punished more easily for dishonesty and inconsistent communications
  • A lower price positioning makes it more difficult to win trust, but some manage to, primarily when developing and offering their own brands
  • Customers will trust brands because they respect them. A brand's commitment must be sincere, not a "payback calculation"
  • While trust has only a slightly positive influence on the frequency of visits, trust significantly increases consumers' propensity to prefer the organisation as a first choice and to recommend the organisation to others
  • The higher the trust value, the less important is the image of an organisation for the choice priority
  • The higher the trust value, the more the customer excuses an unsatisfactory last buying experience

Learning from the Trust Champions - 10 tips to building trust

  1. Build a meaningful relationship with your customers

    Exploring the emotional drivers, motives and needs of your customers is essential to connect with them. Make it about them and position yourself as their reliable and understanding problem-solver. Only communicate and make relevant offers based upon your profound understanding of them.
  2. Genuinely care about your customers

    Trust Champions genuinely care about their customers and staff. Meeting customer needs and being sensitive to their desires are priorities for all Trust Champions - whether it's price, professional service, ease of shopping or product quality.
  3. Build a brand they love to build brand love

    Create a unique, distinctive and consistent brand identity. Trust is always related to certain expectations and their repeated fulfilment.  Make it your mission to show you love your brand at every single place a consumer can experience it. 
  4. Trust your customer first

    Give your customers some trust credit, too! Yes, trusting someone can be risky as you can never be sure of the outcome, but in order to facilitate the trust of another party, giving them some trust credit is a good strategy. Trusting others makes them trust you. One possible action here is to have an accommodating return policy or to promise money back if disappointed.  This shows that you trust them to do the right thing, as you're seeking what's best for them, and they understand there is a risk associated for you.  Trust Champions create a two-way trust between themselves and their consumers eg. a "No-questions-asked" return policy or even returns without a receipt and the ability to test products at home and return if you don't like them.
  5. Empower and value your employees

    A strong emotional bond between retailers and their own people has shown to build trust, especially if the company is a sought-after place to work, with profit sharing programs, special bonuses, or even being a ‘cool place to work'.

    Trust Champions treat both their customers and employees as a family, creating a strong emotional connection with consumers (I love this store) as well as staff (I love working here). Staff members are an integral part of the organisation's 'family' where a decentralised team culture values and empowers employees. Staff work in teams and participate in the hiring process for new team members.
  6. Show your mission and passion

    Trust Champions have a clearly defined mission statement that conveys the strong, fundamental driving force behind the company forming the framework of all decisions against which performance is measured.

    Trust Champions are passionate about their company and their products and have passion and pride in their offer whether it's a superlative product or service or by being the most efficient. Trust Champions also perpetuate the values that reflect the personality of the company's founders.
  7. Become an icon of your own country

    Trust Champions reflect the best in their country of origin, and are icons in their own country.  They also have a strong national identity and are representatives of their culture.  
  8. Innovate and lead!

    While all Trust Champions are long-established companies, they are still constantly evolving, keeping abreast of changing consumer trends, innovating with pioneering formats, exploring different target markets and pursuing new opportunities. Innovation, leading-edge concepts and keeping up-to-date are of paramount importance in their maintenance as market leaders. Trust Champions are described as leaders, pioneers and mavericks. 
  9. Cross-channel Integration

    Trust is an important attribute for success in e-commerce. Organisation's with a strong e-commerce strategy and a strong trust position have a major advantage in this growing retail channel, where purchase decisions are largely based on trusting the vendor. However, e-commerce can´t be viewed in an isolated way. E-commerce must be integrated in an appropriate cross-channel strategy and building trust and business fitness in a cross-channel environment requires a consistent and integrated communication across all channels.
  10. Have a genuine concern with ethics, environment and societal issues

    All Trust Champions have programs that address some of today's foremost social issues. These values especially attract today's younger generations.

Now it's time for you to start building your own brand Trust Economy. Start by setting the business reliability goals from the top to the bottom and measure them constantly against a pre-determined set of KPIs. If you can ensure this reliability flows through every aspect of the business, then you can instill this in your company DNA. Quite simply, this is the most fundamental aspect of business fitness. When this is in place, monitor your own trustworthiness and build your customer loyalty and profitability.      

Author Credits

Brian Walker is the chief advisor of retail business fitness in Australia. As CEO of Retail Doctor Group, a company he established in 2005, Brian has steered his business to become the leading retail consulting firm, specialising in cross-channel retail, franchise and service sectors in every retail category. To hear about his upcoming Business Fitness breakfast series or to subscribe to his free Retail Barometer newsletter with articles and tips on business fitness, contact buisnessfitness@retaildoctor.com.au
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