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A complex construct

Do you recall the time, back in the days, where the world was less digital? Purchases were made physically in a shop, and contact with the staff was unavoidable. With skilled and friendly employees and excellent face-to-face customer service, a company could win over almost every interested client. Through direct interaction, it was not too hard to gain a customer’s trust. 

These days most industries have their marketplaces online and (thanks to) globalization a wide range of offers and information can be accessed and above all compared. As a consequence expectations of consumers are rising and trust as well as loyalty is decreasing. This imbalance is challenging companies because losing consumer trust means losing business.

This is not another article talking about 10 ideas that increase trust. Instead, it examines different factors that influence a client’s trust, because there are no shortcuts or magic tricks to gain trust.

Let’s start and see what we found out!

Trust is always trust?

When thinking about client trust nowadays, many businesses associate it immediately with data security and consumers fear of data breaches. This is an important pillar, however, is a way more complex construct. On the one side, people with Airbnb give their complete trust to strangers by handing over their house keys while others are traveling with strangers through BlaBlaCar, Cabify, or Uber. On the other side, trusting companies is not as naturally given. It might seem that especially in the sharing economy, digital technologies make trusting “easier” or “more convenient”. 

Humans unconsciously seek or are even programmed to be connected with others. The internet is building here a comfortable bridge to build relationships with one another, apart from the location. The concept of sharing economy businesses lies in the trust that gets built through the platform. Some models are nurturing personal interaction between the “contract partners” which have mostly no institutional character as they are private individuals. Probably an Airbnb user with a bunch of good reviews seems more like someone a consumer would like to identify and in the end place his trust, than a big corporation which states like a black box.

Nevertheless, consumers are looking for a similar kind of relationship with brands. Interaction with different touchpoints will significantly impact a client’s perception of a company.

86% of respondents would be more confident to trust when knowing how given information/data is used in order to give better experience.

Consumers are getting more concerned

According to a report of Salesforce Research consumers are quite concerned trusting businesses. While a bit more than half of the interviewed people imply companies don’t have the best interests for their data, almost 60% believe that given personal information is vulnerable to a security breach. 

Due to simple automated processes which allow personalized emails, businesses may assume this creates a personal approach to clients. The truth is, these companies have to wake up, consumers are not impressed by that anymore. The majority of consumers does not want to be one number out of many, but a person who is treated as one. How can you trust someone who doesn’t treat you as an individual?

A crucial point, according to the Salesforce Research report, is that consumers expect in return for sharing their data a significant improvement and personalization of their whole customer experience. In total, 86% of respondents would be more confident to trust when knowing how given information/data is used in order to give better experience. Gained insights about customers can be f.e. used to personalize user experience on a website. According to the customer type, companies can display different layouts, colors and products.

Especially for younger generations, Gen X and Millennials, social values play a significant role when it comes to trust. Care about the environment and equal rights are two important aspects that lead to having a positive effect on their trust.

Can you define “trust”?

Before having a look at factors affecting a consumer’s perception of digital brands, we should take a step back to define what trust is. We have been using the term “trust” since the beginning of this article without any definition. While most likely the majority of readers haven’t thought twice about its meaning, we need to tell at this point, it is not as easy to grasp as assumed. As earlier mentioned, trust is complicated. Doing a little poll right now with the question: “What is trust?” would bring similar answers: many people would associate and define trust with reliability, comfort, commitment, safety or certainty and also belief in someone or something. 

Surprisingly the concept of trust is slightly different. According to Rachel Botsman trust is basically unnecessary if one can be sure about the outcome and has no fear to risk anything. She describes trust “as a confident relationship with the unknown and as the foundation of every action, relationship, and transaction.” 

After having had a closer look at the term “trust”, we were curious to find out what factors determine whether consumers decide to trust or not. A longer research helped us to identify the most significant and repeating influencers.

What factors influence consumer’s trust?

Many diverse factors can influence a client’s online brand trust. Individuals give to each a different weight of importance. In the end, it all comes down to the following main trust influencers:

Brand Reputation & Corporate Values
What do I hear about this brand?
Does it fit my personal values?
Does it work with partners I don’t like?

Can I be sure the brand is willing to keep its promises – also with occurring issues – and satisfying my needs?
Can I rely on the company has my best interests in mind?
Is the brand authentic?

Security & Privacy & perceived Risk
Is the website of the brand secure?
Do I feel comfortable sharing my data with the company?

What do I hear from family and friends?
How does people on Social Media talk about the brand?
Do I trust the opinions of others?

Good Customer Experience
How is (was) my (past) experience along the customer journey? 
Was the experience fitting my needs?

Quality of Content & Transparency of Information
How good are the accessible information about company and products?
What level of transparency is the brand providing?
Did I find what I was looking for?

Do you need to support with strengthen your customers’ trust? Contact us to build your strategy!

Establish trust and building long-term relationships in the digital age is the golden discipline. Every relationship needs trust as a pillar to build its foundation. It is now more critical than ever. In times of data breaches and website security concerns, businesses should even more focus on sustainable relations with clients instead of short-term goals. It’s not a secret that trusting clients are more likely to stay loyal and are less price sensitive.