5 Elements for Building
Last year’s explosion of digital shopping eroded the trust that many brands enjoyed pre-pandemic. The hiccups that these companies faced in the frantic transition to digital led to high levels of customer disloyalty: McKinsey reported that 65% of consumers across the globe tried a new shopping habit since the beginning of the pandemic, leaving brand loyalty behind.
While it takes a lot of work to cultivate trust, it just takes one mistake to break it. Whether you’re a B2B or a B2C, here are some ways to ensure that you develop trusted relationships with your customers.
It’s perhaps an obvious point, but trust is something that’s built over time. This is particularly important to remember for businesses whose first interactions with their customers are through digital interfaces. You can’t just ask a random visitor to your website for their credit card number. You have to build up to that. Luckily, there are some straightforward guidelines that can help you start new trustworthy relationships off on the right foot.
Based on Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the UI/UX consulting firm Nielsen Norman Group has established a simple formula for developing relationships incrementally, called the Hierarchy of Trust. It’s represented by a pyramid—higher levels can’t be attained before more basic principles of trust are established.
As a relationship with a brand develops, customers’ needs change. And as long as the company is able to consistently deliver on those needs, then companies in turn can make demands of customers.
What do you do? That is the first question that visitors and potential customers coming to your site will want answered. Being able to answer that question simply and clearly goes a long way toward establishing one of the foundational aspects of a trustworthy relationship: relevance. Are you actually offering what your customers want?
Take Spotify’s home page as an example: its brand message instantly explains the product and its own obsession with music to potential users. The message is a way of saying to its potentially music-obsessed clientele, “Hey: we get you.” Notice how the CTA button at the bottom of the page says “Get Spotify Free.” Spotify hasn’t established enough trust to ask for customers' credit card information. So instead, it provides customers with the chance to experience the Spotify product and gauge its value, putting a price on a premium experience later.
The instinct is often for more: more exciting, more adventurous, more cutting-edge. But when it comes to branding, none of those can really benefit you until you’ve established a consistent experience. In today’s hybrid world, consistency requires attenuation to every customer touchpoint, whether that’s in-person meetings, your website, third-party marketing materials, or socials. Consumers are in the process of constantly evaluating whether or not they can trust your brand, so it’s important to define visual and messaging guidelines to ensure that you’re always on target. Consider using responsive design to ensure the same quality of experience across desktop, mobile, and tablet devices.
This is Slack’s mobile app, redesigned in 2020 to make it more consistent with the upgraded desktop experience.
More than ever, customers care about the ethics and values of a given company. According to a survey conducted by the agency Hotwire, 51% of global consumers will try to buy from companies with a social purpose. And as a result, 68% of global business leaders say that companies have to take social purpose seriously. If you can prove to your customers that your company’s doing good in the world, they’re likely to infer that you have their best interests at heart, too.
It’s not enough to virtue signal on Twitter anymore (was it ever?)—consumers and employees are calling for businesses to bake social responsibility into their missions. Take Warby Parker: the direct-to-consumer glasses company was founded with a desire to make a socially-conscious business from the ground up. The company wrote that idea into its brand message: “Good Eyewear with Good Outcomes.” With every pair of glasses a person buys, the company donates another pair to people around the world who don’t have access to eyewear. And it’s been doing that from the beginning.
If you have a similarly socially driven business, follow Warby Parker’s example, and include a direct link to your company’s policies in the footer of your website, ensuring that curious customers have ways of verifying information for themselves.
More than anything, people are protective of their personal information. Their credit card info, their phone number, their address, their gender. Asking questions about personal information will instantly raise a potential customer’s suspicions, as will not providing proper data protection.
We often tend to think of financial details as the pieces of information that customers want to protect the most. But there’s another kind of data that feels even more valuable these days—health data. According to the W2O Group, 70% of consumers believe that health data shouldn’t be shared, or at least shouldn’t be shared without their permission.
So what do you do when you have to ask for personal information, even when you know your customers are loath to give up? Compromise by being transparent about what you’re using it for, and make sharing it optional. If you tell people exactly why you’re trying to capture information, that transparency often leads to people being more willing to offer it up.
The most important aspect of brand trust in the 21st century is also the hardest to define. Your potential customers or clients want to know everything about you—from how you treat your employees to how you’re helping curb carbon emissions. One of the difficulties of operating in a transparent manner is simply making sure that information gets into the hands of your customers in a way that they can understand.
The primary CTA on Patagonia’s home page isn’t about shopping at all: It’s about taking political action.
Consider linking to your company’s policies in the footer of your site—and leaving more room on product pages to leave detailed descriptions of your products, to give you the chance to flaunt the positive steps you’re taking all across the supply chain, just like Patagonia.
Trust can’t be established in one fell swoop. It takes sustained effort and time, especially in these uncertain moments when previously standard patterns of behavior have been disrupted. Really, the best way to get customers to trust you on a deeper level is to perfect the usability of your site: if you can make an experience for them that’s been designed with their needs in mind, then you’ll find that your customers and clients will keep coming back.
written by Eliza Martin & designed by Jeremiah McNair
step by step
Trust the Process
(and Keeping) Brand Trust
Trust is at the heart of our relationships, it’s central to our election process, it’s a primary determinant in the concept of money and how we spend it. Brands put such a premium on gaining consumers’ trust because it’s the foundation that all business is built upon—both internally between employers and employees, and externally between consumer and provider.
PYRAMID OF TRUST
NO TRUST ESTABLISHED YET
Willingness to commit to a long-term relationshipp
Sensitive / financial Informatiom
Interest and Preference over other options
Baseline Relevance and trust that needs Can be met
Source: Warby Parker
HOVER TO EXPLORE