Brand loyalty in customers translates directly into increased revenue and profit, so this is an area that companies need to invest in.
But how are companies supposed to build brand trust in a deregulated and decentralised arena such as the Internet, in which consumer choice is almost infinite? Massive breaches of personal data by big companies and governments have caused many to be wary of where they allocate their details and their trust, especially on the web. Despite this, the emergence of digital platforms has also created many new opportunities for brands to create and maintain trust. Mechanisms for building trust These mechanisms include:
“Social proof” for a product, service or brand
Welcoming community feedback online
Providing extreme transparency
“Social proof” strengthens brand trust. This can involve incorporating social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter or Google+ into the consumer process. For example, AirBnb uses Facebook accounts to “personalise the experience”. Users are able to filter search results to show listings that friends have reviewed, or where they have mutual friends with a host. Buyers and sellers thus interact as real people rather than as detached components in a solely commercial relationship. Hosting consumer reviews and welcoming community feedback allows customers to talk to each other and discuss the benefits of the service, thus reinforcing the openness of the brand. Companies such as Amazon have embedded customer reviews into the purchasing process in order to help guide the customer. Positive word-of-mouth recommendations don’t just help to build brand trust; it helps to maintain it over time as well. Extreme transparency is one of the most important engines of building brand trust. When a customer feels like they know and understand what they are buying into they are more likely to continue to invest into it, both emotionally and financially. US clothing brand Everlane incorporated the concept of transparency into its brand philosophy when it decided to show the manufacturing process in detail on its site, including costs for materials, labour, transportation and even the mark up, creating a customer base for itself. Four ways to build brand trust Though businesses have been using the power of social media in marketing for some time, the creation and exchange of user-generated information has offered companies numerous ways to create and maintain trust among consumers. This is all the more important given that younger generations who have grown up in the age of digital communications are more likely to be emotionally invested in social media. 1. Communicating value Social media offers companies the perfect platform to interact with their customers and to communicate their expertise in a given industry, by providing great content that users will share with others. This helps to position a brand as an authority in their field, rather than just passively existing as an opportunity for customers to buy a product or a service. 2. Accountability By being openly engaged in social media and fostering interaction with customers, companies ensure that they are accountable for providing products and customer service. This also links in with the idea of brand transparency mentioned earlier. 3. Customer communication Responding to customer complaints on social media means that a business’ service is open to scrutiny by a large audience. This visibility should be embraced as good customer service can turn into great testimonials. 4. Fun engagement Like communicating value to customers, using entertainment on social media to interact with an audience is a sure-fire way to build and maintain trust. The use of contests, apps, videos and infographics provides a brand with value outside of its services. Building trust infrastructures has become a much harder task for companies since commercial relationships moved from primarily physical interactions to the digital sphere. Nevertheless, many companies have employed effective and active strategies to create and maintain emotional investment among their customers to ensure their loyalty and commitment. Amen Sharma runs the online penny auction site Mr. Bid.
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