Your Guide to Building Consumer Trust, Online and Off

When it comes to building consumer trust, online and off, today’s business owners are often faced with a unique challenge: consumers are smarter, more savvy, and less trusting than ever before. With a wealth of information at their fingertips, customers have never been more informed.

From third party review sites to an oversaturation of targeted advertising, potential buyers have likely interacted with your brand before stepping foot into your business. Plus, they’ve already made judgments about your business based on those interactions.

As a result, businesses are confronted with a simple truth: your online reputation matters just as much as the in-person experience. Moreover, building consumer trust online and maintaining that trust at every touchpoint is critical.

Why build consumer trust?

While it sounds simple enough, understanding the business opportunity behind building consumer trust is important. According to the Edelman Brand Trust survey, 81% of consumers say that trust in brands is an important part of their purchase behavior. However, only 33% say they trust the brands they buy.

Think about that: most people say that when they trust a brand, they will buy more from them. But, most consumers rarely find a brand worth trusting. For businesses who are willing to invest in building trust, there lies an incredible opportunity.

When you take this approach to gain customer loyalty, remember that building trust doesn’t happen overnight; the key word here is, “build.” At every step of the buyer’s journey, from online to in-store, take that opportunity to wow the customer and show that you’re the most trustworthy option. Over time, these impressions will build into trust that will be difficult to break. According to InMoment, 80% of customers gradually gained loyalty for a brand over time, due to experiences with excellent products, service, reviews, advice, etc. Let’s take a look at how businesses can achieve this ambitious goal with potential customers, both online and off.

Online

It’s no secret that any consumer looking to make a purchase will likely start by gathering information online. As a result, you not only need to be visible in a Google search, but you need to be viewed as a transparent company with a high-quality customer experience. Here’s how you can take the steps to get there:

Verified business information

Regardless of your industry, this simple step is key to establishing a basic level of trust: that you are a legitimate business. To start, create a Google My Business account and follow the steps to verify your business. You can follow the same steps on platforms like Facebook, plus you can check sites related to your industry to see if you can verify your business elsewhere.

While verifying business information isn’t quite the same as getting a blue check mark on social media, it carries a similar weight to consumers. Think about the last time you searched for a business on Google. You likely saw an information panel on the right side of your screen giving you all kinds of information about this organization: location, website, reviews, etc.

If you searched for a business and didn’t see that, you would likely feel a little uneasy—and far less likely to purchase with them. By taking this simple step, you’re establishing a basic level of trust right away with potential buyers.

Website

When it comes to your website, you may feel pressure to have a unique design and use this opportunity to blow the customer away. Whether or not you’re able to invest in that, keep in mind that the content is more important than the presentation.

Remember, potential buyers are looking to gather information. What’s actually most important for your website is that they can easily navigate and find what they’re looking for.

Whether that’s product/service information, ways to contact your business, pricing, or the history of your company, all of this should be accessible and easy to find on your website. In addition to anticipating the information customers are looking for, building more trust in your business will come from additional information to help persuade the consumer.

This is your opportunity to showcase transparency in your business, and perhaps highlight testimonials of satisfied customers. Plus, you can begin to build a connection with buyers when you share the core values and mission of your company. When consumers see humanity, transparency, and fairness, they’ll see that they can trust you with their time and money.

website

Social media

While you may find social media tedious or unnecessary, the value of utilizing these platforms lies in building that underlying trust. It may not be necessary to make a sale, but it is valuable in building a loyal base of repeat customers.

Just like people who have personal profiles on social media, you’ll notice that what your followers want from your business is authenticity. If you’re simply sharing posts asking people to buy your product or service, you’ll struggle to gain followers who care about your message. What you should post:

  • Behind the scenes of your business
  • Content to educate your audience
  • Happy customers
  • Your company culture
  • Values that define your business
  • Replies to customers in real time

When people see real life customers, the people behind the business, and added value outside of the monetary transaction, you’ll start to build consumer trust online that will eventually affect the bottom line.

Reviews

While a testimonial on your website is extremely valuable, what customers trust the most is, well, other customers. Remember, people are unlikely to trust a business, and they’ll first turn to peers and reviews on third party sites to gather information. This could be reviews on Google, an industry publication, or Yelp.

In general, businesses have to understand that third party review sites are out of their control. In fact, that’s the reason they exist. However, you can encourage satisfied customers to leave a review.

Either by sending them an email or offering a business card, empower your customers to give honest feedback. Not only will this increase the likelihood that you receive more positive reviews, but it also shows that you’re eager to improve and want to hear from your customers.

Additionally, ensure that you are checking in on these reviews and responding regularly. Even when a customer voices a negative experience, you can sometimes win them back if you handle the situation well. This ensures that you never miss out on an opportunity to keep a customer.

Offline

Remember, once you’re interacting with a customer offline, they’ve already read reviews, visited your website, and learned all the information they can. At this point, it’s still not safe to assume you’ve won the consumer’s trust and loyalty—but you’re close. Here’s how you close the deal and show that you’re worth trusting.

Accessibility

Similar to simply being able to find a company online, this also must be true in the real world. Have you ever called a company during business hours only to get voicemail? Or perhaps you’ve walked into a store with no employee to assist you. In these moments, you know that the customer is not the most important, and you lose trust and respect.

At a basic level, simply being accessible and ready to assist a potential customer—or someone who’s already made a purchase with you—is vital. Otherwise, the ripple effect of that kind of action will spread quickly.

Excellent staff service

Once you’ve answered the phone or greeted the customer in-person, this is your time to shine. Not only should you be able to service the customer’s needs, but you should be able to answer any questions they have and offer any additional helpful advice for them.

customer-service

To do so, consider adjusting your goals: it shouldn’t be about just making a sale, but rather your goal should be to provide a top-notch customer experience. Show each individual that you value their experience whether or not they ultimately decide to make a purchase.

Similarly, PwC’s 2019 Consumer Insights Survey introduced the concept of Return on Experience (ROX), where your investment in the overall experience of your customers (and employees) at every touchpoint makes a difference in the bottom line.

[Read Also] Build Customer Loyalty for Your Small Business with This One Strategy

Act on feedback and reviews

Simply asking for feedback and reviews means very little unless you choose to read them and work to improve. When you receive constructive criticism, ensure that you take the necessary steps to prevent a similar negative experience in the future. When customers know that you prioritize their experience over your profits, you’ll see that loyalty come back to you in return.

Bottom Line: Have you shown that you’ll go above and beyond?

Regardless of whether a consumer is interacting with you online or in-person, the best thing you can do to build that trust in your brand is simply provide the best service possible. And at every touchpoint, from the first Google search to the repeat purchase, you’ve not only made it easy for the customer, but you’ve shown that you’ll go above and beyond what is required of you in order to earn their business.

Building consumer trust, online or off, proves to be worthwhile. When you place the focus on the customer experience, it will have a lasting impact.

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