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What is brand trust and why is it so important?

13 min read
Understand how brand trust can be a vital differentiator in tough market conditions in this guide. Learn why it’s important and how to encourage brand trust in your customer base with our handy walkthrough.

What is brand trust?

The definition of brand trust is the confidence that customers have in your brand’s ability to deliver on what it promises. As a brand consistently meets the expectations it has set in the minds of customers, trust in that brand grows. Brand trust can also be affected by how well a brand lives by the values it proclaims to have.

Brand trust is usually affected by:

  • The quality of products and services provided
  • The third-party positive reviews the brand receives
  • Its cost-quality ratio
  • Its customer service, both quality and speed
  • How brands handle their business from a political or philanthropic perspective
  • How a brand treats its employees
  • How secure customers’ data is
  • A consistent customer experience

Top 10 drivers of brand trust among global consumers

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What is the importance of brand trust?

Brand trust can be the vital differentiation between consumers choosing your brand’s product or service over another company’s.

Customers leave when their experience doesn’t meet brand promises

In our research, 65% of consumers have switched brand loyalties because the customer experience didn’t match what they had been promised by the brand’s image. Younger consumers in particular are likely to leave if they feel their experience hasn’t lived up to what they’ve been led to believe. 70% of Gen Z and millennials have switched brand because the customer experience didn’t meet their expectations. For older consumers, customer loyalty only goes so far – more than 50% would leave if expectations aren’t met.

Brand trust can help you to retain loyal customers even when they have one-off experiences that don’t meet expectations. To build brand trust and a reputation for following through means that when customers have a negative interaction, they see it as a one-off, rather than how your brand typically operates.

Customers believe that businesses should take a stand – and will buy based on principles

According to the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, 86% of respondents said that CEOs should speak out in public about important societal topics. More than ever, consumers are “voting with their feet” and choosing to purchase from businesses that align with their political or social beliefs. The younger generation in particular feel strongly about this: 83% of millennials believe it’s important to buy from brands that support their views.

Brand trust means aligning your business actions, experience, products and services to the values that you promote. If your company proclaims to be environmentally friendly to help improve society but uses exclusively non-recyclable packaging, for example, customers will pick up on that discrepancy and look elsewhere.

Reputation can make or break a decision to purchase – and it likely can’t be bought

When we asked, 63% of consumers said that a company’s reputation impacts their purchasing decisions. Though it might seem nebulous, brand trust is a firm metric that customers use to judge whether they should choose your brand or not.

Many businesses try to amplify their brand trust by using endorsements from recognisable brand ambassadors, in the belief that trust in that person’s brand will engender trust in their own. However, 39% of potential buyers we surveyed don’t see celebrity/athlete/public figure spokespeople or endorsements as a significant part of making the decision to buy.

Paying for brand trust will only work for certain buyers, meaning that in terms of creating sustainable trust, you’ll have to “walk the walk” in as many areas of your business as you can.

Free eBook: The state of Brand Experience management

How to build brand trust

Brand trust and loyal customers won’t be built overnight – but with a sensible strategy for brand management, you can create a reputation that will draw new customers in and keep existing customers from leaving.

We’ve listed our best practices below to help you get started or to improve your brand trust and customer loyalty.

Set expectations

The setup and delivery on consumer expectations is at the core of creating a business people can trust. Creating and meeting expectations in your customer’s minds requires a thorough understanding of what customers are looking for and a strategy to build awareness of how your brand solves their problems.

Here are our tips for expectation-setting.

Make sure you understand your target audience on a granular level

How brand trust is perceived will vary between demographics and markets. Make sure you have data in granular detail when researching how you appear to the market, and ensure that the experiences you offer are tailored to meet each audience’s expectations. What expectations does each type of customer have, and how will you meet them?

Offer customers information that guides them to solutions they want

No matter what you’re offering, your customers are looking for a solution. Your marketing should start by helping guide your customers to the solution they need, creating an expectation that you can fulfill their requirements without selling hard. Customers don’t buy to help your brand – they buy for their own purposes, and your marketing should be as helpful and informative as possible to give them what they need.

Don’t make promises you can’t keep

It’s vital that whatever you promise a customer, you are able to offer them exactly what you’ve described. If you offer next day delivery but can’t actually meet that deadline, you’re going to fall short of expectation and put a dent in your brand trust.

Promote your brand values – and stick to them

Likewise, you shouldn’t promote a brand value that you can’t back up with evidence. Being green is trendy, but if you’re unable to compete with your rivals on their eco-friendly brand mission, promoting your brand as the greenest option means there will be a disconnect when customers actually experience your brand. Refine your values and stick to them, and you’ll attract customers who feel strongly about your brand.

Brand values you might want to focus on include transparency over privacy and data, environmentally-friendly policies, a customer-first approach, philanthropy being built-in and a dedication to ethical business production. Remember to shout about them in your marketing strategy to help set that expectation in customers’ minds.

Be transparent

Customers expect brands to tell them what they need to know. What is your return policy? How do you handle customer data? Be transparent on how you interact with your customers, and this will set a firm expectation that they can rely on when things go wrong. This helps to make a bad experience a one-time-only incident, rather than an expectation that can ruin brand trust.

Follow through

Now you’ve set up expectations for your brand to be a helpful provider of the solutions customers are looking for, you need to follow through.

Be the only brand to offer a consistent experience

Meeting expectations means setting up an experience to deliver and following through in the way you’ve said you would. Any failure to follow through consistently will be a negative mark against your brand and will affect your brand trust. One in five organisations currently offer sub-par experiences, and more than half of consumers cut spending after a bad experience. Given that you risk losing 9.5% of your revenue as a result. Follow through consistently on the experience you’ve promised, and customers will come back for more from the only brand they trust to follow through.

Focus on quality in your brand’s product

It can be tempting to focus just on quantity when it comes to sales and customers, but quality is vital for amplifying your brand trust. If you sell a million products but they’re unreliable and frequently break, that failure to meet expectations will likely be flagged on social media and reviews and subsequently reflected in your brand trust.

Maintain your customer relationships

There’s no point building trust in a relationship with your business to then lose it through lack of care. Follow up not just with customers who’ve had a bad experience, but customers who frequently don’t reach out. Send automated, personalised messages to customers as part of your marketing communications to help them feel connected to your brand.

Spread the word

Once you’ve started to instill trust in your business, it’s time to get your customers to spread the word on how they feel about your brand. They’ll help to do your marketing for you – and new customers will trust them to be honest.

Here’s our top tip on getting customers to recommend your brand as trustworthy.

Use word-of-mouth marketing to promote your trustworthiness

Trust in a brand can be easily shared when it’s from a source that new customers believe in. Nielsen has found that friends and family, as well as peers, have a huge influence on brand trust – 83% of respondents across 60 countries trust their close relations’ recommendations. Word of mouth marketing can quickly build social proof for your brand without customers ever having had a first-hand experience with you. Make it easy for customers to share their positive reviews and spread the word by linking social channels and review sites that they can quickly access.

Repeat the process

As we’ve said before, consistency is key to building brand trust. Repeating the above steps and making sure that you’re measuring how you’re doing will be instrumental in creating a trustworthy image in the public eye.

Here are our recommendations to help you maintain your brand trust over time.

Take the pulse on brand trust with a brand trust survey

Brand trust can seem a difficult metric to pinpoint, particularly as it exists in the mind of your customer, rather than in an easy-to-see number of likes, comments or sales numbers. However, you can get a deep understanding of how you’re doing by using a brand trust survey. Consistently asking your customers how they perceive your brand can help you to see where you’re falling short, and what aspects matter most to your target audience.

Get real-time insights to stay on top of delivery

Continually listening to and being able to anticipate customers’ needs and expectations means you can stay one step ahead of any brand trust issues. Using a business tool that can give you oversight into the entire process of delivering on customer experience from start to finish will help you to stop standards from slipping and take action swiftly.

How to capitalise on brand trust to enhance customer experience

Once you’ve built brand trust, you can leverage it to not only enhance your customer experience, but to improve your bottom line. Only 28% of marketing leaders link their brand strategy to their CX design and delivery, meaning there’s room for you to be the brand customers trust to give them an unforgettable experience.

Qualtrics CustomerXM helps you to take actions that improve your brand’s impact. Rather than just measuring brand trust and other important factors in purchasing decisions, CustomerXM helps you to:

  • Hear every customers’ view from good reviews to negative feedback, no matter where they express it
  • Uncover behaviour patterns, understand expectations and predict future reactions
  • Deliver targeted actions to your teams to address trust issues
  • Give your customers a CX experience they’ll talk about

eBook: The state of Brand Experience management