In the current fake news zeitgeist, and with so many news outlets, social media platforms and advertisers competing for attention, people are highly sceptical and untrusting of brands. As a result, marketers today are faced with perhaps one of their greatest challenges: believability.

Edelman’s 2017 Trust Barometer reported the largest-ever drop in trust across organisations in government, business, media and NGOs. Trust in media took a nosedive and fell to an all-time low in 17 countries. Businesses didn’t fare much better, with low levels of consumer faith in brands and trust in executive leadership.

Fortunately, consumers have, in a way, offered their own solution. As trust decreases, reliance on people increases. More specifically, reliance on the opinions of peers. According to Edelman’s research, a person is just as credible a source for information as academics or experts about a company or brand. This is proven by the fact half of all adults are now routinely checking online reviews before making a purchasing decision, according to Pew Research Center. ReportLinker said that 78% of people who read online reviews find them reliable.
For marketers, this signals a shift in how they should spend their budgets. It’s time to ensure that current customers are being well looked after because their opinions, and beliefs, can be more effective and persuasive than traditional advertising or marketing.

For those marketers that have already started down this path, customer review platforms have been checking off all the right boxes. Brands that utilise a quality customer review tool and proactively seek the feedback of their existing customers are showing results across a wide scope of tangible metrics. For one, some third-party review tools (they come in many shapes and sizes) have licensing partnerships with Google, making them Google Review Partners. Reviews collected with these platforms can help brands gain Google Seller Ratings, which have been shown to increase the average click-through rate for ads by as much as 17%. There is also significant SEO and traffic value businesses can attain by collecting reviews.

On the less analytical side, brands that regularly engage directly with their customers via social media, forums, message boards, and review platforms, build a valuable base of customers who act as brand advocates or ambassadors – championing the great and the good of a company. The reviews and feedback that consumers leave not only generate brand loyalty but also provide potential customers - those who don’t quite trust traditional marketing methods - with the push they need when deciding to make a purchase.

Another critical way to build trust may seem simple but is all too often forgotten. Proactively responding publicly to those who have had a negative experience with the brand is like winning the marketing lottery in the age of distrust. Research shows increasing customer retention by just 5% can lead to a 25% to 95% increase in company profits. Engaging with customers demonstrates trust and transparency.

Regardless of the platform or medium, it’s now more important than ever for marketers and advertisers to invest in trust marketing. The data proves the business case for investing in establishing loyalty and trust in a brand.

It’s hard to say when consumer confidence will be restored; sins of the past may make that nearly impossible. But like it or not, distrust is now ubiquitous. “Fake news” is part of the world we live in. Each and every time it’s disseminated, brand trust takes another hit - and so do today’s marketers. The brands that will come out on top, will be the ones that consistently exceed their customers’ expectations and earn rave reviews. Then the power of trust will prevail.


By Peter H. Mühlmann, founder and CEO of Trustpilot

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