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Build Consumer Trust

While today’s connected consumers demand an even more personalized experience, they’re becoming more guarded when it comes to giving out their personal information—particularly as data privacy stories continue to make headlines. To retain consumer trust, brands need to be more transparent and prove they are using data to better serve consumers—not just with offers, but with engaging experiences. Ovum’s Consumer Insights Survey of digital consumers around the world found that only 14% of respondents believe that Internet companies are honest about their use of consumers’ personal data.

The implications of trust expectations on the brand’s ability to market in today’s connected environments are considerable. A.C. Nielsen’s study on global trust in advertising and brand messaging found that consumers especially trust personal sources of information, but they especially act upon digital sources of information. In Figure 1.7, I have grouped A.C. Nielsen’s information sources into three types: personal sources, traditional commercial sources, and digital commercial sources. In the first group are personal sources, opinions of other people, whether consumers know them or not. For example, 84% of consumers trust opinions from people they know, and they take action on those opinions as well (also 84%); these personal sources are gold standard information sources, the highest ratings of all sources. But not far behind are consumer opinions posted online—often by from people they know, trusted by 68%, and they take action upon their advice, reported by 70%. These online consumer opinions are especially valuable to consumers because they are actionable opinions, useful and valuable in the moment when they are searched. Editorial content such as news articles is trusted by many (67%), but is not viewed as actionable by quite as many (64%). I use a difference score between the action versus trust indicators to quickly identify which information sources are viewed as being especially actionable relative to their trust level, and we can see here that editorial content such as news articles has an action versus trust difference score of –3%.

Figure 1.7

Figure 1.7 Sources That Consumers Act Upon, Trust

Adapted from: Global Trust in Advertising and Brand Messages, September 2013, The Nielsen Company. Used with permission.

In the second group are ads from traditional commercial sources. These sources are generally less trusted than personal sources—ranging from 55% to 62%. With the exception of TV ads and newspaper ads, they are also viewed as less actionable—ranging from 53% to 62%. However, ads on TV and in newspapers are viewed as valuable and especially actionable sources in this group with action versus trust difference scores of +6% and +4% for TV and newspapers, respectively. For TV ads, consumers seem to be persuaded by the high-definition audio-visual impact and the “big-league” image associated with a brand that advertises on large-screen television. And because consumers are consuming information while reading newspapers they are especially receptive to newspaper advertising content located on the page nearby.

In the third group are digital commercial sources. These digital commercial sources appear to be generally less trustworthy as information sources. However, the notable exception is branded websites—trusted by 69% of consumers and taken action upon by 67%. These are remarkably high trust and actionable measures. In other words, consumers seem to be saying that they trust the information obtained from branded websites (69%) even more than they trust personal consumer opinions posted online from reviewers, bloggers, and raters (68%)—suggesting that they believe source brands know their products and services best of all. And they act upon branded website information content nearly as much (67%) as their trust measure (69%) would indicate.

Especially notable among digital commercial sources is the fact that consumers view these digital information sources as highly actionable sources—note the difference scores between action versus trust for nearly all these digital sources. For example, “Emails I signed up for” are viewed as being less trustworthy (56%), but nonetheless as quite actionable, offering information that I would take action on (65%)—for an action versus trust difference score of +9%. The same is true for search engine ads (+9%), social network ads (+7%), online banner ads (+8%), and even text ads on mobile phones (+8%). Though these digital sources may be seen as less trustworthy, they nonetheless bring with them the advantages of digital marketing—they are personally relevant and timely reflecting my in-the-moment personal search activity, and conveniently engaging because with only a click or a tap I can instantly access what I need to quickly accomplish what I need—to get things done.

However, trust is more nuanced for different types of consumers. For example, research has shown that millennial consumers may have distinctly different feelings about trust in the digital economy. And the opinions of millennials are particularly valuable, first, because they represent the next wave of growing and spending consumers, and second, because they are a digitally native generation with confident and definite opinions about online marketing. Forbes magazine and Elite Daily, an online media site calling itself “The voice of Generation Y,” teamed up to research trust and loyalty attitudes among millennials.

“Our findings confirmed that millennials are highly educated, career-driven, politically progressive and—despite popular belief—do indeed develop strong brand loyalty when presented with quality products and actively engaged by brands,” says David Arabov, CEO Co-founder Elite Daily.32 Regarding some of the more common traits of the millennial generation, here are several key findings, quoted from Forbes:

  • Seldom influenced at all by advertising. Only 1% of millennials surveyed said that a compelling advertisement would make them trust a brand more. Millennials believe that advertising is all spin and not authentic. Many will pay good money to avoid it, for example subscribing to services such as [Netflix] and Spotify, rather than being subject to TV and Radio ads.
  • Often review blogs before making a purchase. Thirty-three percent of millennials rely mostly on blogs before they make a purchase, compared to fewer than 3% for TV news, magazines, and books. Older generations rely more on traditional media, whereas millennials look to social media for an authentic look at what’s going on in the world, especially content written by their peers whom they trust.
  • Value authenticity more than just content. Forty-three percent of millennials rank authenticity over content when consuming news. They first have to trust a company or news site before they even bother reading the content that they produce. Blogs are meant to be authentic and many of them are run by a single individual. Millennials connect with people over logos.
  • Open to engaging with brands on social networks. Sixty-two percent of millennials say that if a brand engages with them on social networks, they are more likely to become a loyal customer. They expect brands to not only be on social networks, but to engage them at the right moments. Of course, the two challenges here for brands: (A) how to scale with the demand, and (B) how to know when these right moments are (and are not).
  • Interested in to co-creating products with companies. Forty-two percent said they are interested in helping companie develop future products and services. In our society, companies usually create products and hope that their target market will consume them. When it comes to millennials, they want to be more involved with how products get created. Companies that enable them to be part of the product development process will be more successful. In particular, crowdsourcing platforms have become hugely popular for consumer testing and feedback as well as fundraising (for example, Kickstarter).
  • Using multiple tech devices. As no surprise, 87% of millennials use between two and three tech devices at least once on a daily basis. Thirty-nine percent are either very or completely likely to purchase a tablet computer in the next five years, while 30% are for wearable devices. When there’s new technology available, you can bet that millennials will be all over it! In order to keep your brand relevant, and appealing to millennials, you need be able to engage on new platforms as they are released. For instance, for some brands, having a native application for Apple’s Apple Watch can be a good long-term investment (while others, not).
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