Establishing Consumer Trust Should Be a Priority for Brands This Holiday Season

2018 has seen a lot of faltering trust

Trust is integral for brands to instill in their consumers this holiday season more than ever before. Getty Images
Headshot of Peter Mühlmann

It’s been a tough couple of years for trust across the globe. Trust in government, nonprofits, executive leadership, media and brands is at an all-time low, with some researchers calling it an outright collapse of societal norms. The spread of misinformation has exacerbated the situation, as mega platforms like Facebook fight public battles over fake news, platform abuse and more.

Most brands are already reeling the fallout. And if they aren’t, this holiday season will make the most seasoned brand and marketing pros sweat. After all, there’s $1.1 trillion on the line, at least according to recent research from Deloitte. But this financial opportunity comes at a price for consumers, literally and figuratively.

Between October and December, ’tis the season for scams and rip-offs. In 2017, fraud attempts increased by 30 percent over the holiday season, per research. Thankfully, earning or improving consumer trust over the holiday season, and in turn revenue and brand loyalty, is achievable.

Secure the checkout process

You have to constantly seek feedback on your brand’s ability to give them the best shopping experience possible.

The sheer number of massive data breaches over the last half decade is all the proof you need to confirm security is high on consumers’ minds this season. Whether in checkout lines in-store or paying by credit card online, brands not only need to protect consumer transactions but inform customers of how they are doing so.

Use seals such as SSL certificates and customer ratings and reviews to showcase the trustworthiness of your brand. Displaying security marks and messaging at checkout lowers cart abandonment and improves conversion rates significantly.

Update your creative assets

Many brands don’t update their creative or copy in time for the holiday rush. Your ads are going head-to-head with dozens, if not hundreds, of competitors. Furthermore, you are vying for attention in one of the busiest (and most expensive) times for bought media, a time when consumers are being bombarded by ads from hundreds of different industries. Your creative and copy needs to pop, and for this reason you really shouldn’t use the same ads you’ve been running all year. Ad fatigue will hit hard.

Display marks of trust in your advertising, like badges of excellence, award wins, ratings, etc. An independent study from Sirkin Research found that 87 percent of consumers find ad and marketing materials more trustworthy and engaging when they contain trust marks, such as certifications, licenses, customer reviews and other third-party validation.

Don’t fear festive; it’s the holiday season, after all. There are plenty of ways to remain non-denominational while celebrating, including use of holiday-themed colors or imagery representative of the holidays (snowy landscapes, fireplaces, etc.). Just make sure the creative is in line with your brand.

And avoid spamming. It’s a surefire way to ruin the trust you’ve built with your email audience.

Guarantee your shipping

If the package is supposed to get there the day before Christmas, then it should be delivered the day before Christmas. On-time fulfillment and delivery is one of the most complained-about issues over the holidays, leading to distrust and reputational damage to brands globally.

Back up your shipping policy with a guarantee to earn the trust of shoppers and make it crystal clear in-store and on the checkout or shipping webpage. You can also go one step further and provide the customer with shipping updates and statuses along the way.

Display authentic reviews

Emphasis on authentic. Consumers will see right past a brand’s attempts to manipulate reviews. New technology ensures it’s not a matter of if you’ll get caught, but when—and there’s usually a heavy price to pay. Brands should collect reviews from a representative sampling of their customers and display those reviews as proof points during key transactional points, like checkout pages, sign-up forms, shipping selection, etc. And if you get a bad review? Take action and respond! The vast majority of consumers are not out for revenge.

Invest in customer service

Customer service is a big deal for brands over the holiday season, and whether or not consumers trust your brand can hinge on customer support. Some studies show that businesses lose upward of $1 trillion annually due to poor customer support.
And if you are a particularly well-known brand, expect support calls, chats and emails to double, maybe even triple. A Zendesk research survey found customer support tickets can increase by as much as 42 percent during the holidays. Get ready by making sure you have the capacity to facilitate and assist each customer by growing and better preparing your customer service team.

Spread the joy

Let’s not forget that your brand is also navigating through a season of giving. Some people are struggling to even put food on the table over the holidays. An inspiring way to build trust among consumers while simultaneously doing some good for the world is to have a solid corporate social responsibility (CSR) program. Pick a cause that’s important to your brand as a whole and make that cause a key part of your holiday campaign. Don’t forget to let your customers know how they can participate should they wish to do so.

To establish trust, put yourself in the shoes of the consumer. You have to constantly seek feedback on your brand’s ability to give them the best shopping experience possible. Let consumers know they should feel comfortable choosing your brand over the competition. Implement these initial trust-building strategies and incorporate them into your marketing and advertising over the holidays. This season, the most trusted brands will win the holiday.


@peter_muhlmann Peter Mühlmann is the founder and CEO of Trustpilot.
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