Building long-term customer loyalty in 2020

Katie Ashford, General Manager - Group Marketing and Communications, Ovato

From pandemics to politics, we are regularly reminded that the world is one of constant change and challenge. During these times we look to the things we can rely on, to find comfort. That includes brands.

Brand trust has now become the second most important purchasing factor for brands, according to recent Edelman research.

But what is brand trust, and how do brands build it?

What is brand trust?

How much can your customers rely on you to deliver what you say you will? Brand trust requires you to always deliver on your promise – or go above and beyond for your customers.

This becomes particularly important when six times as many respondents to the Edelman research only buy from a brand they trust. However, brand trust also includes what consumers think organisations should be doing about the world. People want brands to initiate and drive change, both by being a positive force in shaping culture (58 per cent) and by creating a better future (61 per cent).

Trusted brands are the ones who create a product that people admire, but also those who act ethically and responsibly. Judged for how they treat their staff and suppliers, as well as their interactions with the world at large.

What does brand trust look like?

The most trusted brand in Australia is Bunnings, a position that was solidified during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It was able to nab the top stop through the speedy roll-out of its delivery service and the introduction of a ‘drive and collect’ service for Bunnings customers needing an extra level of social distancing.

Bunnings had already introduced its e-commerce site in 2019, and promptly overhauled it over several months to accommodate increased popularity with shoppers. It also released an app to help customers find the products they need without having to call on a staff member when in store.

People trust Bunnings because Bunnings was there for them when they needed it. By adapting on the fly to difficult circumstances and making sure that the customer was the focus for all its decision making, Bunnings was able to prove that it cared, and people returned that care with trust.

Off the back of this, Wesfarmers, Bunnings’ parent company, reported a 5.3 per cent increase in sales between March and April. Trust is a big deal.

Why is brand trust important?

While it’s difficult to build and retain trust with consumers, the benefits of gaining it are huge.

According to Philipp Kristian Diekhöner, “trust gives people and companies the ability to dominate the conversation, maximise their business and build the future they like”.

By building trust, you’ll elevate your brand above others. This is a major pathway to increasing and maintaining brand loyalty and customer relationships. Trust has especially come to prominence during COVID-19 as the pandemic has given online scammers “the perfect environment” to operate in. Impulse purchases from retailers advertising on social media have left some customers regretting the decision to go for the unknown, and pushed them back towards brands they know and trust.

In fact, 75 per cent of consumers with high brand trust responded to the research by saying that they’ll buy a trusted brand’s product even if it isn’t the cheapest.

How do we nurture brand trust?

A loyal customer base is a company’s bread and butter. But winning loyalty is about establishing a connection with your customers.

Being authentic begins with your brand storytelling. It’s important to explain and illustrate your values, culture and beliefs in order for customers to see the ‘real’ you. This isn’t a one and done situation either. You need to remain consistent with your words, actions and beliefs over time. Saying one thing and doing another will erode trust quickly.

Being transparent about your actions and activities shows your customers that you truly walk the walk and talk the talk. Customers will believe your product claims if you’re able to show them to be true through research, case studies and an honest social media presence.

Customer experience is another key area that you need to nail when building brand trust. Personalisation throughout the customer journey shows that you know and care about them.

Building trust

Building trust isn’t easy. It has to be at the heart of everything that you do. It isn’t something that just comes along, but rather something that needs to be nurtured and earned.

The biggest action brands can take is being visible to consumers. Bigger brands have an advantage in building trust because they can make consumers aware of what they stand for with wide-reaching awareness campaigns - not just when consumers actively transact with them.

While reach is an advantage, you’ll also need to be truthful, reliable, dependable and transparent. Importantly, you need to actually behave this way – not just talk about it.

It takes hard work and dedication to do the right thing for your staff, customers, suppliers and the wider world. Given the increase in loyalty and decrease in price sensitivity that comes with it, you’ll find it worth the effort.