Smart Brand Strategy in an Endemic Era: How to Effectively Gain Trust

Brands are playing a delicate dance with consumers. On one hand, brands need more customer data to create personalized experiences and thus drive engagement. On the other hand, they need to maintain trust so as not to alienate those customers by asking for too much personal information. 

The future of brand strategy is all about increasing engagement with quality interactions in a way that inspires loyalty and trust from a brand’s prospective audience. 

Brands have to let their customers help them grow…but how? By increasing engagement while gaining customers’ trust. Let’s unpack this. 

The Why

We must understand why customers lose trust in brands in the first place. There are several reasons ranging from poor product quality to negative customer service experiences to bad reviews that can impact a customer’s opinion of a brand. 

The brand could in fact be doing everything right under normal circumstances, and the unexpected mistrust may be a byproduct of the current landscape. The pandemic, for example, not only caused a sudden lack of human connection but also scarcity and hold-ups in supply lines, which unfortunately spurred an atmosphere of decreased trust from customers across various sectors.

2020 also forced customers to take a more critical look at the brands they were supporting. Brands that were tone deaf in their marketing efforts or stayed silent amongst the difficult times we were all facing fell to the wayside. With all of this consumer agita in the air, brands may have fallen behind in engagement metrics despite a lack of any wrongdoing.

Furthermore, with increased chatter about this pandemic turning into an endemic, these variables will continue to be a factor with which marketers will have to grapple for the unforeseeable future. So, how should we approach these issues?

The How

To rebuild trust and inspire engagement with their clientele, brands must pivot their engagement strategies. However, with the influx of restrictions in place limiting access to customer metrics and data, brands have to explore viable alternatives in order to reach and engage their targeted audiences. A highly influential means of doing this is through online ratings and reviews.  

When the pandemic forced everyone to stay at home and businesses to pivot to online, ratings and reviews surged in popularity, jumping from 40 to 80% during the first few months. Today, that number is multiplying, as more and more buyers are basing their purchase decisions solely on cues from other consumers rather than information from companies (79% of consumers recently reported their purchase decisions are more influenced by user-generated content than brand or influencer content). What does this mean for brands going forward? Is this good or bad?

Brands should see this as a positive opportunity and focus on highlighting customer feedback. Not only does it help to build back brand trust, it also increases engagement and expands audience reach through word of mouth. However, a brand must constantly monitor and analyze the responses to their services and communications in order to empathetically address the feedback they are receiving. For instance, brands that are not addressing fake reviews, spam, or inappropriate messaging are causing consumers to lose trust in the organization. In fact, 45% of consumers are losing trust in brands, even if they come across just one exposure to UGC. When consumers begin to lose trust, it causes a sharp decline in brand engagement.  

In addition to incorporating consumer feedback in their marketing plans, brands must also motivate their consumers to continue providing feedback. This can be done by automating surveys or having reward systems in place to incentivize consumers. This last key is crucial in maintaining the cycle of user feedback and brand communication.

Now, at a time when many are engaging in 2022 planning, is the time for brands to take a broader step back and think about the endemic era they are entering. By pivoting and focusing on organic tactics that can be implemented such as monitoring feedback and encouraging users to continue to provide responses, brands can work to increase engagement and build back brand trust all in one. The key ingredient for brands to continue staying ahead of the curve is to ensure consumers’ needs and expectations are being met moving forward. 

Pascal Lannoo is CMO & Chief Experience Officer at SKEEPERS.

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