Trust: The Way to a Customer’s Heart (and Data)

Trust often can lead to deep-seated brand loyalty. Distrust of a brand, however, can leave marketers out in the cold—with a shrinking customer base, damaged reputation, and muted message. In fact, 60% of consumers in this year’s Consumer Behavior and Data survey from ClickFox would not identify a brand that they trust with their personal data. “Brand trust is the critical ingredient for shoppers to buy into the data sharing programs that are necessary for brand marketing,” says Joe Galvin, CMO and EVP of ClickFox. The survey solicited responses from more than 300 consumers and asked them to weigh in on a number of topics, including which brands garner their loyalty, the issue of trust, and sharing data with marketers.

For the third year in a row customers named Apple as the top brand to which they are most loyal. “It’s a consistent experience, that’s always superior,” Galvin says. He ­says Apple brings its customers a seamless, positive experience, whether at home on a MacBook, in the store surfing on an iPad, or while in transit using an iPhone. “[Apple] is solid because of all of [the experiences and devices] tied together; it’s what drives [customer loyalty] for that brand.” Galvin and Rebecca Rowe, director of marketing for ClickFox, say it’s also those daily, positive experiences that fuel such strong allegiance. “[Customers] are using Apple products throughout the day—as a phone, as a laptop. Every day, they’re using these products in a way that gets them to focus on their gadgets and how they make them feel,” Rowe explains. Amazon, Dell, and Coca-Cola all tied in a distant second (1.4%) to Apple (11%) as the most revered brand. Other notable brands—Starbucks (.85%), Google (.85%), and Microsoft (.57%)—fell slightly from their rankings last year.

Customers also named the food and beverage industry (32%) as the top category to which they’re loyal. That’s followed by retail stores (16%), mobile device manufactures (15%), and banking or credit card providers (10%). Rowe says constant, everyday use of products drives loyalty to the food and beverage industry. “Customers often feel it’s something [they] can’t do without,” she explains. “You get up in the morning, and you want coffee—or perhaps later in the day you want your Coke. So, those are things that are comforting, they’re everyday, and they’re things [customers] depend upon.”

Not surprisingly, the topic of trust was presented to customers surveyed in the study. They cited two reasons not to share data with marketers for brick-and-mortar stores: previous breaches of consumer data (32%) and distrust of a retailer (28%). “One company having a data breach affects many other companies,” Galvin says. “The [trust] aspect of the company has to be extremely strong to thwart what’s happening within other companies.”

Customers did say, however, they’re most willing to share personal data if they’ve had a previous positive experience (37%) and if they feel loyal to the brand (32%). Consumers say incentives such as free shipping, unique offers, recognition of past purchases, new product recommendations, and location-specific offers will encourage them to volunteer personal information. “Trust [with that personal information] is actually a given from a consumer’s perspective,” Galvin says. “They trust the fact that [marketers] are going to do everything correctly. There’s an inherent trust. Once that trust is broken, it’s hard to recoup.” He says marketers who may be dealing with dwindling trust fueled by data breaches can indeed mend the feelings of customer distrust—whether the breach is in the company or at another brand. “First, marketers need to acknowledge [the breach of trust]. You can’t ignore it,” Galvin continues. “Second, you have to make amends as quickly as possible. Third, continue to nurture the existing relationship, perhaps with an offer.” He says a torn relationship may be hard to fix, but not impossible: “Marketers can do that through communication, and just by taking action.”

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