The gold standard of retail: How to build trust in uncertain times

23 March 2017

By Sue Rissbrook

In uncertain times, investors look to gold as a safe haven; shoppers do the same, turning to the retailers they know and trust. 2016 was a year of huge disruptions, both politically and economically, and we can see the consequences in everything from rises in food prices as a result of currency fluctuations, to consumer confidence. It’s no surprise, then, that in the face of all this uncertainty, our latest Total Retail survey shows trust is now the second most important reason, after price, for UK consumers to shop with a particular brand.

And in the UK, at least, uncertainty is going to be a fact of life for some time. With 21% of UK shoppers saying that Brexit will impact their spending over the next 12 months, there’s going to be more competition for their money, and those retailers who can win and keep trust will be the ones who have continued to offer a reliable and consistent customer experience.

As a retailer, how can you build trust with consumers in uncertain times?

1. Transparency

Transparency is a good place to start - transparency of product quality, of pricing, and of sourcing. For example, all things being equal on product specification, quality and price, 21% of UK consumers prefer to buy goods sourced nationally, 17% would choose goods with ethical credentials and a further 12% with environmental credentials. Building trust through transparency of product sourcing can differentiate your brand and build loyalty in an increasingly competitive marketplace. But this can be expensive, and you need to work through the implications for your own specific product range: as Geoff Lane, a PwC partner in sustainability says, “If you operate in the lower end of the market then an increase in the raw material price is absolutely disastrous”.

2. Security

Security is another area where trust can be won – and lost overnight. You only have to read the media to see the damage data breaches can do: some brands never fully recover. Two-thirds of our survey respondents said they’re worried about online scams, and they’re particularly wary of buying luxury items online too. This means retailers have a real opportunity to differentiate themselves by communicating the care they take with online security and customer data.

3. Consistency 

Offering a service in line with customers’ expectations of your brand, across all channels is paramount. Does your online customer service reflect your in-store service and vice versa? Can shoppers easily find products in-store that you’ve promoted via e-mail or on social media? In the same way that seeing McDonald’s golden arches wherever you may travel across the world is synonymous with a consistent product and service offering, does your brand offers a consistent experience across channels, one which provides customers with reassurance?

4. Authenticity

Shoppers seek out brand experiences which are transparent and authentic, ones which they can relate to on a personal level. When it comes to authenticity, the value of reviews should not be underestimated, as 70%* of shoppers read online reviews before making a purchase and our Total Retail research shows that 38% of shoppers now use social media to read reviews, comments and feedback before making a decision to purchase. Yet 53%*of people are concerned that the companies remove negative reviews and 50%* believe that one or more of the reviews is fake. To deal with this ambiguity, providing reassurance through trust marks and clearly outlining anti-fraud policies are seen as important.* Remaining authentic and relevant through brand communications is key. 15% of UK shoppers say that receiving personalised offers and inspiring online content are reasons for shopping with their favourite retailer – your brand communications must be relevant and make a personal connection to your customers in order to foster trust and maintain loyalty.

Investing is these four areas can help to create a strong and firm foundation for the future and provide reassurance to customers that, in challenging economic times, they’ve made the right choice in choosing and repeat purchasing your brand - surely the gold standard of trust.

*Research survey of 1,500 UK adults conducted by Newlio on behalf of Baazarvoice, 2013

Sue Rissbrook

Sue Rissbrook | Transfer Pricing expert, Listed Business Team Leader
Profile | Email | +44 (0)20 7213 5080