The Trust Imperative: Using Consumer Intelligence to Build Direct Relationships

The Trust Imperative: Using Consumer Intelligence to Build Direct Relationships

Amid the increasing fracturing of traditional media channels, declining trust in institutions and advertising, and the deprecation of third-party data, brands are at an inflexion point for establishing relevance and direct relationships with consumers globally.

In our latest global market study surveying over 15,000 consumers across nearly 20 countries, the Rwazi Insights team found trust and transparency ranking as top purchase influencers alongside product quality and value when selecting brands and retailers.

Specifically, 72% of respondents globally rated "brand trust" as very or extremely influential over their buying decisions. Meanwhile, 63% said earned authority, authenticity and transparency were crucial factors they considered before any purchase.

Those factors scored highest across generations compared to traditional drivers, such as availability (58%), convenience (52%), price (42%), and trendy (14%).

People crave authenticity and a personal rapport from the businesses they invite into their lives. Trust has become the new brand currency for driving meaningful consumer engagement or loyalty in a world dominated by fake news, sketchy product origins and compromised privacy.

The State of Consumer Trust in 2023

So, how tenuous is the general trust deficit society faces today? Our global survey revealed some disconcerting data points:

  • 68% felt they couldn't trust major institutions like government and corporations to act responsibly and transparently "at all" or "most of the time."
  • 89% expressed moderate or severe concerns over how companies sell, handle or protect their personal information and data privacy
  • 82% believe traditional advertising is increasingly filled with misinformation, embellishments or manipulated information intended to mislead consumers
  • 64% are wary of online reviews for products and services due to scepticism over authenticity and corporate censorship of negative opinions

On the bright side, our data surfaces several emergent trust-building behaviours and priorities that responsible brands can harness:

Consumers rated their peers and "people like me" as the source of highest credibility at 67% globally when researching products, beating out celebrities (8%), social influencers (12%), companies themselves (19%) or media outlets (22%).

  • 57% would grant trusted brands access to more personal data in exchange for transparency around how information is used and protected
  • 69% would be more loyal to a brand that embraced blockchain/Web3 tools, allowing transparency guarantees around ethical sourcing and authenticity of products

There's a clear and escalating consumer demand signal for more authentic, transparent and accountable relationships superseding legacy company-to-consumer power dynamics. And the data show customers are open to providing whatever permissions brands require - so long as companies keep their side of the trust bargain.

Rwazi's proprietary consumer intelligence surfaces key verticals where trust impacts are most pronounced currently. These provide fertile ground for brands to pioneer trust-based initiatives:

  1. Financial Services & Wealth Management 73% of global respondents cited lack of trust as their top reason for avoiding fintech apps, neo-banks and cryptocurrency investing. Significant opportunities exist to solidify authority through transparent, open banking, proof of custody, clearly articulated security controls, consumer literacy campaigns and influencer advocates.
  2. Grocery & CPG 79% expressed food fraud and improper ingredient labelling erode their trust and willingness to purchase from major brands. Blockchain-certified supply chain traceability and immutable on-package experiences could deliver the authenticity verification consumers seek.
  3. Travel, Hospitality & Mobility
    81% feel that transportation services like airlines and ride-sharing obscure transparency regarding pricing, safety, working conditions, and environmental impacts. Sustainability and corporate ethics scrutiny is rampant.
  4. E-Commerce & DTC Retail 83% have reduced shopping on significant e-commerce platforms due to a lack of trust around the authenticity of sellers, opaque return policies, undisclosed product origins and prevalence of counterfeit goods sold—the rising desire for direct brand relationships and product provenance.
  5. In Healthcare & Wellness, 92% of those concerned over data privacy pointed to health, pharmaceutical and insurance providers as the biggest culprits of reckless data sharing or monetization without consent. Trust deficit amplifies telehealth resistance and brand disloyalty.

The Road to Brand Promiscuity

Compounding the trust crisis, our data reveal staggering rates of consumer brand promiscuity driven by this lack of confidence. Two concerning statistics:

  • 48% of global consumers have wholly sworn off or abandoned a previously trusted brand due to losing confidence in that company's authenticity, transparency or ethics
  • A mere 16% consider themselves "loyal" to any specific brand in most categories, with 73% claiming to regularly rotate across multiple brands depending on changing trust levels.

In categories where brand establishing brand affinity is tantamount to success, those alarming defection and indecisiveness metrics are simply unsustainable long-term. The data reinforce just how pivotal trust and transparency promises are not only to stimulate initial consideration for products but mitigate downstream churn and prevent revenue leakage out of brand ecosystems.

For most companies, regaining consumer confidence will require nothing short of a holistic cultural and operational reset. Reorienting investment priorities away from paid advertising and implementing technology-enabled trust-building assets is now a strategic imperative. This includes:

  • Deploying robust consent and preference management platforms to give customers control over data sharing
  • Beefing up traceability infrastructure using blockchain, digital watermarking, etc. to authenticate products
  • Cultivating relationships with third-party authentication entities and consumer watchdog groups
  • Embracing a zero-party data strategy to enable direct-to-consumer relationships unencumbered by eroding cookie-tracking methods
  • Exploring new Web3 loyalty tokens, exclusive community memberships and decentralized identity solutions to reinforce consumer ownership
  • Publicly showcasing transparency commitments beyond marketing messaging through thought leadership content, creator relationships and incentivized advocacy.

Brands must shift the consumer data value exchange from feeling like a violation to an affirmation of trust. With evolving Web3 tools providing viable alternatives to legacy trust-deficient systems, emerging trust standards now favour more ethical data stewardship, privacy protection and true co-ownership between brands and their customers.

While the path forward is arduous, the consumer data shows that brands failing to prioritize regaining trust and authority risk leaving immense value on the table as loyalty evaporates, competitors capitalize, and bottom lines suffer. The time for companies to transform their transparency practices is now.

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