Brand trust – how consumers view a brand – has a dramatic, often unforeseen impact on the health of a brand. Brand health has an equally dramatic – and often overlooked – impact on the bottom line of a business. If your business isn’t actively building up brand trust or – even worse – eroding trust, you’re kicking a can down the road that will impact your business financially for years to come.

What is brand trust?

Brand trust directly drives customer actions – and customer expectation of brands needing to earn their trust has never been so high, nor so visible. Today’s consumers expect more from businesses. According to research by Havas Group, 75% of consumers expect brands to make more of a contribution to our well-being and quality of life – yet only 40% of consumers thinks brands actually do this.

Edelman dug deeper with its research and found that half of all customers buy primarily on that most nebulous of concepts: belief. That means 50% of purchases aren’t rational, considered appraisals of features lists but rather an irresistible pull towards a brand because of what it stands for.

Brand trust and customer loyalty

Trust also builds loyalty, and that matters to the bottom line. According to the Harvard Business Review, trust fuels loyalty which powers retention. The study found that increasing retention by five per cent can generate an increase in company profits by between 25 per cent to 95 per cent.

That’s because the majority of a company’s value is tied up in intangibles. That’s the stuff other than the plant equipment, capital assets, staples and water coolers that most people think equates to the value of a business. Actually the impact of brand, reputation and – ultimately – customer goodwill has a disproportionate effect on the value of a business.

In today’s world of Twitter, TrustPilot and TripAdvisor, trust and what a business stands for is more visible than ever to customers – making it vital to double-down on building consumer trust. Here are five ways your business can build brand trust and increase customer loyalty.

1.     Be authentic to build brand trust

Being authentic means keeping it real. Matching deeds with words. Keeping promises. That means your business, staff and products stay true to publicly shared values, and your business lives and breathes these values. If you have a mission statement or public goals, stick to them, and give your staff permission to behave and bring to life the brand values of your business. It also means if your business gets it wrong, put your hand up, apologise and do the right thing.

How a brand communicates, and how it uses content to demonstrate authenticity, has a tremendous impact on consumer trust in a brand. Content has to reflect the brand values, and a business has to live up to what it communicates.

Does authenticity matter? Yep. According to Pardot Research, authenticity of content is the most influential factor in a consumer’s decision to follow a brand for 80% of consumers. Authenticity is vital, and content goes a huge way to delivering this as customers increasing see brands as voices of authority. They want to see values communicated and actions backing them up. If content makes a brand promise, then the brand needs to deliver on that promise.

2.     Be transparent as a brand

Brands need to be transparent. Poor business practices do get found out and shared; and research by LabelInsight found that nearly all consumers (94%) are more likely to be loyal to a brand that is transparent.

Customers are happy to take to social media and online review sites to publicly air their concerns. Consumer backlash in response to shoddy practices can ignite quickly and spread rapidly with damage to a brand taking a long time to repair. So it pays brands to be transparent.

3.     Have values – and live them

Company values are odd things. For start-ups and challengers, they’re a rallying call and define the culture of a new business. For larger businesses, they can become an exercise in buzzwords and ‘empowerment’.

Genuine company values are something that all staff believe in, and customers can see in action every day. They shape decisions: how customers are treated, the tone of voice of content, what new products are launched and what the culture is like.

Brands can go further. Real values aren’t just what a company stands up for, but what it stands up to. Brands such as Apple (privacy, HIV and AIDS) and the Body Shop (testing on animals) show they are brave enough to take issue with things important to customers, as well as trying to make the world a better place along with way.

4.     Be respectful of your customers

The customer is often wrong. Or cofused. Or unfair. Somethings all three at once. But, no matter the circumstances, your business needs to fully and wholeheartedly treat customers with respect. It’s a truth that’s often repeated but it can be surprisingly easy to let that slip when faced with a challenging customer. In today’s transparent world, ask the likes of United Airlines what getting it wrong feels like.

The takeaway: if you find your business and team viewing a customer or a client as a ‘problem’, you’re looking through the wrong end of the telescope.

5.     Customers are always at the heart. No exceptions

This goes hand-in-hand with point 4 but it’s another truth that’s often quoted though weirdly deprioritised when the chips are down. The old adage that the customer comes first can be quickly relegated once a brand has become established. As a business grows, decisions can become surprisingly non-customer driven: competitors, the bottom line, a fixation with technology, CEO whims – all have played a destabilising role in move a brand further from where it started: the customer.

Take time to regroup around the customer. Invite them into the business. Hear their concerns. Monitor social for complaints and gripes. Talk to and actively listen to front line staff – the contact centre or shop floor staff who talk to customers every day. The aim is to make decisions that surprise, delight and wow customers – showing them that you are standing beside them, and your brand cares about their world, not just what is in their wallet.

Where does content fit in to brand trust?

Does content matter when it comes to brand trust? It’s a natural question I ask having founded a content business. Content is something I passionately believe makes a profound difference to brands. Research from Insights Newscreed backs me up (as do countless other studies). It found that for Millennials for example, 62 per cent believe that a brand’s online content drives their loyalty. Consumers judge a brand, and ultimately make decision as to how much they trust a brand, by what it does, what it says, and how it says it.

Content is the voice of the brand. Is your content all sales pitch? Too dry and dull? Not actually created from the perspective of your target market? Then your brand is missing a trick – and content can be a quick win to reposition a brand and start building customer trust.