Trust in digital marketing is eroding faster than Twitter after Elon Musk took it over…
Yep. We went there.
Sure, for many people 2020 (in hindsight) was the honeymoon of digital marketing. Opportunity was everywhere as the entire world went online, ready to “add to cart” their pandemic blues away amidst Joe Exotic and toilet paper mobs. Oh, what wild times we’ve lived through…
But, the honeymoon is over and many, many businesses are feeling the effects and wondering who got the best deal in the nuptials.
If you leave Twitter & Zoom out and look at the state of the world, economy, and politics since things have gone “back to normal”, it’s clear to see why marketing and business feels so different – and why so much of what was working just a few years ago isn’t anymore.
In this blog post, we’ll explore why trust has become so important in marketing, what’s hot and what’s not according to the data, and practical tactics you can put into place today to foster better relationships with your customers to increase loyalty and sales.
What is Trust in Digital Marketing?
Trust is like the glue that holds your brand together in the eyes of your customers.
It’s the difference between one-hit-wonder style conversions and building a Lizzo kind of legacy in your business. One is a fluke, the other a trusted staple of pop culture.
It takes time to build trust, and an accumulation of many pieces of the puzzle that allow you to present a cohesive and reliable image from first touch to last.
And just like the kind of trust you want to develop in the other important relationships in your life, trust takes time to build, but only a moment to lose. The good news is that once you develop it, trust in digital marketing helps you initiate and nurture relationships, increase customer loyalty, and boost conversions.
Definition of Trust in Digital Marketing:
Definitions of trust in digital marketing surely change depending on who you ask, but here’s how we define it:
The emotional connection that you establish between your brand and your consumers that they use to determine whether or not they feel safe investing time, money, or energy into you and your business.
At its core, trust is how relationships are built with every person who interacts with your brand – before and after they give you their credit card details.
While there’s no singular factor that determines whether consumers feel like they can trust your brand, it may actually be the singular factor that potential customers use to determine whether they’re going to invest in you, or in your competitor.
Today, consumers value – and are looking for – different things than they did pre-2020.
What we value in the businesses and people we invest our money with changes as our personal and societal values evolve, and this can affect how we assess the trustworthiness of others and the factors we consider important in determining trust.
Even though income claims and faked bank account screenshots were once sufficient to “prove” your trustworthiness, your purpose-driven priorities, authentic transparency, and authority building content all come together these days to determine how trustworthy you and your brand feel to others.
And the data is clear: without trust, no relationship (and business) can be successful. Period.
Current State of Consumer Trust in 2023
The current state of consumer trust in 2023 is rocky – to put it lightly – and changes faster than a politician’s opinion during an election cycle (but it’s mostly influenced by those election cycles anyways!)
It took less time for potential customers to actually buy from you pre-Panini, and they needed fewer indicators that you were trustworthy.
But oh, how the tables have turned…
If we zoom out and examine what has changed in the world at large, outside of our little business silos, we see evidence for why trust is disintegrating at the rate it currently is, both in and out of US markets.
It has less to do with marketing…
and more to do with what we’re experiencing as a society.
Consider these macro trends and their impacts on consumer behavior
The Political Conversation:
Politics always impacts marketing, but the tone of politics since the 2016 elections has been focused on sowing distrust within the American democratic process (or fighting against the distrust narrative).
No matter where you look in politics, from national to local elections, the conversations seem to all be about pitting one side against the other; a narrative of distrust against a narrative of “proof” where the truth gets incredibly muddled somewhere in the middle..
We saw this in everything from how the pandemic was handled, to bail outs and buyouts, to student loans, inflation, data privacy and racial reckoning; the divide in whether or not we trust one another has never felt wider.
The natural thought progression here for many Americans, no matter which way you lean politically, becomes: if we can’t trust the very fabric that this country is built on – what can we trust? If we can’t trust those in charge – who can we trust?
If we zoom out further, we see the trend isn’t isolated to North America – this kind of political unrest is evident around the world from places like Iran to Brazil, and people worldwide are wondering the same thing about who we can trust.
The Economy of Purpose:
As inflation rose alongside the political unrest of 2020 (and beyond), we all tightened our purse strings.
When consumers did go back to making more purchases, the data shows they started making purchasing decisions from a different place. We all cared more about where our money was going, beyond the purchases we were making.
According to a 2021 Nielson report, “over half of U.S. consumers (52.3%) purchase from a brand that supports causes they care about”, ranging from their commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion to their environmental and social impacts.
This isn’t surprising when we factor in the political environments we were witnessing at the same time and makes a strong case for why trust is more difficult to build and also more important than before.
Your intentions and commitment to taking action on what your brand and business believes in, is being closely watched, monitored and considered by your customers.
From 2020 to now we’ve seen a perfect storm of political conversations and social changes that have influenced consumer behavior, buying trends, and the efficacy of certain marketing strategies.
The combination of all of these factors has changed the very nature of how we consume and, therefore, how we have to sell.
So, what do we do about it as entrepreneurs and business owners?
Thought you’d never ask…
How to Build Trust in Digital Marketing?
To build trust in digital marketing amidst these shifts in consumer behavior and beliefs we all have to re-evaluate what strategies and tactics we’re using, what’s outdated, and what has to evolve… or we risk dying out.
You can’t avoid or ignore this change, but thankfully we can focus on some key areas that can have a sizable impact.
Here are some of the major themes we’re seeing and the key areas we’re focusing on…
Adapting to a New Kind of Customer Journey
This is the biggest thing that every business owner needs to be aware of.
Once upon a time we used to expect we could go from cold lead to purchase somewhere under 120 days – and we aimed for less than 90.
But those days are gone.
Today, we seem to have two kinds of buyers: those who buy within 30 days, and those who buy 2 years later.
Yep. One month, or 2 years.
As one of our mentors, Breanne Dyck, recently pointed out, people used to research and “cyber stalk” you first before raising their hand to work with you but they now seem to raise their hand first, and then go do the deep digging into all your social profiles and content.
This is completely consistent with what we’re seeing in our data and what we’re lovingly calling “the death of the linear funnel”. This has actually been the case for a while, but it’s more consistent with how customers and clients navigate your marketing from cold to close.
We used to expect the linear journey of (for example) ad to landing page to opt in to email to sale, but we now expect something more like ad to social profile to website to retargeting ad to email list to organic search to long form content consumption to social, back to email to sale, finally.
Those are two very, very, different journeys and they have very, very different implications on how we create intentional interactions along that path in order to deepen a sense of familiarity and trust.
Elevating Your Content & Messaging Game
The more experienced and capable you are at what you do, the more sophisticated your messaging MUST become in order to develop and establish authority. (Notice: we said sophisticated not confusing.)
Most people will tell you “write to your ideal client avatar at a 3rd-grade level” but we’re going to tell you that that stops working when you earn a certain level of expertise – and it absolutely does not help you build trust.
When people go down that “cyber-stalking” route, they’re looking for proof that you really, truly, deeply, know and understand the subject matter. And they need to see it in order to trust you can deliver (why do you think we create epic blogs like this one?!).
So when you have the ability to really deliver a sophisticated solution to a sophisticated market, you have to start speaking at their level and don’t fear creating your “library of authority” as our friend Tracy Philips says.
The format doesn’t matter – whether blog, podcast, YouTube videos – but the content absolutely matters. This is your invitation to throw away the “keep it simple, stupid” theory and showcase your expertise here:
Dismantle complex issues into principles that are tested and forged by your experience, and then give them language that is tied to your brand, your USP, your voice.
The reason this is so important in developing trust is because people are buying into you. If they’re having to choose between two people or brands, it’s going to come down to whether or not they resonate with you and believe you know what you’re doing.
You need to be prepared to give them a way to go deeper with you, binge everything you have, and then remember you because of your stickier than funk brand voice. That’s the new sales funnel.
Bottom line? Talk to an elevated market and you’ll attract an elevated market.
Rethinking How You Build Relationships:
Every ounce of your brand is more important to the consumer now. And, if there was ever a time you could get away with thinking about leads as numbers and statistics and potential customers, that time is over.
The name of the game is hyper-personalization at scale – a.k.a. building relationships.
Hyper-personalization requires data in order to implement, which can raise concerns about customers hesitating to share information because of data safety issues. But, according to a pwc study, 4 out of 5 consumers would share some type of personal data for a better experience.
So how can you put this into play? Consider these options:
Trying to use ads as purely a sales mechanism driving straight to a sales page or checkout? Stop wasting your money now. It’s time to start leveraging paid media in tandem with a strong organic game as a visibility booster and brand awareness builder (especially together with referral/influencer marketing).
Thinking of your email list as a source of hot leads that has a 90-day lifespan before you’re just paying for people who never click? Start figuring out how to segment and personalize emails to speak directly to why people are on your list and what they’re looking to get out of it – some of those people might be around for years before they buy. (And, for the love of all things holy, use consent-based email marketing principles. Give your people the option to opt out of sales sequences, but stay on your main list. HUGE trust builder)
Nothing here is rocket science, it’s purely about remembering that your customers are real people, and all the concerns you have about where you spend your money are the same ones they’re having.
Just help them feel seen and safe.
Need help leveraging your data to create relationships at scale, seamlessly?
We can help you track these relationships at scale with data, understand what’s happening, and optimize your messaging and marketing across your entire ecosystem in just 90 days…
so you can get over that $300K -$500K hump while doing less, more efficiently, while having better insight into how to build visibility, connect with your people and convert the into happy customers.
*This post contains affiliate links, so we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through links on our site at no additional cost to you.
Leveraging Social Proof to Build Trust
Gone are the days of the fake Stripe account screenshots…
People are able to sniff out a social proof fraudster from a mile away.
And yet, social proof is actually more important than ever in building trust.
So, what’s a girl to do?
Use better (and authentic) social proof.
The best case scenario is to leverage real social proof – like screenshots of comments/feedback directly from social media. Or run ads that keep the original positive comments on them.
Second best case scenario is video testimonials.
But please, please, do not slap up 10 minute long video testimonials that no one is going to watch. Either edit them down or get a pro to do it, like our friend Tracy Phillips who interviews, edits, and produces the most epic video testimonials you’ve ever seen with her Testimagicals.
When you’re thinking about hiring a coach or buying a product or investing in a new offer, what’s the first thing you do?
If you didn’t say, “look for proof it’s worth it” you’re lying.
We covet 5-star reviews, Amazon reviews, Google reviews… why? Because they prove that the investment is a sound one.
Give yourself the opportunity to do that for your own offers and business, too. It’s a major needle-mover in developing trust.
What are Symbols or Indicators of Trust?
Consumers are concerned about the safety of their information and how you’re going to use it; this can be a deal breaker when it comes time to actually hand over those credit card deets.
One of the best trust building strategies is to be upfront and clear about how you will protect their information, and instead of saying it, simply display it!
- Use a lock symbol (or other symbols) to display certificates like SSL encryption for payment processing, PCI compliance for credit card transactions, and other industry-specific certifications that ensure customer safety.
- Display contact information clearly on your website to show customers you’re available if they have questions or concerns about their purchase.
- Feature stars, customer reviews, social proof and testimonials on product pages to build trust among new visitors who may not be familiar with your brand and to confirm that consumers are about to make a good decision.
- Leverage user-generated content so potential buyers can confidently make well-informed decisions based on the positive experiences of others.
We’ve talked a whole lot about what happens before someone actually decides they’re going to buy, and how to help them feel confidence in this decision, but what about when it’s time to click “buy”?
How Does Trust Impact Conversions in Digital Marketing?
Trust is all about what happens to help increase conversions by making people feel safe in their investment.
Build trust? They’ll buy.
No trust or destroyed trust? They’re not buying.
It’s that simple.
Here are some ways you can impact conversions:
Increasing Conversion Rates Through Improved User Experience
A positive user experience is crucial when it comes to conversions in digital marketing.
Just consider how you feel when you click on a link and a page loads wonky, images are skewed, the page doesn’t scroll like it should, or you can’t even click the button or get to the thing you want to buy! It’s the worst.
And makes you immediately bounce off the page feeling like this person can’t be trusted with your money if they can’t get this right. Start by focusing on making sure your user experience is clean (looking at you, mobile view) and then take this a step further with things like chatbots for support or video popups that answer FAQs, and other ways that you can improve the user experience (hint: your data will show you exactly how to improve this).
Increasing Customer Loyalty Through Enhanced Brand Reputation
Those clients who love what you deliver will rave about you – and 84% of people trust recommendations from people they know, so that second-hand trust can be just as powerful as the firsthand trust you’re trying to build.
Focus on not just marketing on the frontend, but also your delivery on the backend to leverage affiliate marketing and referral programs.
Do this while also utilizing social proof as explained above, and you can push the trust factor through the roof when you impact how people see your brand as a whole.
The end result of building trust should always be an increase in conversion, but you have to be careful to not also send out the bat signal that you can’t be trusted by mistake, so let’s go there next.
Tips for Creating a Sense of Urgency to Increase Conversions without Degrading Trust
Encouraging customers to act fast by providing limited-time offers and discounts can help boost conversions.
Buuttttt – when done incorrectly, certain tactics can be one of the fastest ways to degrade trust with potential consumers.
So let’s talk about why they work and how to use them to build trust instead.
Robert Cialdini indicated scarcity (the perception that products are limited) is one of the 7 Principles of Persuasion.
Urgency (the perception that there is a finite or limited amount of time before the product disappears) works on the same principle. It encourages people to take action before a deadline…(Like me, waiting until the last minute to finish this blog post.)
They’re both incredibly strong drivers in helping people make decisions because, at the end of the day, people will avoid making a decision forever – unless we help them! #IYKYK
In short, scarcity and urgency are incredibly effective in increasing conversions.
But here’s the key difference here that we CANNOT under stress:
These tactics should ONLY be used if the urgency and scarcity is REAL.
Fake or exaggerated urgency/scarcity is one of the fastest ways to destroy trust with your potential clients. And, trust me, when you do this, it’s nearly irreparable.
Think: Taylor Swift and Ticketmaster. ‘Nough said?
Ticketmaster also could have taken a note from this next section…
Strategies for Improving Transparency in Digital Marketing
Transparency is essential for building trust with customers and improving conversions in digital marketing.
We would go so far as to say that it’s never been more important and it’s not optional if you want to grow and survive in 2023 and beyond.
Deloitte even found that when brands demonstrate transparency and humanity, customers are 2.5 times more likely to provide personal information that helps improve the product, and 1.7 times more likely to feel they have received more value than expected
Here’s what data is showing bout what consumers care about:
Being Open About Your Business Practices
The days of believing that your values are just a footnote on your website are over.
People are looking for evidence that you’re going beyond performative action and walking the walk with your business practices.
Be open and transparent about your values and beliefs, and then set up your customer experience to be indicative of those values. Consumers are looking for you to be authentically inclusive and purpose-driven, and yet 55% of consumers are unconvinced that brands foster true progress.
So give them a reason to believe in you.
Be open and transparent about your business practices, what you value, and how you embody your purpose.
Communicating Clearly With Customers
Communication is key when it comes to building trust between businesses and consumers—so make sure yours is crystal clear.
This should be a no-brainer, but it can be one of the most difficult parts to nail when there’s so much marketing jargon that can jumble our communication and tech overwhelm that can derail our customer service.
Customers should know exactly what they’re getting when they purchase from you.
Seems like a given, but how often do you get something and go “this is not at all what I expected!”
There’s no more important time to make sure your sales and marketing assets clearly and concisely define what people should expect in the delivery. Don’t hide it or make it hard to find all the information they need to make an informed decision – make this extremely clear.
In Rebellion, this is something we talk about a lot in Eliya’s copy audits that our members receive. It’s part of not just how we remain ethical, but also how we create safe spaces, customer satisfaction, and best experiences for everyone. When the front matches the back and we’re as transparent as possible with the process, we get the right kind of consumers who are happy with what they purchase.
Be sure to set up tech, systems, or additional help to manage post purchase expectations or issues!
By implementing these strategies for improving transparency in digital marketing, businesses can build trust with their customers and ensure a positive experience. To maximize customer loyalty, it is essential to recognize the most effective approaches for sustaining connections.
Best Practices for Maintaining Customer Relationships
Forming strong connections with customers is essential for any business to thrive.
But we know that maintaining customer relationships is also incredibly important – it only takes one bad review!
Here are some best practices for maintaining customer relationships:
Excellent Customer SupporT
Make sure people feel supported with your products and services with an efficient system to promptly respond to inquiries and complaints.
Dedicated staff members can handle customer service queries while automated systems such as chatbots can provide instant answers 24/7.
After resolving any issues, it is important follow up with customers is done by a real human – this is incredibly important to consumers in 2023 (looking at you, “press zero for an operator”). You can foster customer loyalty and create a raving fan base by just caring about what happens after someone buys from you.
Open Communication and Expectations
If Active Campaign’s wild and sudden price hikes are any indication of how important communication is to consumers, I don’t know what is.
(We had many ranty pants sessions about this in Rebellion – and even brought in an expert to help talk about migrating because of how awfully they handled this!)
Staying in contact with clients regarding any modifications or developments in your offerings helps create trustworthiness because they feel “in the loop” even when things change.
Customer data and feedback can be absolutely golden in helping you tailor unique experiences that help customers feel supported and seen (again, relationships! )
Utilize data from past interactions with customers along with feedback surveys to gain insights into what type of content resonates best with each user segment, then use those insights to create tailored experiences for different audiences across all touchpoints throughout the buyer journey.
This is where the magic of data helps to hyper-personalize the experience and create something that feels intimate (well, as intimate as you want it to be with total strangers).
FAQs in Relation to Trust in Digital Marketing
Building trust between businesses and customers is essential for successful digital marketing, and is only more important in 2023 as we “return to normal” (she says, with a giggle). All the research shows that consumers care more and more about trust, authenticity, and transparency and are making purchasing decisions based on those factors. Without trust, consumers are choosing other brands that align with their needs and beliefs. Now is the time to reach potential consumers through hyper-personalized journeys, with elevated and clean messaging, exceptional customer support, and creating proven and safe investment opportunities that use social proof to show that, instead of making claims about it.
Trust in digital marketing is built by being transparent, authentic and purpose-driven. Demonstrate that you value your customers’ experience, that you have the authority to serve them, and that their investment is sound. Showcase positive customer reviews on social media platforms to build credibility with potential customers. Ensure all content is precise, elevated, current and reliable to enable individuals to trust it as a source of data. Remember that trust is built over time, just like a human relationship; if you treat it as such and work to build that relationship before asking for a conversion, you’ll naturally increase your revenue and results
In the post-pandemic world, trust in our social settings, government, and even each other has been eroding and at the center of our public conversations. This, naturally, trickles down into us as consumers and therefore the consumer behavior and purchasing habits that impact us as entrepreneurs and business owners. People are doing much more “cyber-stalking” to make sure you’re a sound investment, and when they do that they’re really verifying whether or not you’re trust-worthy. It’s important you build these trust signals into your marketing now, not after there’s a problem.
The marketing world is wildly different now than it was pre-2020.
We’ve changed – as people and as consumers – so it’s no surprise that we have to change and adapt to how we market and interact with our consumers.
Trust has become a critical piece of the puzzle, and it’s no longer enough to wait until there’s an erosion of trust to do damage control – you have to think about how you’re building and maintaining trust from first touch to last.
Need help developing and implementing these trust building strategies in your marketing ecosystem?
We can help you build and establish trust at scale with your people in a way that is 100% customized and designed for your business in just 90 days…
so you can elevate your digital presence and grow your business to 7-figures while doing less, more efficiently, as you connect with your people and convert them into happy customers.