Online marketers who think the cries of “fake news” doesn’t apply to how they do business are very mistaken.
Establishing trust in the era of fake news (being called out on all political sides) is critical and getting more difficult – and not just for media outlets. Marketers and ecommerce players are experiencing a trickle down effect as fake news bleeds into so many facets of life, including online shopping.
Trust is Everything
However, with so much information available to people, it’s not just news stories. Everything from websites, blogs and more are being viewed with growing skepticism. Consumers aren’t sure who to trust about anything online.
A big part of convincing people on the path to purchase is creating a sense of trust with potential buyers. This is especially important for new and upstart companies. But consumers are struggling to discern if websites have an agenda, if they are legitimate, if reviews are real, whether product recommendations really come from objective sources and actual testing, and other questions. Consumer skepticism is rampant.
Baymard’s Checkout Usability study reveals that 18% of users have abandoned a checkout flow during the last 3 months because they didn’t trust the site.
This is a big problem for internet marketers that are constantly competing for attention and dollars in an increasingly crowded online marketplace. Without consumer trust a brand can wither.
Traditional Methods are Eroding
In the past there were a variety of proven ways for marketers to foster trust. But those traditional methods are eroding and no longer as effective.
Paid Recommendations – Buyers now understand that influencer marketing (including so-called mommy bloggers, celebrities, and content bloggers with big audience reach) can be bought and paid for by brands with sponsored posts and run of site advertising.These bloggers are required by the FTC to disclose if they are paid by a brand and if they make money for promoting or recommending products. And while most bloggers are adamant they wouldn’t recommend a product/service they don’t believe in, the financial compensation from the brand can taint that endorsement for some consumers.
Media Mentions – In the past, highlighting all the places your product or service received a mention in the press, was a good way to foster trust. Many brands would have (and still do) a section on their website – maybe even showcased on the homepage – where they would gather all their accolades and present them to visitors as a way of touting legitimacy. Having a third-party saying positive things about your company was a well-proven way to build trust with consumers.
However, the effectiveness of that tactic is lessening. Using media mentions on your website or in marketing efforts (such “Appeared in the NY Times” or “As Seen on CNN” or “Reviewed by whateverwebsite.com”) no longer carries the same weight as many people question the basic legitimacy of many media outlets – both in print and online. In fact, there can be negative connotations of associating with some media, depending on the target demographics of your product or service.
Reviews – There’s also an air of distrust around reviews based on evidence of fake reviews on Amazon and Yelp. Until last October, Amazon permitted so-called “incentivized reviews,” whereby reviewers were given free or discounted products in return for reviews, so long as the reviewer made the arrangement clear. However, after incentivized reviews started flooding the site, many clearly fraudulent, Amazon banned them for the vast majority of products.
Tactics That Still Work
There’s still credibility in some traditional trust methods such as trust logos (Google Trusted Store, BBB Accredited, TRUSTe) that convey trust through business authenticity. As well as Secure Socket Layer (SSL) seals including Norton, Thawte, Trustwave, Geotrust, Comodo, etc., that denote trust through technical security.
Additionally, highlighting partnerships with businesses you work with engenders trust by association with recognized, established brands. This old chestnut continues to foster trust because people will make the mental leap that if you are partnered with Apple or Microsoft or Cuisinart and those are respected brands, your business must also be trustworthy.
So, with some traditional trust methods declining, the future is still in flux as to what will be the most effective tactics for creating trust.
- Social recommendations – Social circles (from only friends, family and direct social connections) continue to be given more weight in purchasing decisions and establishing trust. People are 4 times more likely to buy when referred by a friend, according to a report by Nielsen
- New tools – A handful of new tools and plug-ins are coming out to allow brands to show peer reviews and mentions in real-time on Facebook and other social platforms. Because shoppers can see real-time reviews and actually verify the reviews are coming from a real person, it could equate to more trust for brands.
- Artificial intelligence – AI will be used by many brands to help customers with everything from finding products to providing customer service. If these bots can effectively solve customer problems (and that’s still being determined), customers may find more effective customer service fosters increased trust.
- Increased personalization – Like relationships in real life, trust is built over time. Better tools for creating a more personalized experience should help brands develop trust with customers.
Regardless of what form it takes – tools, better service, more verified reviews – creating trust with customers is a foundation of marketing that can’t be ignored and must be in place for success.