Building Customer Trust in a Post-Pandemic World


Brands need to balance collecting data to personalize the buying experience with consumer demands for privacy. Pam Erlichman, CMO, Jebbit, shares her insights from Jebbit’s State of Consumer Trust Survey that revealed the latest rankings on how much consumers trust the top 100 brands with their personal information.

Every marketer seeks to provide a seamless and personalized experience for their customers, and to do that, they need consumer data. Consumers are game, as long as they get real value from their willingness to share. But spectacular data breaches, along with Congressional hearings, have brought widespread awareness of just how much people give away when they allow brands to collect, store, and activate their data. Will consumers continue to play along? And have they set new boundaries that, once crossed, negatively affects their view of a brand?

As we emerge from the pandemic and reenter the world of commerce more fully, marketers would be wise to consider how consumers feel, and if their approach to customer interactions should remain the same or evolve. For instance, every marketer – genuinely, I believe this – strives to serve his or her customers in ways that promote trust and respect, as well as offer real value. Do consumers, in general, share that perception? The answer isn’t that reassuring. Brands have their work cut out for them.

Why do I say this? Each quarter Jebbit conducts its State of Consumer Trust surveyOpens a new window , which asks adult consumers in the US to rate, on a scale of one to ten, how well they trust 100 brands. The survey also digs deep into why they trust a brand, and why they don’t.

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Understanding Customer Trust

According to the survey results, the top three trust earners are Amazon, Microsoft, and FedEx. And yet, for the third quarter in a row, Amazon was the only company that earned a score higher than 6.0 – and that was only by a smidgen. Microsoft and FedEx were tied, both earning a 5.6 score. It’s hard to boast when 40% and 44% of consumers, respectively, don’t have a lot of faith in the nation’s most trusted brands.

Obviously, trust, or lack thereof, is an urgent issue for any brand seeking to maintain a positive and long-term relationship with a customer. In this vein, we probed consumers about what fuels their levels of trust, and some clear themes emerged. First and foremost, consumers trust brands that only store and use personal information that’s relevant to the products they purchase (34%), and never show them ads or offers based on data they didn’t share (31%). As for red flags, 39% of consumers said they don’t like it when brands ask for too much information, and 39% said they’ve seen an ad or received an email that contained personal data they hadn’t shared with that brand.

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What’s interesting is that just 9% said they didn’t like advertising that follows them around (i.e. “creepy advertising”). Consumers, it seems, are okay with sharing a limited amount of data with brands, as long as they understand how it will be used and the value they’ll get. These survey findings are a clear indication that consumers are very much aware of the extent to which marketers are able to capture their data unbeknownst to them, and they’re actively establishing boundaries of what’s acceptable and what’s not. To survive in the new world that awaits us post-pandemic, brands will need to prove to consumers they are trustworthy, which they can only achieve through transparency and authenticity.

Based on these results, we can begin to formulate new rules of the road for data gathering that will establish trust and loyalty in your brand. It starts with the audience. There are plenty of tracking companies that can tell you a great deal of information about consumers who have no relationship to your brand, but be wary of purchasing and activating that data. The right to use personal data must be earned one audience member at a time.

Second, use only declared data and use it with a purpose. For instance, many online checkout processes require the customer to provide a cell phone number, but that doesn’t give those brands the right to send offers and promotions to their mobile devices. If you want to engage with a consumer via a specific channel, ask them for permission. There are other ways to obtain declared data, as well. You can ask customers about their preferences, tastes, ambitions, and aspirations. If they share that data it’s okay for you to use it, but only in ways they’ve agreed to upfront.

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Seeking Customer Value

Third, I realize every marketer seeks to offer value to a customer when they interact with them, but what brands and consumers deem valuable may be different things. Brands may think they’re delivering value to their customers when they send daily emails with a list of sales items, but to the customer who has no interest in those items, those messages are inbox clutter. Prioritize relevant data – based on declared preference – over frequency.

Finally, as always, establish metrics for each initiative and measure the consumer’s response to your efforts. It’s difficult to assess the impact of campaigns and engagements – however well meaning – on the people who receive them.

Following these principles will go a long way in building trust among your customers and prospects, and position your brand to thrive as we enter a drastically different consumer economy.