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COVID-19 April 07, 2020

Establishing trust as a new Direct to Consumer brand

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In this difficult period, businesses have been forced to adjust their models. B2B manufacturers have rapidly sought to pivot to direct-to-consumer ecommerce; a response to the challenges posed by reseller closures and the limitations placed on traditional sales channels.

Whether your business is building a new ecommerce platform, choosing to list products on an existing marketplace like Amazon, or is temporarily closed and looking to communicate with furloughed staff, your business needs to begin winning the audience’s trust. Trust that services will continue to operate. Trust that key online orders will be delivered. Trust that details usually covered by face-to-face meetings can be dealt with over the phone or online.

Communicating trust is a challenge, particularly when it has moved from being a point of distinction for brands like John Lewis and LL Bean, to an expectation. When a past point of distinction becomes an industry standard, brands start to explore it in further depth. This isn’t just applicable to ‘trust’; as an example, consider the supermarket sector’s approach to value. Every retailer wants to show that they offer good value products, pushing each brand to take a distinct approach based on their own identity. The result is an industry that can include M&S’s ‘Spend it well’ and Aldi’s look-alike brands.

For many brands launching to a new target market, trust levels will be way down. Reactive work to establish the baseline that ‘needs can be met’ is vitally important. For businesses that have had to adapt their model to a digital-first or D2C approach, proving to customers and clients that the service is operating as well as before is a necessity. 

With this in mind, it is important to consider how we judge trust. In ‘How Humans Judge Machines,’ Cesar Hidalgo states that “people judge humans by their intentions, and machines by the outcome.” A business is a machine, constituent parts performing a task, therefore proof of outcome is key to gaining trust among potential customers.

This is why the past decade has seen an explosion of online reviews. A study on Airbnb demonstrates the effect of positive reviews. The study found that when comparing products with fewer than ten reviews each, customers would prioritise reviews from similar demographics to their own. But, with ten or more reviews, customers would go for the option with the most positive reviews. High reputation trumps high similarity. It is interesting to apply this to the B2B space. Many people assume that a single, highly relevant case study is the key to winning a new contract, however this study suggests that B2Bs should not neglect the high number of happy clients they are serving.

If we think of how this can be actioned on a landing page, consider designs that juxtapose the relevant case study, selected through dynamic content that uses what is already known about the visitor, with the quantity of positive reviews from clients across the business. Herd mentality is a powerful behaviour to play on.

The effect of reviews should be considered by any businesses that are starting to use Amazon as a new distribution channel during the COVID-19 crisis. For example, in studying their online sales and landing pages, Unilever found that the sweet spot for consumer reviews was 4.1- 4.5 out of 5, and that sales slightly dropped off from 4.6 onwards. Fake reviews do affect the ecommerce industry and erode trust, however this Unilever study suggests that consumers have a natural suspicion of overly positive reviews.

Fame, Feeling, Fluency

Many marketers will already be familiar with the concept of Fame, Feeling and Fluency:

  • Fame: does the brand easily come to mind?
  • Feeling: do you feel good about buying it?
  • Fluency: are the key assets easily recognisable as being from your brand? 

Apply this to a known globally renowned brand: Apple. Does the brand easily come to mind? Judging by the results of this ‘draw from memory’ experiment, absolutely.  Do you feel good about buying it? With 50% of the UK population owning an iPhone, I think it’s safe to say that consumers have bought into the brand.  Are the assets recognisable as being Apple? Apple’s brand and product design is iconic; it’s products are instantly recognisable, and this feeds through every element of their branding and design, from online to offline, advertising to product. 

But what does this mean for businesses just starting out? There are three key metrics to focus on:

1. Fame

Fame means potential customers remember your new proposition as a D2C. For reactive new business models, making people aware of the change is vital. As an example of a fame focused campaign, think of how Go Compare’s opera ads disrupted the insurance comparison market in 2009. Hard to listen to, but also very hard to forget.

2. FEELING

Feeling forces us to think about why the customer would feel good. Currently, peace of mind and safety are key drivers and are important to build into any reactive messaging. Focusing on this emotive side leads consumers to focus on their brand preference, rather than comparing the various product benefits. (For more insight on branding and consumer demand, check out our new download, The Secrets of Consumer Demand, by Dept Creative Director, Jake Welsh). 

3. FLUENCY

Fluency means establishing a consistent design and message across your new communication channels and any brand asset. Recognisable colours, tone of voice, each creating memory cues for the brand. In recent times, Monzo’s coral-pink bank card is a fine example, an instantly recognisable brand asset that non-customers will start to recognise when a friend opens their wallet.

For the foreseeable future, trust will drive ecommerce sales. Establishing that base-line of consumer trust is vital for any reactive consumer-facing model shift. More so than that, with trust comes loyalty. And with loyalty comes repeat sales. Acting now can be a platform for future success; climbing the pyramid of trust can put your business in a strong position as the world starts to return to normal.

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