I recently had a chance to take in the results of an extensive research project from global communications marketing firm Edelman, conducted between October 28 and November 20, 2017, focusing on the state of consumer trust around the world. Their findings were not surprising to me, but they did instill a thought in my mind pertaining to our business, and the reason why Gigya became a hot enough property over the past few years to prompt SAP, one of the largest, most trusted brands in enterprise software, to acquire our company.
During their research, Edelman looked across four major institutions: NGOs, business, government and media, and found that, overall, consumer trust remains at an all time low after a continual decline over the past decade. Gigya has focused primarily on the digital business end of the trust issue — namely, helping our clients repair faulty registration, data collection and data management processes. However, other elements, such as a divisive political climate, rising concerns over “fake news”, the decline of traditional journalism, and an increasingly wary and digital-savvy public, are pushing the issue of trust to the forefront of the news cycle, such as it is.
The past year saw some significant movement in the report’s “trust index” across more than 25 countries, with, for example, the general population of the U.S. dropping a full nine places on the list between 2017 and 2018, going from a neutral to staunchly distrustful position. This got me thinking: What does this mean for our clients and the business community at large? From my point of view, I actually see this unstable climate as a perfect opportunity for businesses to achieve big gains by rising above the noise and proactively building trust with their customers.
Beyond mitigating the risk of harsh and punitive government scrutiny, brands who can earn the trust of their customers today will gain a massive competitive advantage in the future. Trust, after all, equates to loyalty, and this loyalty leads to repeat business and brand advocacy. Consider that, while the big players in mass media are suffering diminishing returns and degraded reputations, the voice of the customer remains a trusted source of truth. Think of the popularity of crowd-sourced review sites and apps like Yelp, TripAdvisor and so on. I know that for me, personally, I rarely make even small purchases online without reading at least a few customer reviews of the product, service or establishment I’m interested in, and I’m definitely not alone.
Over the years, my colleagues and I at Gigya have come to realize that, as we move further toward a digital-first economy, a single element often stands between success and stagnation or even failure for brands, and that element is consent. It’s proven that, as customers, we actually tend to prefer bespoke, individualized online experiences. When we favor a particular brand, we expect and want the relationship we have with it to evolve over time. The same goes for our smart, connected devices, which are specifically designed to come to “know” us as we use them, and cater to our individual preferences. At the same time, we also know that we don’t like being “stalked” by brands, or listened to or watched by our devices without our knowledge.
I know that, for me, the difference between a great, personalized digital experience versus a creepy, dystopian one is when I feel like I’m in control of what’s happening. Essentially, my message to any brand wanting to interact with me is this: Don’t infer or guess my preferences, just ask me. Also, tell me why you are asking for my information, what you will do with it, and give me the option to opt-out or to change the terms of my acceptance. If I feel confident that you are only using my personal information to provide the me with the best possible experience, and that I, alone, truly dictate the nature of our relationship, I’ll mostly likely trust you, come back again, and tell my friends and family why I prefer to buy your products or subscribe to your services.
This isn’t a hard concept to grasp, yet it’s still one that many businesses struggle to master within their digital programs and initiatives. Solving this problem has been my passion for over a decade, and has driven our vision at Gigya to help create a more secure and trustworthy digital marketplace, one brand at a time.
The relationships we form with businesses have a lot in common with those we form with each other. Essentially in my personal experience, the more I know you, the more I trust you. That’s why my consistent and heartfelt advice to our prospects and clients is to get to know your customers — on their terms — and conduct your business with them as transparently and ethically as possible. The rewards you receive from simply doing this might well be exponential.
By Patrick Salyer