8 Factors That Make or Break Brand Trust—and the Trust Signals Behind Them

Image of Scott Baradell
Scott Baradell
Published: Dec 6, 2021
Last Updated: Jan 5, 2022

Everybody's talking about brand trust these days, and for good reason. Buyer research shows that increasingly brand trust is the No. 1 factor that consumers cite in choosing the products they purchase and the companies they work with—and that this is particularly true for buyers 40 and younger. In a world that is increasingly fraught with skepticism and mistrust, buyers are seeking safe harbor with the brands they buy.

But how does a company—whether B2C or B2B—go about building brand trust?

Studies by the global PR agency Edelman, and supported by other research, demonstrate that there are eight key factors in establishing trust between buyers and brands. Starting with the most important factor and listing in descending order, these are:

  1. Product or service quality
  2. Ratings and reviews
  3. Pricing
  4. Past experience with brand
  5. Customer service
  6. Privacy and security
  7. Employee advocacy
  8. Involvement in causes and issues

Let's explore these factors in more detail, while also sharing the trust signals that brands can use as evidence points for each.

Product or Service Quality

Hand with marker writing the word Quality-1

Over the past several years, American consumers have increasingly cited quality over price as their No. 1 consideration in purchasing most products. What defines quality varies for each individual, but usually it comes down to a combination of product longevity, needs fulfillment, usability and efficiency. For some consumers, a product’s quality is judged to be high if it is long-lasting or luxurious, whereas others may value its ease of use or ability to save them money over the long term. High quality gives consumers a reason to purchase the brand and allows the company to differentiate itself from its competitors, while building brand trust.

Product Quality Trust Signals:

Ratings and Reviews

star ratings on your website and trust

More than 93% of consumers read online reviews before purchasing a product today. As a brand, you should encourage your customers to provide reviews of your products or ratings of your overall service online. Even negative feedback is an opportunity to demonstrate your brand’s transparency and show your responsiveness and ability to turn a detractor into a fan. The success of review sites, from Yelp to G2, is powerful testament to the fact that people trust what other people say about you more than what you say about yourself.

Ratings and Reviews Trust Signals:

Pricing

Stack of coupons

One of the key ways brands build trust is through their pricing strategies, but it’s a lot more than merely who is the cheapest. Sometimes, in fact, a low price can seem too good to be true and inspire distrust. More than anything, consumers want transparency in how you price your product and clarity on the value it delivers. Adding money-back guarantees and other assurances of value also makes buyers more comfortable with your price.

Pricing Trust Signals:

Past Experience with Brand

Closeup portrait happy, smiling, young attractive woman, buyer sitting in her new blue car showing keys isolated outside dealer, dealership lot, office. Personal transportation, auto purchase concept

Past experiences with brands affect brand attachment and trust. This is why it is important to provide your customers with an extraordinary experience and make them want to continue doing business with you. A 5% increase in customer retention can grow company revenue by 25-95%. Existing customers buy more often and spend more than new customers. Happy customers extend brand awareness, build trust and drive sales.

Past Experience Trust Signals:

Customer Service

Smiling customer paying by credit card at the bakery

Customers trust you more when you offer great service. That's why buyers look to online reviews not only to learn about the quality of your product, but also to understand how they will be treated—and they are sensitive to poor experiences. Bad reviews have far more influence on buyers than good reviews, with 82 percent of shoppers specifically seeking out negative reviews and 40 percent declining to make purchases because of them. But research shows having a few negative reviews among mostly positive ones actually adds credibility with buyers and increases sales.

Customer Service Trust Signals:

Privacy and Security

website privacy policy

Trusted brands protect their customers' personal information, are transparent about the data they collect, and provide significant value in return, such as through personalized experiences. Consumers today not only want but expect a high level of personalization. A full 91 percent of consumers say they are more likely to shop with brands that provide offers and recommendations tailored to them. These buyers are willing to share their personal information with you to get these experiences—but only if they trust you.

Privacy and Security Trust Signals:

Security trust badges

TRUSTe seal

Privacy policy

Personalization and privacy

Employee Advocacy

glassdoor reviews

Investing in employees is a way to build brand trust from the inside out.  Many brands have shown over the years that the surest path to making customers happy is to first make employees happy. This has an immediate positive impact on customer service and product quality. It also encourages employees to become some of the brand’s most vocal, credible, and consistent advocates online.

Employee Advocacy Trust Signals:

Involvement in Causes and Issues

Happy volunteers in the park on a sunny day

Let’s say that you’ve done everything to build brand trust and still feel like something’s missing to be your customers' preferred choice. One way to set yourself apart is to become actively involved in their causes and issues by adopting a social purpose. Today, both B2C and B2B buyers prefer their favored brands to not only provide excellent products and service but also to behave as responsible “corporate citizens” and take action to make the world a better place.

Causes and Issues Trust Signals:

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