Think back to the days before Amazon grew into the retail behemoth it is today.
Back then, if you went shopping at a mall or a big box store, such as Wal-Mart, you did so knowing that those stores—despite their massive inventory—might not have the exact item you needed.
The growth of e-commerce in the mid-2000s helped to eradicate that issue, but it also introduced a new one: Even if you found what you needed online, you often had to pay hefty shipping fees and wait a week (or more) to receive it.
Now, compare those experiences with the one Amazon offers its customers today.
With a couple clicks, people now have access to a seemingly infinite number of items in virtually every color, variation, and size. And if they're Amazon Prime members, they know that whatever they buy will arrive on their doorstep within 48 hours (and without additional shipping fees).
In short, the entire experience is absurdly convenient and consistent—two factors that have contributed to Amazon Prime's now reaching nearly half of US households.
The Immense Value of Earning Customers' Trust
Not that Amazon is without flaws. To the contrary, it has a track record of extraordinary failures. Its Fire phone was one of the most notable flops in tech history.
The unique thing about Amazon, however, is that it's managed to emerge from those mistakes relatively unscathed.
So, what separates Amazon from other retail brands—allowing it to survive major errors and grow faster than any retailer in history?
One word: Trust.
Very simply, because Amazon's customer experience is so consistent and convenient, it allows customers to build a relationship with the brand that's deeply rooted in reliability and conviction. When customers come to Amazon, they do so knowing the company will meet their needs, solve their problems, and conserve their resources (time, money, etc.).
Naturally, this relationship generates...
- Higher senses of empowerment and confidence, leading to more frequent buying patterns
- Reduced mental and physical anguish, removing the friction associated with purchases
- Elevated feelings of security and reliability, leading to stronger brand loyalty and commitment
These feelings don't only apply to customers' relationships with B2C brands like Amazon.
Two sterling examples of brand trust in action are Salesforce and IBM—B2B companies with reputations personified by characteristics such as reliability, quality, and performance.
Salesforce and IBM, like Amazon, have a track record of simplifying customers' lives, preserving their resources, and removing the risks typically associated with purchases. And, like Amazon, those companies' track records allow both brands to forge trust-based customer relationships that yield loyalty and advocacy.
Four Questions to Assess Your Level of Brand Trust
The concept of brand trust is explored in depth in a forthcoming book by marketing researchers C. Whan Park, Deborah J. MacInnis, and Andreas B. Eisingerich: Brand Admiration: Building a Business People Love. I've also written previously about how trust, love, and respect all serve as foundational pillars for the authors' broader concept of brand admiration.
But let's refocus just on the idea of trust by answering these questions:
- Do customers know exactly what they'll get when they come to your brand?
- Are they willing to almost instinctively buy into your new ideas and forgive your mistakes?
- Do they exhibit higher rates of loyalty and stronger repeat purchase patterns?
- What gaps exist in your business that could hurt your ability to build trust?
If you're unsure about any of those questions, you'd be wise to invest time and resources into identifying areas where you can better cultivate and foster feelings of trust with your customers. The benefits of doing so can be enormous, and that investment can go a long way toward mitigating the risks and costs associated with adversarial customer relationships.
Just ask Comcast, BP, and Bank of America—all of which have spent billions over the last few years to improve their brand's perception and rebuild trust with their stakeholders, with mixed results.
If you cultivate and foster brand trust correctly, your company won't need to constantly throw piles of money at rebuilding and repairing trust with customers.
Instead, that trust will be part and parcel with who you are as a business, and it will become one of the driving forces behind why people choose to associate with your brand.
If you'd like to learn more about brand admiration and the framework that Park, MacInnis, and Eisengerich have developed, check out their brand admiration website, full of helpful information and resources to help you assess your company's level of brand admiration.
Articles in this series:
- Brand Admiration: Why Some Brands Are Loved Unconditionally (and What You Can Learn From Them)
- Brand Admiration and the Power of Love: Build a Brand That People Adore
- Is Your Brand Trusted? Here's What Happens When It Is—and Isn't
- Brand Admiration and the Value of Respect: How to Build a Revered Brand
- Brand Admiration: Three Powerful Bottom-Line Benefits of Being Admired
- The Saving Grace of Brand Admiration: 3 Companies, 3 Mistakes, 3 Different Outcomes
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