Ed Hill, Senior Vice President, EMEA, looks at what brands need to be perceived as genuinely authentic, connecting and listening to consumers through dialogue rather than dictating to them.
The past few years have been tough to say the least. Between the COVID-19 pandemic,
racial injustice, political unrest and international discord (to name just a few), people are losing faith and feeling more jaded than ever. The impact of this has had has been considerable. It’s caused people to look more and more inwardly, reassessing things in their lives and looking for ways to maintain a sense of control, in a world that can sometimes feel very much out of their hands.
People are looking for things they can believe in and, right now, they won’t settle for less. At a time when wokewashing and greenwashing are becoming increasing concerns, authenticity for brands has never been more important.
Building authentic connections
To reach today’s increasingly wary shoppers, brands and retailers need to shift how they engage with consumers. They need to do away with an impersonal approach in favour of listening to the authentic voices of consumers and responding in the same way. This is one of the best ways that a brand can build proper trust and rapport, building brand advocates and navigating the evolving expectations of today’s consumers.
With Adobe’s Trust Report finding 71% of consumers expect brands to demonstrate trust through empathy, it’s never been more important for brands to listen. Instead of simply promoting the company’s main products and services, an authentic campaign connects with its audience. This can be in the form of issues-based marketing or by highlighting charity work. Ultimately, consumers, particularly millennials and Gen Z, are looking for transparency. They believe that businesses have power. They think companies are more likely to drive change than the government or media, according to Edelman, and are more likely to create real results. Shoppers don’t want to just buy products and services. They want to support brands that share their values in their hopes of creating a more just and fair world.
That’s what makes feedback from customers, whether it’s online reviews, social media posts or even direct feedback, such a gift for brands — whether the feedback is good or bad. Giving a voice to consumers helps them feel empowered and builds trust, but also encourages them to engage. There are fewer things more valuable to a company that an engaged customer. However, to ensure this feedback loop continues, it’s key that these open lines of communication don’t only run when the feedback is good. Brands have to be open to hearing and taking on board feedback from consumers even when its criticism. And that means making changes when they’re needed.
The power of negative feedback
While no brand wants to receive negative reviews, it is inevitable at some point. But what so many brands don’t grasp is that there are fewer things more powerful than a negative review. It’s basically a free audit of your product or service; it can point out weaknesses you didn’t know existed and in real time too.
It can help you focus your approach, better understand your target audience, improve or abandon a feature or fix bugs and issues you didn’t know existed. Even better, when you act on the feedback in a positive way, you make your customer feel heard, boosting your brand’s authenticity and strengthening a customer relationship that could have otherwise been lost. By you listening and acting, you will build a stronger business off the back of it, not to mention build up more consumer trust for long-term growth.
Negative reviews aren’t just of benefit to companies though. Over half of consumers (60%) say that negative reviews are just as important to them as positive ones when it comes to deciding whether to buy a product, and 86% of consumers seek out authentic user-generated content before deciding to buy a product they’ve not tried before.
But once again — authenticity is king, and any brands tempted to mislead shoppers by publishing fake positive reviews should realise that they are only affecting their long-term business legitimacy. Once a consumer has had a negative experience with fake reviews, they will not only be less inclined to purchase from the brand again, but will also spread the word about their negative experience to others.
Empowering consumers to make informed purchasing decisions — even if that is for them not to shop with your brand for that particular purchase — leaves the communication lines open for the future, and most importantly, ensures your authenticity and their trust in you remains intact.
Small moves can make a big difference
The 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer, concluded that the key to societal stability was restoring the public’s trust. While giving consumers access to an open, honest feedback system for your product or service isn’t going to be the answer to the world’s woes, it could be a gamechanger for your business.
By building an authentic connection with your customers, where they are able to easily let you know about their experience, you’re actually creating a board of advisors who can help your business to be the very best it can be.
Nurture those connections — engage with them, listen to them and act when required, and you’ll convert those customers into your biggest cheerleaders, all while improving your business for the better in the process. One thing is for sure, if you don’t, your customers will find a brand that will.