Building Brand Trust Throughout The Customer Journey

Customers trust your brand when their experience meets their expectation of your brand. Trust is a key factor when persuading your customers to purchase online and customers are more likely to purchase online from a familiar and trusted brand.

Consumer buying behaviour has changed significantly with the continuing rise in the use of smartphones and tablets. Smartphones have overtaken laptops for accessing the internet and activities such as search and evaluation are now conducted in different channels and at different times. Consumers now expect to have a seamless brand experience across multiple channels. 

According to a recent article by the Nielsen Norman Group, The New Ecommerce User Experience: Changes in Users’ Expectations:

Users’ perception of their experience is directly dependent on their expectations, and on whether these expectations are met.
— Kim Flaherty and Anna Kaley - Nielsen Norman Group

The multichannel customer journey can be complex, so to succeed a brand needs to adopt a multichannel approach and to have a brand experience strategy that is based on an in-depth understanding of the customers’ needs, goals and behaviours.

The customer journey is no longer linear but some elements have remained consistent.  The key stages for developing trust in a brand throughout the customer journey are:

  1. Awareness: This is the first stage of the customer journey, when a prospect becomes aware of a brand or product / service, they may recognise that they have a need. The initial brand perception formed at this stage is based on their indirect brand experience through e.g. PR, advertising, marketing communication, social media or word of mouth. So, you need to identify the key channels your customers or potential customers use to communicate with your company and to evaluate how effective each channel is for brand communication. It is the customer who chooses when and where to interact or communicate with a brand. If the initial brand perception is positive this forms the prospect’s initial trust in the brand, which is the key element that determines whether he/she decides to consider the brand and to move to the next stage of the customer journey.

  2. Consideration and Evaluation: When a prospect realises that they have a need, he /she  considers searching for a particular product or service from an initial set of favourite brands and chooses to visit and browse through the selected websites for more information as well as to compare their products / services. The direct experience of using a website has a stronger influence over the user's brand perception than the perception that is based on advertising and marketing communication only. If the overall brand experience in the evaluation stage is positive, then they would be persuaded to make a purchase, to achieve their goal.

  3. Purchase: The decision whether to buy a product or service is based on whether the prospect trusts the brand to meet their need at their convenience. To help persuade the user to make a purchase, the website needs to be easy to use with consistent look and feel, providing a great user experience that reflects the brand values. The website needs to include content that enhances credibility and trust worthiness such as customer testimonials, product / service ratings and reviews. In addition, the website needs to have easy ordering with flexible shipping options, no hidden costs, privacy protection and security. Delivering a positive and successful branded user experience is key to developing and enhancing the user’s trust in the brand. 

  4. Post-purchase customer experience: The customer evaluates their experience of using the product or service and whether this meets their brand expectation. Good product / service quality and customer service e.g. efficient delivery and easy returns would further enhance the customer’s trust in the brand.

  5. Brand relationship and loyalty: If the overall customer experience is positive and satisfying then the customer would buy the product or use the service again and would recommend it by sharing the brand experience with their friends and family. Delivering consistently successful brand experiences lead to customers having brand relationship and loyalty. Loyal customers become advocates for brands and help to persuade potential customers to develop trust in the brand with their blogs, product ratings / reviews and word of mouth recommendations. 

Understanding the multichannel customer journey and how to optimise it to deliver a great branded customer experience is key for persuading your customers to develop and maintain trust in your brand. A brand needs to convey its brand values at every touchpoint across the multichannel customer journey. Delivering a consistent branded customer experience throughout the customer journey helps with consumer decision making by communicating the quality and value of the product or service, building brand trust and reassuring the consumer that they have made the right choice. To achieve this, it is all about integration, which requires all the various parts of your business to work together to enable you to deliver a great customer experience that meets or ideally exceeds your customers’ brand expectations.