In today’s market, brand trust is more important than ever. The reduction in face-to-face interactions as a result of the pandemic, has seen a corresponding growth in e-commerce. Research from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed online sales in Australia registered a 55% rise in December 2020 compared to the same period last year.

With more customers shifting purchase decisions online, they are becoming more conscious of who and what to spend their money on. But what makes a brand trustworthy to consumers and why is this such an important business currency in 2021? The short story: transparency — it is the backbone to any successful business and impacts how consumers view and resonate with a brand. Take LUSH as an example, who in early 2017 opened up its manufacturing kitchen to the press and public to increase transparency around how its products are made. Last year, the beauty retail company turned 25 and has more than 446 stores around the world.

Brand trust and transparency should not be seen as a “strategy” for major brands, but adopted as a crucial part of any business DNA. Here are some ways you can establish and maintain brand trust in your own business: 

Transparency is key

As increasing numbers of consumers rely on the internet to research and buy products and services, the need for trust has become evermore acute. Our own data reveals that online reviews increased by 25 per cent globally, between March 2020 and October 2020, highlighting just how crucial it’s become in a buyer’s journey.

Retailers, especially online, must show their brand “walks the talk” and is reliable, authentic, ethical and cares about its customers. To achieve this, businesses must strive for greater transparency. This pursuit for transparency isn’t just about providing access to information, but in showing authenticity in order to build trust with customers.

At Trustpilot, our ‘Trust Promise’ and other recent commitments provide an open agreement with the world to show that we will do more to ensure that consumers and businesses can continue to benefit from their interactions on the platform, and our users can trust the integrity of the content they see. We launched our first Transparency Report  as a product of this promise, revealing data that has never been released publicly before and providing more insight into the actions we are taking to protect and promote trust online.

Consumers don’t expect companies to be perfect, and brand trust isn’t built from perfection. They want to know more about why you do what you do, that your actions are genuine and how you engage with them when things go wrong. 

An accessible source of truth

Being transparent about business practices to develop brand trust should always be a key focus point for businesses big and small. Unfortunately, there are times when this can be thwarted as a result of uncontrollable fake information dwelling in corners of the internet. To ensure it doesn’t damage reputation and consumer trust, businesses should be proactive and provide an accessible source of truth, via its own platforms. Not only that, but it’s crucial to establish two way communication that enables customers to provide feedback.

Ask yourself: Can your customers see how their opinion is being published and used, as well as how their experience is being dealt with? Are you filtering and moderating reviews in a way that doesn’t show the true picture of your business?

Over the past year, we have removed over two million fake reviews from our own platform and put public consumer warnings on 522 company profiles to ensure the integrity of the content our own customers read.

By being honest, customers are much more likely to know they can get the whole picture, not just what brands want them to see.

The most important business currency

A lack of transparency has riddled the online retail space for years. It is an ongoing challenge with some businesses still trying to create fake reviews, or even prevent and censor customer opinions from being published in the first place. You may feel vulnerable putting the bad aspects of your brand on full display — it’s human nature. But the simple fact is, without clear truth, consumers will lose confidence in the information that should be helping them make their purchase decisions.

Customers speak with their wallets and if they lose trust in your brand, they will stop purchasing from you. They are also not afraid to call out misinformation or falsification, tell their friends and in 2021 — their followers too.

So, be honest, be transparent, and share the real insight into your business. This is what will build trust and provide you with a brand that consumers love and buy from for years to come.

Peter Holten Mühlmann is founder and CEO of Trustpilot.