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Building Trust with Consumers in the Time of COVID

While we have been studying consumer trust for more than a decade at McMillanDoolittle, this year has challenged retail brands’ relationships with consumers in unprecedented ways. New proprietary research reveals that leading retail brands have fallen short of expectations when it comes to earning consumer trust.  In an era of fake news and widespread uncertainty stemming from the global pandemic, it has never been more important for retailers to reassure consumers and build their trust through honest communications and a focus on both customer and employee care.

Our latest whitepaper examines how leading food, drug, club, and mass retail brands that remained open throughout the pandemic are faring on dimensions of consumer trust and the key strategies and tactics employed by today’s trust leaders who are succeeding in building trust in a post-COVID world.  Get the complete findings by downloading Consumer Trust in the Time of COVID, a white paper based on nationally representative survey data of US consumers and a retrospective analysis on the last ten years.

In the white paper, we analyze and highlight historic trends in the data since we last conducted our related Global Retail Brand Trust study 10 years ago. Like our Global Retail Brand Trust Study published in 2011, we questioned participants on dimensions of both the explicit and implicit trust they place in leading US retail brands.  According to nearly 2,000 consumers surveyed in our study:

  • Today’s consumers are re-examining their priorities and scrutinizing where they spend their money in new and powerful ways, especially as the nation faces a period of uncertainty and ongoing fear stemming from the global COVID-19 pandemic.
  • One of the most important success factors for any retailer is fostering long-term consumer trust in their brand and products. Trust has a significant positive influence on consumer’s choice priority, their frequency of visits, their recommendation or advocacy of a retail brand, as well as their long-term patronage.
  • To better understand and measure brand trust in leading retail brands, we developed the McMillanDoolittle Retail Brand Trust (RBT) score, an analysis of explicit trust in a retail brand. We demonstrate how implicit dimensions of brand trust relate to the RBT score and how trust correlates with promotion and loyalty metrics as well as trust leaders’ financial performance.
    • This year’s Retail Brand Trust leaders are Costco, HEB and Aldi. Consumers believe these retailers care about their customers, employees, and local communities, and are businesses they would miss were they to disappear.
    • Bottom-performers for Retail Brand Trust include Walmart, Instacart, and Meijer. The perception that these companies treat their employees poorly hurts their customer experience performance and perceived trustworthiness.
  • A comparison of today’s RBT scores over a decade reveals a significant decline in brand trust over time, indicating that retailer actions and messaging have not kept pace with consumer expectations. While the messaging and strategic priorities of our top performers offer a blueprint to emulate, retailers must adjust their priorities and actions to earn consumers’ trust in 2020 and beyond.
  • Today’s consumers perceive winning retailers as honest in their messaging, transparent in their processes, fair in their prices, and caring toward their employees and customers, who they put at the center of their business.

To see the complete findings and our perspective on how today’s winners are successfully building relationships with consumers by not only delivering value but appealing to their hearts, download our free white paper, Consumer Trust in the Time of COVID.

Jill Wahl

Jill directs McMillanDoolittle’s consumer insights practice and applies her global experience in quantitative and qualitative research to drive growth for her clients. Jill offers expertise in survey-based research, online qualitative, social listening, and focus group moderation to deliver timely and relevant insights that bring businesses closer to the people they serve. Since joining McMillanDoolttle in 2013, Jill has conducted extensive consumer insights work and has led strategic planning engagements for retailers, suppliers, and investors in North and South America, Europe and Oceania.

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