As lockdown eases, businesses must build trust to bring customers in-store

Jon Buss, MD of Yext UK, discusses the culture of misinformation and its impact on trust.

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At the beginning of 2020, no business could have been prepared for the uncertainty and challenges that the coronavirus has brought, and the idea of reopening after several months of closure would have been unheard of.

But fast forward to August and many brands are well underway with preparing the physical logistics of re-opening, such as store layouts, PPE for staff and stock management.

But many brands may not have considered that there is also a need to prepare its online presences for reopening. For so many establishments, like gyms, outdoor theatres, pools, beauty salons and others set to reopen, considering the questions that customers need answers to online simply may not be top of mind.

Every day, people ask businesses millions of questions – Google alone receives over two trillion searches a year. Yet often they receive outdated or incorrect information — or worse, no answer at all. This leaves consumers considerably more sceptical about the information that organisations and brands deliver. Combine this with the recent Covid-19 infodemic, and the result is deeper confusion and lack of trust among consumers than ever before.

Consequently, it couldn’t be more important for businesses and organisations to ensure they are the ultimate source of truth. As lockdown measures continue to ease, brands that forget to keep customers up to date with accurate and timely information risk being avoided altogether.

A reliable source of truth

Many business operations will never be the same and those changes, such as different opening hours and social distancing rules, need to be communicated everywhere. On average, people make at least 3–4 online searches per day. Why? Because as a digital society, a natural response when we have a question is to search online, whether it be via a search engine or directly into a website’s search bar.

When a potential customer has a query in real time and turns to a brand for help, that’s a pivotal moment. It could be as simple as asking a gym its opening time or a slightly more complex question, such as the steps a bank branch has in place to ensure complete safety. Either way, consumers want answers — and they’ll trust a brand who can deliver them accurately and quickly.

Trust and loyalty

In turn, trust fosters loyalty with existing customers and is integral to helping win over new ones. A customer that can’t obtain the answers that they’re looking for will have their trust diminished. Rebuilding this trust takes much longer than it takes to lose it, and it can take a considerable amount of time and effort to win customers back over.

Therefore, building and maintaining brand trust must be a priority for any business. Recent research indicates that 81% of consumer’s believe trust is a deal breaker – it’s the deciding factor in their buying decision.

Combine this with the heightened importance of providing answers to reassure consumers, given the risks to their health and safety in-store, brands can’t afford to lose consumer trust. But if businesses are to leverage the concept of customer trust — and subsequent loyalty – by providing the right answers, they need to know the best way to do so.

Understanding consumer search habits

Brands often have their websites packed with information about products and services, yet consumers often struggle to locate the specific information they are looking for because the website is poorly formatted or the site search returns unrelated or out of date information. Business must be able to provide the right information to consumers, but most importantly at the right time and in a way that’s easy to find, digest and understand.

Half of internet searches comprise of four or more words and naturally with more complex questions, consumers are expecting more detailed answers. The upside of increasingly complex searches is that the data offers a much better understanding of what customers are looking for. Thankfully for brands, sophisticated search technology now gives brands the opportunity to understand and reach their customers better than ever before.

Using the data from complex searches, businesses need to have a system in place, such as a knowledge graph that delivers on-site answers, to bring everything a customer might want to know to the surface. This will help identify and answer questions about a business’ Covid-19 strategy and guidance on what actions customers should take to stay safe. In the future, it will be different questions but it will be the same structured knowledge graph that will ensure customers find their answer.

With 90% of consumers using search at every stage of the customer journey, understanding their search habits gives you a powerful tool when maintaining their trust and requirements. As businesses settle into the ‘new normal’, the risk has never been greater. But those who manage this by giving customers what they need and when they need it will be rewarded with trust and loyalty.

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