Merriam-Webster defines trust as “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.” It comes as no surprise that consumer trust is paramount to companies. Here is how some industries survived covid-19 by building trust online.
Yet the most recent Edelman Trust Survey found that trust took a hit across all industries this past year. Fortunately for “business,” it was left standing as the only remaining category of trusted institution. Combine that with technology’s being the most trusted industry within that category, and 2020 provided a wide opening for e-commerce to rise.
Naturally, the COVID-19 crisis had much to do with this. The pandemic brought with it, out of necessity, a tremendous expansion of what consumers are willing to purchase online. This escalation was driven both by building trust online and need as more people had to get creative with their purchasing habits.
Below are five industries to keep an eye on as they capitalize on building trust online and increased the customer base they built during 2020.
Before 2020-21, accessing medications online was not considered a mainstream activity. Few local pharmacies offered that option, as patients didn’t entirely trust the privacy of online services. That landscape changed significantly in 2020.
Job loss — and the accompanying loss of insurance — created a need for many to obtain a prescription without a doctor’s visit. COVID safety concerns caused others to avoid stopping by pharmacies in person. Suddenly, people needed a safer, nontraditional path for access to allergy treatment, birth control, and pain management, among others.
This desire for increased safety led to a rise in educational content from telehealth companies and the emergence of unique partnerships for delivery models. These companies needed to demonstrate that they could be trusted to handle something as important as medication. Consumers responded positively to the company’s efforts and are likely to continue doing so through 2021 and beyond.
Another industry seeing growth in online trust — largely due to the pandemic — is food retail. An ever-increasing number of grocery stores and restaurants now allow their customers to make purchases online. With more consumers shopping from home, online grocery purchases in 2020 grew by nearly $31 billion over the previous year.
In addition to the larger, well-known players in this field, increased online food sales also include more small and local businesses. Consumers can now purchase dinner online from their favorite local burger joint just as easily as weekly groceries from one of the larger chain stores.
Like prescriptions, the food we eat is another area where a high level of consumer trust is essential. If the customer doesn’t believe a retailer can get their order right, they won’t continue to do business with them.
Companies at all levels in the food retail industry have successfully demonstrated that they can be trusted with what their customers consume. By prioritizing customer comfort and safety as necessary survival tools, these businesses stayed open. Adaptability will continue to be rewarded with a growing online customer base now and in the future.
Prior to 2020, the fitness industry could generally count on steady consumer interest. The advent of every New Year brought with it new customers resolving to get fit, lose weight, and live healthier lifestyles. That changed dramatically last year with the enforced closure of many gyms once pandemic lockdowns took hold. Suddenly, many were faced with the option to give up their lifestyle habits or pursue fitness at home.
Several companies such as Peloton and Mirror jumped on the opportunity to help customers create home smart gyms. The workout equipment these companies sell relies heavily on customer trust. Personal information is routinely uploaded via internet-enabled features to help customize workout programs and chart progress. Consumers’ willingness to share personal details — heart rate, body composition, weight — demonstrates a high level of trust in fitness companies.
Sustained interest in working out may have been helped by people looking for ways to handle stress from extended lockdowns. While major players are currently dominating the field, look for new fitness companies to take advantage of increased consumer confidence.
One industry that did not hesitate to jump on a captive audience was entertainment. Though traditional entertainment options such as sporting events, concerts, and movie theaters took an enormous hit, online entertainment is thriving.
From late 2019 to 2020, several new streaming services entered the market. Disney+, HBO Max, and Peacock notably tried to capitalize on the trust customers already had in their existing properties. Promises of exclusive content and early access drew customers to these platforms.
Some streaming services did not survive 2020, but the ones that did are gaining the confidence of their customers to handle big releases. Rising subscriber numbers demonstrate a willingness on the part of consumers to continue investing in streaming entertainment. In fact, the growing online-focused trust may change the entertainment industry permanently.
Another industry positively affected by customers’ increased comfort with working online is financial services. Many in-person locations were forced to close in 2020, encouraging banks and other financial institutions to increase their online presence. Overall, the shift seemed to be a successful one, with a growing number of customers feeling safe handling their finances online. This represents a huge win for an industry that traditionally has been criticized for being slow to adapt.
Financial institutions had to pivot their strategies quickly to assure customers their finances were safe. Secure online chats and banking apps were implemented or upgraded to ensure that business could continue.
Overall, the new approach seems to have worked despite some mixed data. The Edelman study shows a dip in trust in the financial industry last year. However, it also demonstrates a relatively consistent level of trust over the previous decade. With the financial sector adapting faster than ever before, it may see a bump in trust, especially online, this year.
Online Alternatives are the New Normal
E-commerce is likely to continue gaining consumer confidence throughout 2021. While the pandemic forced many to look for new ways to conduct business, it also was an impetus to develop new spending habits. These habits, marked as they are by increased convenience, are likely to stay with shoppers in a post-pandemic setting.
The industries highlighted above have been quick to recognize that consumer spending habits may well have changed for good to building trust online. While there will always be a need for in-person shopping and services, successful businesses will adopt online interactions as an alternative. Assuming they stress both safety and privacy, they can expect to be rewarded with loyal customers.