Retailers need to be more transparent to earn consumers’ trust

Dylan Brown
by Dylan Brown

Transparency may be a trend in the retail world right now, but it’s more than a seemingly honest marketing message. Transparency means telling customers how you’ll process their data for everything from event registrations through to your online booking system. Here’s some tips for retailers wanting to build trust with their consumer base.

Relaying the fact that younger generations place a high importance on brand transparency is a bit like saying older generations are obsessed with the original version of Macgyver – it’s a sweeping generalisation, but it’s also a little too obvious.

But at a time of fake news, data breaches and general misinformation, younger generations of consumers aren’t the only ones who expect a high calibre of transparency from the brands they deal with. A study by Social Sprout found that 86% of consumers think transparency from businesses is more important than ever, and almost nine out of 10 consumers will stop purchasing from brands that lack transparency, and instead go to a more forthcoming competitor.

When it comes to the retail sector, a number of high-profile scandals have planted a seed of doubt in the minds of many consumers, resulting in a high level of mistrust.

Earlier this year the annual Fashion Transparency Index, which looks at the social and environmental policies of over 200 labels, found that the most transparent brands were Adidas, Reebok and Patagonia – each scoring 64% of the total points possible (the average is only 21%) – while brands Esprit and H&M followed closely behind.

To stay afloat in today’s increasingly complex and competitive retail market, brands need to invest in open, honest, trust-based relationships with their customers now more than ever.

Be transparent, even if it makes you vulnerable

No one likes to air their dirty laundry, but today’s consumers have an active interest in the environmental and human rights policies of the brands they deal with, so being open and honest about your brand’s shortcomings, and taking an active stance to improve them, is a much better approach than trying to sweep things under the rug.

And while consumers are more critical than ever, they are also willing to stand by brands that own up to their mistakes and attempt to fix them. According to the same survey by Social Sprout, 85% of consumers said they would stick with brands during a crisis when they are more transparent overall.

For example, the well-known clothing retailer H&M has landed itself in hot water several times over the last few years for human rights abuses in its supply chains, most recently with claims of gender-based violence.

Instead of trying to deny, ignore or bury these claims, the brand has made an admirable effort to be more transparent about its supply chain partners and has taken steps to right its wrongs.

Nowadays, the brand is in the Fashion Transparency Index’s top five and, in a statement on the H&M website, the brand declares: “We believe being transparent – clear and open – about how and where our products are made is an important part of helping us become more sustainable.”

Open up a two-way conversation

Popular clothing brand Diesel launched a new advertising campaign this month, Enjoy before returning, which offers up an interesting new approach to brand transparency from a communications standpoint.

Turning a taboo topic in the retail industry on its head, Diesel’s new 60 second ad showcases customers proudly wearing their recently purchased clothing, tags fully on display, as the narrator announces the brand’s returns policy for once-worn items and states that Diesel won’t hold it against them.

While Diesel obviously isn’t thrilled when customers return their purchased products, the tongue-in-cheek tone combined with tackling what has up until now been largely considered a shopping faux pas, offers a great foundation for building trust with its customer base – and perhaps even opens up the door to reach an untapped market.

Instead of slamming consumers with an endless stream of corporate marketing messages and expecting them to respond in turn, be honest about who you are as a brand, understand who your customers are and what they want, and go about creating an authentic relationship with them.

Respect your customers’ personal privacy

Being transparent about your human rights and environmental policies is crucial – but consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about their own personal privacy, too.

A new survey from Acquia found 65% of respondents said they would stop using a brand that wasn’t transparent about how it was using their data. Customers are also becoming more and more skeptical about handing out personal information, with 59% saying they wait at least a month before sharing personal data with brands, and just under half (49%) saying they’re more comfortable giving personal information to brands that have brick-and-mortar locations.

A number of high-profile data breaches has sparked cause for concern for many customers, most recently at Microsoft, Apple and WhatsApp, so managing customer data in a clear and transparent manner is key to building long-lasting relationships.

Brands need to invest in transparent data policies and processes, but they also need to manage customer expectations on the shop floor. For instance, instead of writing down customer information like names, email addresses and phone numbers on notepads or clipboards when booking appointments, managing queues or taking sign ups for events, brands that take down personal data digitally will be able to put their customers’ minds at ease – not to mention avoid costly GDPR fines.

That’s where appointment scheduling software and virtual queuing software can help. Click here to learn more.

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