Openness and honesty are essential in order to build shoppers’ trust, says Ann Summers chief executive Jacqueline Gold
Did you make any New Year’s resolutions? To lose weight, to learn to dance, to make more time for your friends and family?
Perhaps you made similar promises to your business: to become more efficient or productive; to try something new and a little bit surprising; to give more of yourself to key stakeholders - to be more open, more honest and put them first more often?
The latter is without doubt going to become increasingly important over the coming years and I’ll tell you why: it’s all about TripAdvisor and consumer trust.
The shale energy revolution is being called a “game changer” by many financial commentators. It’s already transformed the economic outlook for America - gas prices have halved and hundreds of thousands of jobs have been created.
There are of course environmental concerns connected to ‘fracking’, but perhaps the biggest worry is that consumers don’t trust governments to do the right thing. Worse than that, research has also shown that they don’t trust retailers either.
A generation or so ago there was a certain deference afforded to public institutions and people believed everything companies said in their marketing materials. But the internet has changed all that.
The perceived benefits of products and services are no longer determined by marketing teams
Consumers have always trusted their friends’ recommendations but now they’re connected to peers across the ether, they make buying decisions based on what they read between the lines on TripAdvisor or any crowd-sourced product review.
When you buy something from Amazon do you read the company blurb or the comments from customers who have already bought it? Brand values and the perceived benefits of products and services are no longer determined by marketing teams and advertising agencies but are in the gift of customers and other stakeholders.
Their conversations both on and offline and their posts, shares and tweets define brands and ultimately whether they’ll shop in stores.
So it’s imperative that we join those conversations. This means being open and honest and talking about the things consumers want to discuss.
If that fills you with dread - good luck, it’s been nice knowing you.
But it may throw up unexpected brand-enhancing opportunities. These might include a profile of one of your brilliant buyers, the back story behind this season’s VM theme or how you test your products to make sure they adhere to the rigorous safety standards of children’s toys.
If people think retailers such as Aldi have flourished just because they’re cheap and their customers are poor, they’re misguided. Their products are cheap but their proposition is honest: what you see is what you get and customers respect that.
Just as the US Government must facilitate an open and honest discussion about shale gas extraction - not present it as a fait accompli - we must make the effort to chat more with our stakeholders.
If we don’t, they may metaphorically tell us to “frack off” and we won’t realise until it’s too late.