Brand Credibility in a World of Imposters

July 28, 2016

Never in the history of humanity have human beings had access to so much information as we do in today’s world.

Let that sink in for just a moment…no seriously, turn away from your screen and repeat that sentence out loud.

As psychologists and sociologists try to understand what this means for us both individually and corporately, one question quickly arises: How do we parse the credible from the imposter in a world filled with information?

My teenage children grew up in a world where a Google search could return both an article from Harvard Business Review and a Wikipedia entry on the same results page. Language Arts curriculums today have to help these young, budding minds understand the difference between an Ivy League publication and a public free-for-all (our dinner table has seen its share of debates on this topic).

Ultimately, it comes down to credibility, i.e. who can we actually trust?

Unfortunately, as brand marketers, you don’t get a free pass when it comes to the topic of credibility. As Aubrey Williams points out, “There is so much false information floating around that Millennials tend to take everything with a grain of salt.” Unless you’re one of the handful of brands that have earned credibility through proven relevance and longevity (think Apple, Samsung, and the like), then brand credibility must be considered when it comes to your e-commerce efforts.

Let’s imagine two different scenarios.

First scenario: I’m a brand that’s growing my market share and distribution. I’ve decided to sell direct to consumers on my website to capture the greatest margin possible for my products, and because of this I choose not to direct consumers away from my site through a “Where to Buy” programme. Most of my budget is spent on digital marketing efforts to drive traffic back to my product pages.

Second scenario: I’m a brand that’s growing my market share and distribution. I’ve decided to sell direct to consumers on my website as a convenience for consumers, but I also have a “Where to Buy” button installed in a noticeable location. This button allows consumers to see other retailers that have this specific SKU in stock on their site; retailers like Amazon, Currys etc.

So, why in the first scenario is my conversion rate below the industry average?

One word: credibility.

My site traffic may be trending upward, but how am I conveying to consumers that my brand can be trusted? Or, how do consumers know whether I’m the Harvard Business Review or Wikipedia?

Consumers may genuinely be interested in my products, but unfamiliarity with my brand, purchase experience, fulfilment, returns, etc., may cause that consumer to leave my site to search on a more familiar one such as Amazon that’s already earned their credibility. When the consumer leaves my site and is placed back into “research mode,” chances of them converting for my brand plummet.

In the second scenario, I may have an even lower conversion rate on my site, but I’ve given the consumer a choice, and that choice includes retailers that have already earned the trust of consumers. By showing that these trusted retailers find my brand credible, I am in turn increasing my brand’s credibility in the mind of consumers.

As a brand, you already have the upper hand in terms of credibility. 70% of consumers report that they trust a branded website, rather than a third-party retailer. Use that inherent credibility and build upon it with bridges to other trusted purchasing options.

While my site’s conversion rate may not be as high as I’d like, I know that market share and credibility must grow proportionally if I’m going to sustain long-term growth. As long as I’m seeing retailer sales increase, then I know my strategy is working and my credibility in the market is on the rise.

As a brand, how do you address credibility in the mind (and emotions) of your consumers? What strategies are you implementing to gain credibility as you gain market share?

Read more in our eBook: Branded Manufactures – Get Off the Sidelines & Win Online.

Blog post by Chris Williams, enterprise sales executive, Brands at ChannelAdvisor