How to build and retain trust in uncertain times

Brand trust: Unanimously agreed as being the single most important metric in the brand health value chain, and also the one that is hardest to attain. With the disruption that Covid-19 has caused worldwide, it is not surprising to see brands struggling with this measure even more now.

Naturally, it is of key importance for brands to stay ahead of any socio-economic shift, by responding proactively to its changes. At this stage of the world’s history, consumer brands need to find ways to build and maintain the trust of their users, despite adverse external conditions.

Borderless Access conducted an online study with 600 consumers in Nigeria, to explore this topic. We delved into three broad areas, namely: unpacking current shopping behaviour, understanding key concerns of consumers at the moment, and exploring what consumers expect of brands during this tumultuous time.

A sense of normality returns as Nigerians partially re-enter the workplace

Over the past year we have seen some notable shifts in consumer behaviour in Nigeria, although Covid-19 is still very much present. While consumers are highly acclimatized to mask-wearing and hand-sanitizing, we do see some normality re-establishing.

The majority of people have started to go back to the workplace albeit with partial attendance, with only a fifth of Nigerians still working entirely from home. We also see Nigerians starting to socialise more, travel more and avoid public spaces less than they did a year ago.


Traditional drivers of brand choice come to the fore once more

A year ago, Covid-19-safety and hygiene factors were, unsurprisingly, primary considerations for Nigerians in brand choice. As this concern has abated somewhat, we see people starting to pay more attention to the traditional factors of promotions, price and brand availability once again.


Nigerians are very much prioritising essential categories, having less money to spend on luxuries than previously. Utilities, groceries, medicine and fuel are the most purchased categories, with non-essentials such as entertainment and toys falling at the end of the list.

Online shopping is one area where the impact of lockdown looks set to permanently alter behaviour: The majority of consumers are shopping online more than before, with a mix of online and offline purchases. Medicine is the only category for which most Nigerians still shop offline, while Books and Magazines are predominantly purchased online.


Reliability, quality and good customer service build trust

As the most important metric in the brand health value chain, brand trust builds on from awareness and likeability. Reliability, honesty and quality are the three keywords most strongly associated with trustworthy brands.


Trust is important in all sectors, but varies slightly between them: In the Banking and Insurance sector, it is the single most important factor, whereas in both the Consumer Packaged Goods and Telecom sectors it is third most important, after Quality and Value for Money.

In the Banking and Insurance space, good customer service and reliability are the main factors in driving trust, whereas in Telcom it is reliability and quality. Within CPG, product quality is by far the main driver of trust, this factor standing head and shoulders above any others.


Online entertainment abounds, but TV still gets air-time

Entertainment is another area where we witness some interesting shifts: Nigerians are watching less TV than they used to, and playing less video games than a year ago while hard lockdown was in place. As noted, online shopping has grown exponentially – a shift that appears to be here to stay.

Watching YouTube and visiting websites have both taken over from TV-watching, as primary methods of entertainment. However, TV as a medium is by no means dead: Nigerians still spend an average of 3 hours a day on it. This pales in comparison to the 4.8 hours a day that they spend on social media – an astounding figure that we have seen corroborated in other recent studies.


Brands need to provide a sense of certainty to mitigate the external turmoil

Brands need to focus on establishing and maintaining brand trust, now more than ever. Across sectors, consistent quality and reliability of product or service, are essential factors in developing trust.

Honest communication and brand messaging are key, especially in uncertain times. Consumers want their brands to provide the certainty and reliability that has been unsettled in other areas of their lives, and successful brands need to ensure that they deliver on this.