About.com’s “The Trust Factor” Study Finds Trust Crucial to Consumer-Brand Relationships and a Key Driver in Decision-Making

Identifies Essential Elements of Trust and Outlines Best Practices for Marketers to Build Trust

NEW YORK--()--With the wealth of information available online, trust is a crucial tool that consumers use to sort and prioritize the information they find online, according to “The Trust Factor,” proprietary research conducted by About.com in collaboration with Latitude.

Trust Drives Consumer Decisions

The Trust Factor found that the existence of trust drives consumer decisions, with 84% of respondents reporting they will not engage with a brand until trust has been established. 10 essential elements were identified for developing trust with consumers. Key elements were:

  • Expertise – communicates authority and real value, and distinguishes itself from other brands/content fighting for consumer’s attention.
  • Fairness – provides information and tools to help the consumer evaluate pros and cons, risks, etc.
  • Relevance – targeted to the consumer’s needs and situation, and directly on topic.
  • Choice – respects and acknowledges the consumer’s process by offering more options and paths to solutions, and allows consumer to express preferences.
  • Relatability – understands the consumer and looks at things from his point of view. Leads like a knowledgeable friend.
  • Awareness – name recognition alone doesn’t guarantee trust. Consumers rely on awareness driven by personal experiences or recommendations from a friend.

“With the high volume of information at consumers’ fingertips, not only is trust a valuable filter, it is a prerequisite for consumers to even enter the purchase funnel,” said Laura Salant, director, research, About.com. “By understanding how consumers view trust and what they value most, marketers can tailor their outreach to deliver meaningful information and tools to create authentic, long-lasting relationships.”

Different platforms were identified as better delivering certain trust elements, and can therefore be complementary tools for brands:

  • Respondents reported that all 10 trust elements are even more important on mobile than online. Format was identified by 71% of respondents as being more important for mobile, with accuracy and expertise also ranking highly.
  • In social media, consumers are ambivalent about the value of certain commonly-used social actions such as “likes.” Reviews were identified as inspiring trust twice as much as general “likes,” though seeing a “like” or recommendation from a friend increased the trust value of that action.
  • Video works best to enhance trust when it is combined with other types of content. 56% of respondents agreed that video builds trust when it adds illustration or explanation attached to other types of content.

Developing Networks of Trusted Sources

According to the study, consumers prefer to combine information from a variety of sources, with 82% of respondents reporting that they use information from brands, content, ads and social media to create custom solutions for what they need.“

In today’s online world, there is no such thing as one-stop shopping for information. The Trust Factor offers actionable information to help marketers develop trust with consumers, so that their brands can play a greater role in that consumer’s network of trusted sources,” said Tracy Raiser, senior vice president, sales, About.com. “Further, marketers can proactively coordinate their efforts with other trusted sources -- whether it be content, social elements or word of mouth – to make sure their campaigns are adding value to the consumer’s experience.”

Best Practices

Based on its findings, The Trust Factor study recommended several best practices for building trust, all based on the tenet: Treat consumers as partners, not customers.

  • Acknowledge and respect consumers’ processes for evaluating and making decisions. 85% trust brands that walk them through multiple paths to decisions, rather than just giving an answer.
  • Support consumers after they purchase. The relationship shouldn’t end with a credit card. 62% of consumers trust brands that provide information and tools to help them use products they have purchased.
  • Demonstrate an understanding that consumers’ lives change. 83% trust brands that offer resources every step of the way, as a consumer’s needs evolve.
  • Build engagement by using every opportunity to solve consumers’ large and small challenges. 85% trust brands that use ads or sponsored content to inform or help them with a need.

About.com’s The Trust Factor research study was conducted in conjunction with Latitude using a national sample of more than 1,500 Americans. The research was conducted in three phases using qualitative and quantitative analysis. All respondents were recruited through a national panel, sample balanced to replicate the overall demographic profile of U.S. adults online adults age 18+.

A report of the findings is available at http://www.advertiseonabout.com/studies/. To request further insights on About.com’s 2012 Trust Factor research study, or to schedule an interview, please contact Kristin Mason at kmason@about.com. Category-specific insights are available in the following areas: autos, food, financial, health, home, style, and computers and electronics.

The Trust Factor is the second in a trilogy of national research studies undertaken by About.com to explore consumer-brand relationships and establish best practices. It builds on last fall’s Three Mindsets of Search study, which redefined relevance in organic search. The third study, examining the new purchase funnel, is planned for release in late 2012.

About The About Group

The About Group comprises the Web sites About.com, ConsumerSearch.com and CalorieCount.com. About.com is a valuable resource for content that helps users solve the large and small needs of everyday life. ConsumerSearch.com analyzes expert and user-generated consumer product reviews and recommends the best products to purchase based on the findings. CalorieCount.com is an online resource that helps users solve the everyday challenges of losing weight and living a healthy lifestyle.

The About Group is part of The New York Times Company (NYSE: NYT), a leading global, multimedia news and information company with 2011 revenues of $2.3 billion, that includes The New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, The Boston Globe, NYTimes.com, BostonGlobe.com, Boston.com, About.com and related properties. The Company's core purpose is to enhance society by creating, collecting and distributing high-quality news, information and entertainment.

This press release can be downloaded from www.nytco.com

Photos/Multimedia Gallery Available: http://www.businesswire.com/cgi-bin/mmg.cgi?eid=50346160&lang=en


The New York Times Company
Kristin Mason, 212-204-1984

Release Summary

About.com’s “Trust Factor” study explores the elements that contribute to consumer trust, how to build it and why it’s critical for marketers.


The New York Times Company
Kristin Mason, 212-204-1984