How Can Brands Build Trust in a Digital Context?

Organisations that employ Net Trust Score often emerge as frontrunners in their respective sectors. David Hicks, Founder & President TribeCX Ltd; Owner & Chair of TMD, talks about the cornerstone of business excellence – trust.

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  • A digital journey overdose for customers, the Fun Fridays for employees, and frequent meetings (with no real progress to show) with partners and shareholders — Are they signs of growth? Can it be construed as tokenism? Do they help build real trust? 

    Companies that successfully establish trust not only minimise obstacles but also drive increased user engagement, expedite network effects, and foster growth. 

    A few years ago, research revealed that 89% of brand leaders consider trust critical to attracting and retaining top talent, and 91% consider it vital in maintaining customer loyalty. Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, colleagues, customers, and partners have raised their expectations for organisations, they engage with to have a well-defined and impactful purpose so that they can trust better.

    In an exclusive interview with Martechvibe, David Hicks, Founder & President of TribeCX Ltd, Owner & Chair of TMD, states that substantial evidence indicates a decline in trust among consumers, small businesses, and financial services organisations in the present day. Hicks iterates that the three pillars of every business organisation (customers, colleagues, and partners) need to work together with a lot of heart and a re-imagined perspective on technology.

    How Can Brands Build Trust in a Digital Context (One voice - David Hicks) mug shot

    Hicks refers to recent research from Zappos that states that trust has declined by at least 6% across the retail sector in the last three years, and he believes the situation to be similar across industries.

    Several digital business ecosystems have emerged as integral parts of everyone’s daily lives. What makes these ecosystems highly appealing is their ability to facilitate seamless transactions between strangers. Nonetheless, the foundation of these transactions also relies on trust.

    In the pursuit of survival in the digital age, should brands make investments in the latest technology trends without careful consideration? Implementing an upgraded CRM or ERP system involves significant financial investment. When organisations make a case for this investment, they typically focus on the bottom-line benefits of cost savings, which can be easily controlled and reduced through automation. 

    However, they often struggle to demonstrate top-line benefits, such as enhanced customer effectiveness and business efficiency. Investing in the next shiny piece of technology might only seem like the best practice to keep up with new trends and have a competitive edge. But it’s not ideal, said Hicks. 

    “Your vendors might want to sell more but now’s the time for them to work in real partnering mode. They need to say ‘you don’t need to spend more’ on these additional products, but let’s help you to get the most benefits from the investments you’ve already made,” added Hicks. This presents an opportunity for business partners to enhance long-term customer retention proactively.

    Sharing an anecdote, Hicks illustrated that although brands can digitise everything in today’s age, it doesn’t necessarily imply that they should. Instead, “we need to build and track empathy, trust and confidence, which would be harder to do in the digital context. 

    Measuring Trust Is Key

    Brands measure loyalty, track advocacy, satisfaction, and effort, but how many track or measure trust? “When I ask business leaders if they track the level of trust that your colleagues, customers, and partners have? Only 10% say yes, we are actively tracking trust.”

    While several brands today track The Trust Index, where customers are invited to rank different brands in terms of trust. Hicks talks about the crucial nature of simple trust – the deliberate measurement of ‘Do you trust me?’

    Hicks also talks about clearly understanding the brand’s purpose and the deliberate design of digital capabilities. “It’s imperative to understand how your digital activities are either building or damaging trust, and you need to measure it.” 

    “Like a Net Promoter Score that has a 0 to 10 point scale, it’s important to have a Net Trust Score with the same scale. Recently, some organisations have started to leverage a net trust score that focuses on the question: does the brand have my best interests at heart? These organisations that use this metric tend to be leading in the sector. The Net Trust Score has the highest correlation with business performance,” said Hicks.

    Meanwhile, organisations are looking for a new solution to help them trust data. A new Data Trust Index provides a formula that can help enterprises monitor data quality and rate data sets to encourage data democratisation. The interplay of credibility, consistency and confirmability creates a comprehensive and interconnected trust framework. The Index applies these trust principles to data, providing a tangible measure that simplifies the understanding of the trustworthiness of one’s data, ultimately delivering valuable insights.


    It is surprising to observe the limited efforts made in tracking trust and intentionally designing strategies to build trust. According to recent research, lack of trust can lead to hurdles, as demonstrated by over half of the failed ecosystems where trust played a crucial role in their downfall. 

    In an era when trust in numerous organisations is dwindling and online interactions are overtaking physical ones, it becomes imperative for businesses across sectors to prioritise trust as a strategic imperative. 


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