In the era of #fakenews, trust is becoming an essential commodity. As consumers, we crave content and communication that help to create a sense of trust and connection with the brands we use.
The major shifts in the industry that we’ve seen in 2018 are connected to trust, authenticity and transparency.
1. People are holding brands to account
People are continuing to use social media to provide live feedback to brands on everything they say and do. As a result, some brands have evolved their customer-facing behaviour and demonstrated an increased focus on transparency and communication.
This has enforced consumers’ behaviour, who are starting to demand that all the brands they use behave with transparency over social media. In fact, nine out of 10 people have said that they would stop buying from brands that they felt lacked transparency.
As consumers, we are also willing to pay more for products if we feel that the brand behind the label is being open and honest. In a world currently obsessed with authenticity, this is a major currency for brands looking to grab attention and market share.
This increasing need for authenticity and openness is shaping many areas of brand communication and could have a significant impact on the way brands work with influencers over social media. For example, the Listerine influencer backlash showed that people don’t always want to see an idealised, perfect image, they want something they perceived as genuine – something that they can connect to.
2. Brands have been experimenting with chatbots
The chatbot market is predicted to be worth $1.34bn USD by 2024.
Brands like Lyft, Spotify and Sephora have all started to use chatbots as ways to increase the efficiency of their online customer service, while also letting people get a response to their queries no matter the time or place.
However, as 2018 comes to a close, there are signs that consumers are starting to reject automated chatbots in favour of live chats with real people. Will we see brands continue to focus on automated chat in 2019, or will there be a shift back towards the human element to create real human connections, supported by some of the automation functionality chatbots are built on?
3. The shift to social messaging
Apps like WhatsApp are revolutionising the way brands communicate with people. Brands can engage with people one-on-one and provide them with a service that’s of immediate and contextual value to them. This keeps existing customers engaged and entices others to become customers.
There’s a great example of this from Brazil, where Hellmanns uses WhatsApp to help people cook. The consumer simply sends over a picture of what’s in their fridge and a chef will reply with an idea for a dish and lead them through how to make it.
These apps also offer a way to provide more personalised communication. For example, Netflix sends people film and TV show recommendations over WhatsApp if both apps are installed on the phone (you can also opt-out).
4. A focus on video and live streaming
Live streaming is becoming popular with brands as it works hand-in-hand with the consumer’s need for transparency. People like to see authentic content which humanises the brand.
Live streams – hosted on Twitch or Facebook Live, for example – usually come with live chat which can help create a sense of community around the brand, and help the brand communicate with people as equals, creating shared experiences and a sense of community.
At the same time, there’s a demand for highly-produced, short and shareable videos, that allow fans to maintain their own highly curated feeds.
People want brands to be both sleek and vulnerable as well as aspirational and relatable; video offers an effective way to achieve this.
Brands that understand the consumer’s need for clear, consistent and honest communication are thriving thanks to social media’s ability to connect them to their consumers.
Those brands that continue to shy away from full engagement will find themselves left behind, as consumers choose those brands who focus on creating genuine human connections, and shun those that insist on talking at them.