Retaining existing customers is more cost-effective than acquiring new ones — these days, there may be fewer customers to acquire anyway — and building and maintaining trust equates to customer loyalty and retention, said marketing professor Raji Srinivasan.
"Companies should take the long view of customers — [creating] customers for life — instead of a more short-term view of customers with a focus on this period's sales," she said.
According to the Edelman "Trust Barometer Special Report: Brand Trust in 2020," more than half of consumers said that besides price, "whether you trust the company that owns the brand or brand that makes the product" was the most important factor in deciding what to purchase. And 70% said trusting a brand is more important now than in the past.
Trust and customer loyalty have been especially important for the restaurant industry, among the hardest hit by the pandemic.
"Given changing demographics and the availability of convenient food choices — meal kits, grocery stores, ghost kitchens and food trucks — the competition for guests' dining-out business has intensified," said Mark Mears, chief marketing officer for Saladworks.
For any brand, the key to maintaining loyalty will always come down to trust and performance
The company has lately focused on creating emotional connections with customers by promoting relevant services, like digital and easier takeout ordering, he said. This lets customers know that the company cares about their needs during the crisis and has boosted sales, now up more than 20% over last year, with digital sales growing to account for 30% of sales overall, Mears said.
"For any brand, the key to maintaining loyalty will always come down to trust and performance," Mears said, adding that the most loyal customers tend to be the most profitable ones in the long run.