The origins of a trust economy can be traced to the first days of trading and bartering when an individual expected to receive a desired item or service for an agreed-upon exchange. While today’s trust economy looks significantly different thanks to modern technology and the rise of social media, it continues to be a central theme that’s present throughout the entirety of the consumer journey.
A Brief History of the Trust Economy
Fostering and maintaining a reputation of excellence and trustworthiness has long been the hallmark of a thriving, successful business. Similarly, establishing a loyal consumer base is the foundation of a company that will continue to grow well into the future.
These principles of sound business were true even before the age of industrialization, when small corner stores in tiny towns competed with each other by boasting that they could be trusted to find their customers the best selection at the most affordable prices.
According to Philipp Diekhoner in The Trust Economy: Building Strong Networks and Realising Exponential Value in the Digital Age, "While industrialization resulted in dramatic improvements in productivity and overall economic welfare, it largely removed the role of personal relationships from commercial dealings. Standardization and scale replaced individual connection and personalisation."
However, this fact doesn’t mean that people no longer crave and often demand that personal connection. In fact, as consumers continually increase their number of online purchases, the concept of the trust economy has only grown more significant. For instance, with DoorDash, we pay for our food and tip our drivers before they even arrive. We book Airbnb rentals, believing that we have a pleasant place to stay once we get to our destination.
Trust is still the foundation of success. "If you take a broad enough definition of trust, then it would explain all the difference between the per capita income of the United States and Somalia," ventures Steve Knack, a senior economist at the World Bank, who has been studying the economics of trust for over a decade. “That suggests that trust is worth $12.4 trillion a year to the U.S., which, in case you are wondering, is 99.5% of this country's income (2006 figures). If you make $40,000 a year, then $200 is down to hard work and $39,800 is down to trust.”
When you stop to think about it, it’s surprising how much a philosophy of confidence lies inherently at the heart of many of our modern business exchanges, especially as transactions continue to shift from brick and mortar establishments to eCommerce stores and online marketplaces.
Amazon is a perfect example. "Close to two-thirds of Americans now say they've bought something on Amazon, according to a new NPR/Marist poll. Furthermore, over nine in ten online shoppers have made a purchase from the eCommerce behemoth and nearly five in ten buy something at once a month, according to What Americans Told Us About Online Shopping Says A Lot About Amazon.
These numbers are impressive for many reasons, one of which is the level of trust American consumers feel with Amazon. We aren’t able to physically see or handle the item before forking over money (and for that matter, our credit card credentials), nor can we leave with it in-hand immediately after paying.
The online trust economy is a remarkable system, all based on, well, trust. Customers believe products will be as stated, from the dimensions and color to its condition and effectiveness. Further, they’re counting on these online businesses to ship their products on time and in one piece, convictions that may have been very hard for our earlier business ancestors to accept.
We trust strangers with our money, food, lodgings, and a multitude of other essentials. Except, most major online brands aren’t strangers to us anymore. We feel as though we know them, and our interactions and transactions with these organizations have become familiar. We trust them.
Content Marketing Fuels the Trust Economy
Earning consumer trust doesn’t happen by luck or accident but by facilitating positive business interactions with current and potential customers. Because many retailers and service providers make their sales online as opposed to brick and mortar locations, they rely on content marketing to inspire trust.
Content marketing is multifaceted. It encompasses many formats, such as blogs, videos, cartoons, social media posts, user-generated content (UGC), and interactive surveys for your customers. All content is not created equal, however; posting blindly and hoping some of it sticks is simply a waste of time.
Make the Most Of Your Content
To learn more about the flaws and fixes outlined above and for additional strategies for approaching and managing your online media presence, reach out to Ethos Copywriting to learn about our content marketing and consulting services. We’ll maximize the reach of your content and build a foundation of trust for which modern consumers are searching.