Trust transparency is at the top and bottom of every communication and blog our group posts, but we rarely talk about what the phrase really means to us in the context of dietary supplements. Trust transparency is the intersection point of trust and transparency. It is a proactive and top of mind strategic approach to create a process and value system that aligns organizations and their supply chain partners to create tangible, quantifiable ROI. In short, trust transparency is the action of making trust apparent and believing in the power of transparency. The two words are often used with an ampersand or “and” between them.
Too often, we only think of trust when it is lost or damaged, but the time to think of trust is as it being built, not when it is destroyed. One effective tool to build trust is transparency. Transparency is a tool to achieve trust and trust transparency is the action of building and maintaining trust.
Few industries can benefit from trust transparency as much as the dietary supplement industry. The industry as a whole is built upon good intentions and products aimed to promote health and wellness. All too frequently, headlines associated with the industry seems to gravitate towards the outliers and negativity. Fortunately, the majority of users believe that dietary supplements work and many understand their perceived benefits. We as an industry now have the opportunity to build upon that belief and trust to provide greater transparency explaining how and why products work. Of all the purchasing decisions consumers make, those involving supplements are some of the most important. Consumers are purchasing dietary supplements for very personal reasons, whether it’s to meet a health need or to fill nutrient deficiencies or to promote overall vitality. These products are not widgets that can be objectively reviewed against performance specification or even clothes which can be measured against actual physical measurements. These are ingestible products which make them one the most intimate purchases a consumer can make. The imperative of trust is paramount to both our responsibility and opportunity. From concept to ingestion we always, as a category, have the ability to more completely explain not only the benefits but the science and production behind the products we sell.
Consumers want to trust dietary supplement manufacturers or providers to relate and exceed their expectations, needs, wants, concerns and in some cases, have faith to alleviate their fears. They want to know how their personal concerns are being met by product and brand, and want education beyond what is found on the label or box. Consumers want to know that the promises provided by the product or service meets or exceeds expectations and is valuable – to them. Purchasing models reported by various survey organizations summarily cite three primary decision process drivers: Relate, Educate and Deliver. Fundamentally, consumers want to know they are receiving an improvement to their lives.
Trust begins with communication and connection. There needs to be a relationship established between the consumer and the product and perhaps most importantly, the brand. Consumers want their needs understood and the problems/risks solutions easily communicated, and this then translates into trust in the brands they buy. Learning what customers want has never been easier as social media now provides real-time learning opportunities ranging from Facebook to peer reviews post sale. A recent Shopper-First Retailing Report by SalesForce.com indicated 87% of shoppers begin their product searches on digital channels. 46% of those shoppers prefer to make purchases at retail outlets for first time product buys.
Consumers want facts and education to support the solutions provided by the product or service. The establishment of trust to gain customers is well founded in almost all purchase decisions regardless of the product. The reinforcement of that trust through facts and education in the dietary supplement industry lends itself to even greater brand loyalty. Some of the most successful supplement companies focus on honest and ample consumer education with loads of additional information, presented simply and accurately, for the truly curious and discerning consumer. Another key factor is to provide free advice without any pressure of a sales pitch. Natural Factors displays their farms and provides visuals and invitations to visit them. Doctor’s Best provides a downloadable Scientific Fact Sheet for every product including Scientific references to support the claims. Bluebonnet Nutrition provides directions and actual pill size for each product. None of these companies sell product on their website. Their website’s purpose is to educate. They get this point and do it well.
Buyer’s expect and evaluate the product performance as well as the experience of the purchase. You must deliver full promise to build loyalty. Transparency of supply chain is one of the largest opportunities to accelerate trust transparency to your consumers. The internet has provided a seemingly never-ending quest for information by the consumers. Consumers now go far beyond reading labels and care about not only what the product does but how it is made and where ingredients are sourced. Amazon Elements displays test results, country of origin and discloses the contract manufacturer. Now Foods addresses the question of Country of Origin of ingredients head on with a direct promise to test every inbound ingredient and not rely on geography to determine an ingredient’s quality or lack thereof. Companies that make credible information accessible, that are transparent and ultimately accountable will succeed. Companies that try to hide information or make it difficult for consumers will breed new ‘distrust’.
As an industry, and as individual companies, we are in one of the best categories possible, with dietary supplement consumer demanding more than just a promise in a capsule accompanied with beautiful packaging. This consumer has even higher expectations but the risk/responsibility exchange representing the trust paradigm is held in higher regard between the consumer and the manufacturer in the dietary supplement industry on the positive side, that emotional connection at purchase and beyond, and on the negative side, the possible severity of a breach of trust. Trust is an asset to all of us, and it is up to all of us to keep that value proposition top of mind in all that is promised and all that we create and communicate. While each person may define trust in the dietary supplement industry differently, the industry must define it with consistently higher value and application because that is what our consumers expect and need.