Consumers are smarter than ever before. Thanks to the evolution of the internet and smartphones, there is a limitless amount of information out there, accessible to anyone, anytime.
As a result, brands can’t hide behind logos and phony advertisements anymore.
Consumers have become more informed. They’ve become more aware of what they are buying and where those products come from.
Younger generations in particular have become more aware of the environmental footprint that brands are leaving on the world and their ethical practices. They’ve become more health-conscious and concerned about sustainable living.
As The Guardian states, “Increasing awareness around these issues has led to a rise in what is known as conscious consumption, a movement of people who seek out ways to make positive decisions about what to buy and look for a solution to the negative impact consumerism is having on our world.”
Social media and online reviews help to hold businesses accountable for their actions and put everything out in the open, good or bad. One angry customer or review can irrevocably tarnish a company’s reputation.
The solution? Brand transparency.
Why Brand Transparency Matters
Nowadays, brand transparency isn’t an option—it’s a requirement.
Customers want to know everything about the products they buy—where they come from, who makes them, what they’re made of…
And they want to know all about the companies they buy from too.
Label Insight had a study of more than 2,000 customers that found that 94% of people are more likely to be loyal to brands that are completely transparent. The study also found that 56% of people would stay loyal to a brand for life if it was completely transparent and 73% of people would pay more for a product that was completely transparent. Transparency is particularly important to millennial moms between the ages of 18 and 34, with 86% of this demographic claiming that transparency was important to them.
Brand transparency therefore not only helps to attract new customers, but it also helps to retain existing ones by fortifying trust and increasing lifetime loyalty.
Brands That Are All About Transparency
Being transparent requires effort and intentionality. For some businesses, especially older ones, it’s not something that comes naturally.
Every business should start by creating an internal culture of transparency. Leaders within an organization must pave the way; they must be transparent and must promote that culture of transparency in order for their employees to do the same.
When mistakes are made, they should be shared openly and not pushed under the rug. Failure should be accepted and seen as the road to progress.
Information should be shared freely and openly within organizations. When employees feel like they are trusted, they are more likely to perform better and stay with that company.
Whole Foods is one company that exemplifies this internal transparency well. Information is shared freely throughout the organization because, as CEO John Mackey states, “If you’re trying to create a high-trust organization, an organization where people are all-for-one and one-for-all, you can’t have secrets.” And since 1986, Whole Foods has made their salaries transparent.
The analytics company, SumAll, also decided to make their salaries transparent for the exact reason that many companies choose not to: to avoid workplace drama. If everyone’s salaries are out there in the open, then nobody will end up fighting over who makes what. There are no secrets to hide, so the CEO, Dane Atkinson, says that if an employee has a problem with what they are making, they can negotiate that right off the bat.
Buffer is yet another example. The social media management platform fully embraces transparency both internally and externally. Their salaries are only one thing of many that’s transparent. Every email that’s sent out is visible by any member of the team.
Buffer also has an open Trello board, where anyone can see the ideas that different team members are brainstorming, content they are currently working on and the comments that anyone on the team has about that content. Providing this behind-the-scenes look helps to humanize the company a bit and makes them that much more likeable.
The e-commerce clothing company, Everlane, is another example of a company that fully epitomizes transparency. For starters, each product page gives a full description of what the buyer can expect from that product (like the exact fit and how it feels).
On the product page, it also shows where that product originated from and the user can then click to “see the factory.” Everlane has a page devoted to each factory; on that page is a comprehensive description of what that factory is all about, along with photos of the factory and its workers.
But Everlane doesn’t stop there. For each product, they also show why it costs as much as it does.
And guess what? All of that transparency paid off; Everlane made $100 million dollars in sales last year.
And then there’s Fishpeople Seafood, a food supplier company that, for every single meal that it gives its customers, provides full descriptions of where each individual ingredient in that meal comes from and who caught the fish that they’re eating.
But transparency isn’t just about putting everything out there for the entire world to see. It’s also about acknowledging and owning up to mistakes when they are made.
Chipotle knows the importance of this. In 2015, they had an e-coli outbreak in many of their stores throughout the country, and instead of denying responsibility or shifting the blame on something or someone else, Chipotle CEO, Steve Ells, took full responsibility for what happened. He later wrote a letter on the company website, where he admitted that he had made a mistake and outlined the changes that had since been made to make sure that it would never happen again.
If you haven’t already, create a culture of transparency and trust within your organization. Get rid of the secrets. Open the lines of communication with your team members. Trust your employees—and show them that you trust them. In turn, they will trust you too.
And do the same with your customers. Treat each and every one as if they were a close friend of yours.
If your company is product-based, share as much as you possibly can about where your products originate from and why they cost what they do.
Share some behind-the-scenes footage of your team at work or projects that are in the works.
Let the aforementioned brands inspire you to forge your own path to transparency. From there, it’s a one-way road to success.