‘Return on Trust’

What is the value of trust? What even is trust?

More and more we are hearing about the importance of trust in email. I have been to maybe three conferences in the past few months, and sat in on at least as many industry association and alliance meetings, where the topic of consumer trust in email comes up.

Financial segment senders tend to understand the value of ensuring customers trust email messages. Phishing attacks have a definite cost associated with them. It is relatively easy to do an economic model on the expense incurred in terms of calls to the support center, issuing corrective measures, etc. We don’t have to work too hard to convince the 250 most phished brands to take measures like rolling out authentication protocols to make sure email messages can indeed be represented to consumers as genuinely from the sender the email purports to be from. The Financial Services Technology Consortium has been a real leader in this respect.

Real “trust,” though, includes a number of components. At a minimum, it includes authentication, but it also includes means of conveying to a consumer not only “who really sent this email” but also “what do we know about this sender.” In email “reputation” is a term of art that typically refers to things like consumer complaint rates, but in a larger context, reputation—like brand—goes to the values a consumer imputes about your company, and its email. Trust is like brand, in that sense: something that touches all aspects of your company’s image, and something you can never pay too little attention to.

Marketers typically look at things like open rates, click-throughs, conversions, and other economic measures of program performance. They don’t typically quantify the economic value of ensuring consumer trust. Is it possible to create a measure like “return on trust”? What is the real economic benefit to a sender of maintaining trust at the highest levels with consumers?

—Charles Stiles of Goodmail Systems