Who do you trust?
That’s not an easy question to answer. Globally, and locally, trust in institutions is eroding. But there’s always a “but.” And right now, for Americans, one of the sparkling highlights of the trust question is the humble grocery store. How so? A recent Ipsos Global Trends Report shows that the percentage of people who trust their stores and expect fair treatment during a shopping trip is significantly greater than the percentage of people who feel they can trust the government.
The link between trust in government and trust in a supermarket isn’t an apples to apples comparison, but it has a lot to do with the universal marketing ideals of reputation and loyalty. The shopper and voter aren’t so different when it comes to expectations of being treated fairly. In a time when surveys show that a global majority feel uncertain about the future, it makes sense that the ability to shop at the store of your choice is a safer bet than waiting on an elected official to do your bidding.
“Government has lower levels of trust than supermarkets, but I think the ‘treat me fairly’ aspect amplifies the difference,” says Trent Ross, an executive vice president with Ipsos Public Affairs. “When you think about the supermarket, you have control over the situation. We can choose which grocery store we go to. We find one that we like. We don’t have that choice with government. The only way to change that is with elections.”
Americans trust businesses
Supermarkets are the most trusted type of retailer. 69% of those surveyed say they trust supermarkets to be fair. But only 36% trust their own government in the same way. In the U.S., twice as many (87%) trust their supermarkets as trust their government (44%). Age isn’t a significant factor when analyzing who trusts whom and why, although with Baby Boomers that trust gap is closer to three times.
Trust, brand reputation and loyalty go together. A well-trusted institution can often rely upon goodwill to help shorten the amount of time it takes to recover from a nasty reputation snafu. The same isn’t true for an institution that has lost the trust of its constituents.
As the politics of the current presidency continue to unfold in the United States, supermarket industry analyst Phil Lempert thinks that stores can seize upon the opportunity to be even more supportive of their shoppers.
“Buying food is very primal,” says Lempert, the editor of Supermarket News. “It gives us life. It doesn’t surprise me that people have that connection with the store… we don’t really feel connected to government. It’s out there, but it’s not something we connect with on a two times a week basis in the same way that we have a relationship with our grocery store.”
One way to continue to build upon the loyalty relationship is for stores to openly address the change in federal standards for school lunch nutrition. Stores could, Lempert says, stand in the gap for their consumers by offering more education on the science behind healthy foods and nutrition for children. Given that trust in government is down, and the government created the new food policies for children, stores could build more trust by standing firm on food education and by helping consumers understand how to navigate the new food standards.
“They’re getting rid of whole grains and are now able to have flavored milk again, which raises the sugar content enormously,” says Lempert, in regards to new federal standards for school lunches. “What a good supermarket needs to do is be a member of the community. For them to offer education about where foods come from, about agriculture, about the environment and the importance of nutrition for kids… those will build a stronger relationship with shoppers and will attract new shoppers.”