Customers like routine. They trust traffic will be somewhat predictable and grocery stores will have their favorite yogurt. “Fake news” is eroding that safe feeling and unless businesses take steps to maintain their credibility, their customers’ distrust can lead to lost traffic.

Fake News and Its Impact On Consumer Behavior

What makes people believe fake news

Thinking about why people believe things that aren’t true can help figure out how you need to communicate with customers. People point to objective truths versus lies, and while there are valid points in this argument, the real story is in how people perceive news. Perception shapes thought in very strong ways. For example, when readers see myth graphics, the first thing they read is reinforced. That means people usually credit the ad with telling them the myth is true! From the graphic below, if you ask a reader in 2 weeks if coffee helps their plants grow, more will say yes than no.

A strong factor in people’s perception is the availability heuristic, or how people’s ideas are shaped by things fresh in their mind. When people see more news stories about terrorism than car crashes, they tend to think terrorism is a bigger problem. This means if readers see “fake news” often enough, they tend to believe it.

How poor trust hurts business

Why do companies care if their customers trust them? We can see how polarized news sites are, and if you’re only catering to half the population, you’re missing out on opportunities. Worse, if you alienate both sides by producing content that switches, you’ll have no customers. Credibility is the lifeblood of a company, so you need to build and protect it. It’s the reason that most companies have loyalty plans in place, whether it’s a simple rewards program for spending a certain amount of money or even the extreme high-roller privileges employed by most casinos by spending lavishly for their biggest spenders to keep them coming back for more.

How to engage and build trust

It’s not rocket science to build credibility, but it takes effort. The basic steps to keep customers’ trust are:

Set customer expectations

Customers measure happiness based on what they expect. Visitors to a five-star hotel can get just as upset as those in a dirty motel.

Provide quality content

Delivering referenced and reliable information provides people with a second layer of trust.

Stay consistent

Staying consistent without changing your viewpoint from one side to another helps people stay in their comfortable routines.

Get feedback to address problems

You don’t want to just give customers what they want, but you do need to be aware of concerns and address them quickly, otherwise they’ll leave. Survey tools, like Iterate, can help you gather feedback from customers. Your team can then brainstorm and plan ways to address the issue as a whole.