Consumers trust on average only a select few retailers but their trust in merchants has doubled over the past year, according to IBM’s 2012 Smarter Consumer Study.

The findings from the study, conducted with 28,000 consumers including 1800 Australians, show that while retailers remained the least trusted source of information when making a purchase decision, trust in their information or advice more than doubled over the past year, up from 3% to 10%.

Friends and family continue to be the most trusted source of information during the purchase cycle with 51% of Australians nominating this as their most trusted.

To retail and consumer products industry lead for IBM Global Business Services A/NZ, Ian Wong, the findings show consumers only spend with a select few retailers that they trust.

“Trust is a key theme that comes out of this year’s Smarter Consumer Study,” Wong says. “There is a set of values – convenience, community, and trust – which underpin how consumers engage with retailers both online and offline.”

Retailers should no longer be focused on whether their customers are being loyal to them, but whether they are being loyal to their customers – this is a new shift for many.”

With the improvement in trust levels, indications are that a growing number of retailers are successfully engaging with consumers in a more proactive and transparent way.

The study also found that 90% of Australians believe social networks save them time in shopping (compared to 85% of consumers worldwide), while 40% of Australians want to use websites for comparative shopping. However, Australians still value the ‘touch and feel’ element of the shopping experience and say that the store is still the preferred purchase channel.

“In Australia, the physical presence of a retailer is still very important, so it’s not about eradicating bricks and mortar in favour of online. Brands that are truly succeeding are the ones that are delivering a consistent, positive, and personalised experience for customers across various channels – online, mobile, in-store,” Wong says.

“Retailers in Australia are acting on their understanding of the importance of having a cross-channel platform which delivers consistent, positive and personalised experiences to customers. This is a positive progression from last year.”

Commenting on the findings, CEO of the Australian National Retailers Association, Margy Osmond, adds, “Cross-channel retail is proving to be a powerful force in generating competition and innovation, both of which will result in a healthier retail sector. The study shows that it’s a consumer’s market and retailers need to show loyalty back to customers across all channels of engagement.”

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