consumer trust

REPORT: The Consumer Trust Index Points (Way) South

More than one third of Americans (35%) have indicated that they have virtually no trust in a promised COVID-19 vaccine, and was the critical finding in the 9th wave of coronavirus consumer sentiment research conducted by TheCustomer, Brand Keys and Suzy.
  • A Third of Americans Won’t Trust COVID-19 Vaccine
  • Airlines and Public Transportation Exhibit Consumer Trust Meltdowns
  • Drive-Throughs are Lifelines as Americans Search for Bicycles

More than one third of American consumers (35%) have indicated that they have virtually no trust in a promised COVID-19 vaccine, and was the critical finding in the 9th wave of coronavirus consumer trust research conducted by TheCustomer, Brand Keys and Suzy.

Trust in the Vaccine

“Unfortunately, lack of trust in a vaccine isn’t the only sector in which trust-erosion is showing up,” said Mike Giambattista, publisher of TheCustomer, the only publication covering the customer engagement universe in its entirety. “Complete trust for one category or brand is rare, but our most recent tracking has revealed what one can only call a ‘consumer trust meltdown.’”

The Worst Consumer Trust Levels Ever

”’Trust’ is the one value that exists in one form or another for every category and every brand,” noted Robert Passikoff, founder and president of Brand Keys Inc., the New York-based brand loyalty and customer engagement consultancy. The two categories taking the greatest hits regarding trust levels are public transportation (51% indicating no trust) and airlines (31% indicating no trust).

Consumer trust ratings generally correlate very highly with consumer behavior toward brands. “So, it’s not surprising that there’s been a major drop in use of public transportation,” said Passikoff. “Part of that was due to sheltering in and working from home, and while there’s scant evidence of major coronavirus outbreaks on buses or trains, commuters are loath to take the chance.” As further substantiation of lack of trust in public transportations, the United States is facing an unprecedented shortage of bicycles.

“Airlines and the aerospace industries will likely suffer an extended downturn,” said Giambattista. “Consumers have too many unanswered questions regarding what will and will not work preventing the spread of the pandemic. Sure, wearing masks helps, but consumers want to know how you socially-distance safely on an airplane? Given current trust levels, we are not predicting a fast recovery.”

Somewhat Trustworthy

There were five activities examined in the current wave of research that consumers rated “somewhat trustworthy.” They included:

  • Department Stores (37%)
  • Coffee shops (35%)
  • Pizza Shops (35%)
  • Fast Food (34%)
  • Banks (32%)


consumer trust

“It’s interesting to note,” said Giambattista, “That three of the five sectors maintaining a reasonable level of trust are food-related. They were among the first sectors to have to find the right programs to institute regarding COVID-19 safety if they weren’t going to remain closed. Those lucky enough to have drive-throughs found lifelines for their stores.”

Consumers Prefer Arms-Length Control

“Trust hasn’t entirely evaporated,” noted Passikoff. “Consumers would love a return to normalcy, but categories where consumer trust was ‘very high’ or ‘extremely high’ were categories that consumers felt they had control over and could participate on an arms-lengths basis from anything physically harmful to them.” Those categories included:

  • Banks (31%)
  • Computers (40%)
  • Online retailer (43%)
  • Smartphones (57%)

“If your immediate thought about that list was ‘sure, contactless,’ you’d be right on the money,” said Giambattista. “Given a great deal of confusion regarding the pandemic, personal control during the coronavirus pandemic is integrally linked to trust. And brand survival.


The survey and analysis were conducted the week of September14, 2020. This week’s Wave Nine findings are based on 3,100 total responses from a U.S. panel population, ages 17-70 with a 50/50 gender split.

About Brand Keys

Brand Keys specializes in customer loyalty and engagement research, providing brand equity metrics that accurately predict future, in-market consumer behavior that correlates with sales and profitability.

About Suzy

Suzy helps you make better, faster, more data-driven decisions. Their platform combines advanced research tools with the highest quality audience to deliver trusted insights in minutes.

Photo by LOGAN WEAVER on Unsplash.

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