Winning the trust of consumers could be a hugely valuable way for brands to make inroads in their respective industries.

According to Nick Turner, consumer business digital lead at Deloitte, only 12 per cent of consumers consider service providers their most trusted source of information.

By contrast, nearly two-thirds value the opinions of friends, relatives and fellow consumers, with lots of people reading reviews written by other members of the public, Travolution reports.

"Many consumers turn to independent sources to access information," Mr Turner observed.

"This presents a real risk for businesses as they have less control over the information being circulated and used by consumers to make decisions."

He suggested this may be partly down to the recent financial crisis, as this led to people developing "recessionary behaviours, such as being more selective". Think about it this way: would you not want to make the most of your money if you suddenly had much less to spend?

Mr Turner said this means their expectations of brands have grown, while some have become increasingly sceptical about the ability of firms to deliver on what they promise.

"A gap is emerging between consumer expectations and businesses' ability to meet them," he remarked.

This means firms need to make customer engagement a priority, so they can build a loyal and trusting core consumer base.

If this effort is successful, many of these individuals might be willing to talk up a brand on online forums, review sites and social media platforms.

Otherwise, trusted sources of information might be dominated by positive reviews of rival firms and negative remarks from dissatisfied customers.

"Social media is often used as a tool to make a complaint and demonstrates how strong engagement and good service can lead to positive word of mouth," Mr Turner commented.

He pointed out that more than eight in ten people check ratings and read reviews of brands, while more than a third actively contribute to web-based forums and make comments on people's blogs.

Mr Turner added that around one in ten consumers can be classed as a "genuine content creator", which means they run their own blog or website.
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