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Retailers Wrestle with Transparency Issues

Kearney report advises a thoughtful approach to communicating a brand’s values

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Consumer responses to transparency efforts by brands and retailers are often far more complex and nuanced than those sending out the communications realize. Strategies for addressing that issue are offered in the Kearney Consumer Institute’s new briefing, “Blank Space: The Transparency Disconnect.”

The report looks into the complicated relationship consumers have with brand transparency, as well as how retailers and brands should be parsing the difficult questions around transparency and responding appropriately.

“Putting information out there or advertising transparency sets the expectation that consumers can ask about anything,” said the report’s author Katie Thomas, who leads the Kearney Consumer Institute. “Artificial transparency risks frustrating or confusing consumers, leading to loss of customer loyalty even for established brands.”

“There is a disconnect between broad transparency and the information consumers actually want, and how they want to receive it,” added Thomas. “There are multiple approaches to communicating brand messages and information, and understanding these nuances, as well as the risks and benefits of each approach, can benefit both consumers and brands.”

Consumer responses to transparency are often far more complex and nuanced than brands and retailers realize. The KCI advises a process of acknowledging the intent of a transparent message, and planning accordingly, whether that’s to inform or educate, for marketing or for coverage. From there, the report enumerates things to watch out for in each category, as well as key questions and considerations.

“Brands and retailers need to have a long-term strategy in place, shifting from selective transparency to thoughtful transparency,” said Tanya Moryoussef, a manager in Kearney’s consumer practice. “If a brand admits to making a mistake and shares a plan of how they will do better, are they ready to share updates to or tracking of the plan?”

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