Websites can be much more than a pretty face for a company or organization. While most cover the basics – the “who we are” and “what we do” – consumers today are asking for a much deeper dive and websites should house valuable resources that help earn trust.
In fact, websites are one of the top sources for food system information, according to the latest research from The Center for Food Integrity (CFI), and provide opportunities to give consumers the transparency they expect – and deserve – from today’s food system.
Specifically, consumers have more questions about all kinds of topics: sustainability, ingredients and animal housing, for example.
They also want to see concrete examples on websites of ‘practices,’ which our research shows are most important to demonstrating transparency. Why? Because practices are a reflection of internal motivation. They demonstrate values in action, and demonstrating values is the foundation for building trust, according to CFI’s trust model.
In other words, it’s not just what you say you do, it’s what you’re actually doing that demonstrates values and establishes trust.
So how can you enhance your website to boost transparency? Following are three strategies – just a snapshot of the topics we cover in “A Clear View of Transparency,” a half-day workshop providing participants a hands-on experience designed to comprehensively evaluate their organizations’ public-facing communication materials.
1. Use Video
Short of giving an in-person tour, there’s no better way to illustrate practices than through video, especially when it comes to challenging topics that may be difficult to address. Provide context and share your values – or the greater good – around the practice. For example, illustrate how it benefits people, animals and the environment. Keep videos short – 30 seconds to two minutes – to accommodate shrinking attention spans.
2. Highlight Third-Party Verification
If it applies, feature third-party verification or audit information. This verifies that you’re following through with your practices. Our research shows that consumers feel a higher level of comfort knowing that a credible, objective third-party confirms your practices – especially when it comes to food safety and animal well-being.
3. No Auto-Reply, Please
Engagement is vital when it comes to transparency. Consumers want the ability to engage on websites and get their questions answered promptly, individually and in easy-to-understand language. The generic auto-reply or canned response isn’t enough. No matter what segment of the food system – food company, retailer, restaurant, grocer, farmer or rancher – responsiveness is an expectation.
Make it easy for consumers to access this important information. Include your videos, third-party verification information and feedback link either on your home page or no more than one-click deep. If consumers can’t find the information they’re looking for, it may appear that either you don’t have a positive story to tell or you have something to hide.
When it comes to your website, don’t simply settle for the status quo. A website that reflects a strategic approach to transparency can directly inspire greater trust and catapult your website from a check-the-box marketing tool to an engaging and powerful portal.
To put your transparency to the test and learn specific steps to enhance it, sign up your team for “A Clear View of Transparency.” Participants are encouraged to attend in teams, and bring their laptops and plenty of enthusiasm!
The Center for Food Integrity