Trust Over Transaction: Rethinking The Consumer Purchase Cycle At SXSW 2024

The SXSW 2024 panel, ‘’The Death of the Purchase Funnel,” hosted by Edelman’s Courtney Miller and featuring insights from marketing leaders including Gina Igwe from DoorDash and Mark DiCristina from MailChimp, focused on the need for evolving models of the purchase journey due to an evolution of brand-consumer dynamics and the importance of trust in the decision to purchase from one brand over another.

Panelists indicated that due to this shift in behavior, they’ve moved away from the traditional purchase funnel, towards a more relationship-driven model known as the Trust Loop.

This concept, explored at length in Edelman’s “2023 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: The Collapse of the Purchase Funnel,” suggests that true brand loyalty forms post-purchase, indicated by several insights including the statistic that 78% of consumers engage more deeply with brands after their initial purchase.

The Trust Loop: A New Paradigm

The Trust Loop emerges as a pivotal framework, recognizing the non-linear and ongoing nature of consumer-brand relationships. Courtney Miller, Executive Vice President and Head of U.S. Strategy at Edelman, laid the groundwork by challenging the traditional funnel’s relevance in today’s consumer landscape: “The world is changing fast… so why is it that we are still conceiving and measuring the purchase journey in the same traditional static ways we always have?” The alternative, of course, comes in the form of the Trust Loop, a model that accounts for the dynamic interplay of trust, action and engagement in fostering long-term brand loyalty.

Key Takeaways from Gina Igwe and Mark DiCristina

Gina Igwe, VP of Consumer Marketing at DoorDash, shared personal and professional insights into how DoorDash navigates the post-purchase landscape to cultivate brand loyalty. 

“I was on Instagram the other day… I purchased [a product] right away. I could not even tell you the name of the brand I purchased it from because it doesn’t matter,” she said, underscoring the impulsive nature of modern purchasing and the critical role of ongoing engagement in building a meaningful brand-consumer relationship.

Igwe also shared DoorDash’s approach to fostering lasting brand loyalty beyond the initial transaction: “In today’s market, the purchase is just the starting line. We at DoorDash have seen firsthand how post-purchase engagement, whether through personalized recommendations or exclusive offers, significantly enhances customer retention.”

Igwe further emphasized the role of sustained interactions in building trust, “Our focus extends well beyond the checkout page. It’s about creating a continuum of value that keeps consumers engaged and invested in our brand.”

Mark DiCristina, VP of Brand Experience with Intuit MailChimp, echoed the sentiment of evolving consumer expectations and the significant role of trust in the B2B sector. 

DiCristina pointed out the intricate dance of identifying relevance and audience in an era where algorithms heavily mediate consumer interactions with brands. “I think in a lot of cases, the traditional funnel serves to identify relevance and sort of find the audience… the algorithms that can identify these really targeted audiences really well,” DiCristina explained, highlighting the challenges and opportunities in adapting to the new consumer journey shaped by technology and digital platforms.

DiCristina also shared his thoughts on the transformative power of trust in building and maintaining customer relationships. 

“Trust is the bedrock of consumer loyalty in the digital age. At MailChimp, we’ve observed that customers who trust us are more likely to explore additional services, providing a tangible lift to our growth metrics,” said DiChristina, explaining how the company is building trust through transparency and authenticity: “We’re committed to being open about our processes and proactive in our communications. This transparency has been key to nurturing a trusted relationship with our users.”

The New Model: Trust as the Growth Engine

The Trust Loop posits trust not just as a static achievement but as the continuous fuel for growth, engagement and loyalty. This model is substantiated by Edelman’s finding that “78% of people are uncovering things that attract them to a brand… after the purchase,” pointing to the inception of brand loyalty and advocacy well beyond the point of sale​​.

Key statistics from Edelman’s ‘Collapse of the Purchase Funnel’ report illustrate the emerging consumer expectations and behaviors that support this model:

  • Consumers are increasingly scrutinizing brands, with 68% being more price-conscious and 58% engaging in more research before making a purchase.
  • Concerns about a brand’s impact on health (64%) and the environment (55%) are becoming more pronounced.
  • The geopolitical origin of brands plays a significant role in purchasing decisions, with 77% of consumers hesitant to buy from brands based in certain countries.

In delineating the Trust Loop, the panel—and the report—collectively emphasize the necessity for brands to actively engage consumers through trustworthy actions, transparent communication and meaningful interactions. This engagement fosters a deeper sense of loyalty and advocacy among consumers, transforming the purchase from an endpoint to a beginning.

To effectively navigate the Trust Loop and foster deeper consumer loyalty and advocacy, brands must adopt strategies that prioritize trust, transparency and ongoing engagement. 

What Does The Trust Loop Model Look Like?

The general principles of Edelman’s Trust Loop can be summarized in several key steps or phases that illustrate how trust is built, maintained and utilized to create a continuous cycle of engagement and loyalty:

  • Brand Discovery: Consumers encounter the brand for the first time, often through media, word-of-mouth, or by direct engagement. First impressions are crucial, as they lay the groundwork for trust.
  • Engagement and Interaction: After discovery, consumers engage with the brand through various channels. This phase is where the brand has the opportunity to showcase its values, transparency, and reliability, further building trust.
  • Purchase Decision: Influenced by the trust built in the previous steps, consumers decide to make a purchase. Trust plays a critical role in this decision, especially in competitive markets.
  • Post-Purchase Experience: The relationship between the consumer and the brand doesn’t end with the purchase. Post-purchase engagement, support, and the quality of the product or service itself are pivotal in reinforcing or undermining trust.
  • Trust Reinforcement: Through continued positive experiences, trust is reinforced. Brands can foster this by consistently delivering on promises, engaging in transparent communication, and responding effectively to consumer feedback.
  • Loyalty and Advocacy: Trust turns customers into loyal advocates for the brand. Loyal customers not only continue to choose the brand over others but also recommend it to others, expanding the brand’s reach and starting the Trust Loop anew with new consumers.
  • Continuous Feedback and Improvement: The loop is sustained by continuously gathering consumer feedback and using it to improve products, services, and engagement strategies. This shows consumers that the brand values their input and is committed to excellence, further deepening trust.

The Trust Loop emphasizes an ongoing, reciprocal relationship between brands and consumers, where trust is not seen as a static achievement but as a dynamic, ever-evolving aspect of the consumer-brand relationship. By focusing on building and maintaining trust throughout all interactions, brands can create a virtuous cycle that enhances loyalty, advocacy, and long-term success.

How Should Brands Approach The Trust Loop?

Drawing on insights from the “2023 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: The Collapse of the Purchase Funnel” and best practices in the industry, this can be accomplished through:

  1. Cultivating Trust Through Consistent Actions

Brands must demonstrate their commitment to trustworthiness through consistent, action-oriented behavior. This includes delivering on promises, maintaining high-quality standards, and addressing consumer concerns promptly. For instance, 88% of consumers emphasize trust as a critical purchasing consideration, underscoring the need for brands to act ethically and competently.

  1. Transparent Communication

Transparency is key to building and maintaining trust. Brands should openly communicate about their practices, policies, and changes. This includes being upfront about product sourcing, and environmental impact, and addressing any negative issues or crises directly. The report highlights that transparency about a brand’s climate impact and supply chain can significantly increase consumer trust (63% agreement).

  1. Engaging in Meaningful Interactions

Meaningful interactions go beyond transactional exchanges. Brands should engage consumers through personalized communication, respond to feedback, and create a community around shared values. Engaging content, interactive platforms, and community initiatives can all serve to deepen the relationship between brands and consumers. The report indicates that 79% of consumers appreciate direct interactions with brands as it allows them to evaluate the brand beyond its products.

  1. Showcasing Values and Ethics

Today’s consumers are more likely to support brands that align with their values and take stands on social and environmental issues. Demonstrating commitment to causes such as sustainability, social justice, and diversity can attract and retain consumers who share these values. For instance, 64% of consumers expect brands to make it easy to see their values when making a purchase decision.

  1. Leveraging Customer Advocacy

Word-of-mouth and customer advocacy are powerful tools in the Trust Loop. Encouraging satisfied customers to share their experiences can attract new consumers and reinforce trust. Brands can facilitate this by creating shareable content, incentivizing referrals, and featuring customer testimonials prominently.

  1. Continuous Improvement Based on Feedback

Actively seeking and acting on customer feedback demonstrates a brand’s commitment to continuous improvement and customer satisfaction. This approach not only helps in refining products and services but also shows consumers that their opinions are valued, further building trust.

  1. Personalization and Customization

Offering personalized experiences and customized products can significantly enhance consumer engagement and loyalty. Utilizing data analytics to understand consumer preferences and tailoring communications, offers, and products to meet individual needs can make consumers feel valued and understood.

By implementing these strategies, brands can effectively operate within the Trust Loop, transforming the purchase process from a linear journey into an ongoing cycle of engagement, trust-building, and mutual growth. This paradigm shift recognizes that in the modern marketplace, trust is the cornerstone of brand success, and continuous engagement is the pathway to achieving it.


The transition from the purchase funnel to the Trust Loop represents a broader shift in marketing toward trust-based relationships. 

This new consumer landscape demands a more nuanced, trust-based approach to marketing. The insights shared by Igwe and DiCristina, backed by the comprehensive data from Edelman’s report, indicate how the Trust Loop can be a powerful strategic blueprint for fostering lasting connections in an ever-evolving marketplace. This new model challenges marketers to rethink their strategies, placing trust, engagement, and ongoing interaction at the heart of brand growth and consumer loyalty.

Read more insights from Edelman’s report and listen to the full audio recording of the ‘Death of the Purchase Funnel’ panel here.

AI, Connected-Devices And Biotech: Inside Amy Webb’s 2024 Emerging Tech Trends Report Panel At SXSW 2024

“Today, this is the worst our tech will ever be.” – Amy Webb, SXSW 2024: Featured Session: Amy Webb Launches 2024 Emerging Tech Trend Report

The world we interact and engage with, the industries we operate within and the geopolitical space bringing it all together through policy are rapidly changing due to the incredible advancements we’ve witnessed in three major ‘trends,’ each co-evolving with the others in dynamic, uncertain ways.

Those trends are AI, the connected ecosystem of ‘things’ and advancements in biotechnology, says Futurist Amy Webb; and they’re primed to disrupt just about everything. Webb notes that we must think through the implications of riding the wave—while steering it away from something resembling Dystopia.

But we shouldn’t confuse these types of trends with those in fashion, for example; ephemeral blips on the cultural radar (see: Stanley Cups and 90’s fashion anomalies like exposed thongs). The trends described here are—according to Webb—“long-term patterns that indicate a direction of change over time.”

And a lot is changing. Fast.

The queues to get into Webb’s featured panel at SXSW started on the 2nd floor of the Austin Convention Center (note: the panel was on the 4th floor), with some lining up as early as three hours before be the first to hear insights from the Future Today Institute’s 17th edition of its Tech Trends Report, and a deep dive into 16 different reports covering tech, science and industry-focused trends.

As CEO of the Future Today Institute and professor at the NYU Stern School of Business, Webb’s projections are an annual affair that helps us disambiguate the complexities of tech’s impact on society and business. There was even a countdown on The Future Today website, ticking down the minutes until it was published online.

Webb began by addressing what everyone was feeling but couldn’t put into words: Fear, uncertainty and doubt about what she says is the experience of a transitional generation witnessing the convergence of trends from every aspect of human life, influenced by a technology supercycle, or a period of tech expansion with wide-ranging implications.

“At FTI, we’ve been tracking trends in each of these categories: AI, biotech, and the connected ecosystem of things—But what’s interesting is that a couple of years ago, they started converging. Those convergences have created a flywheel of big leaps, AI-enabled tech breakthroughs that were intended for hospitals and sports created a consumer market for things like smartwatches and rings; and once that flywheel got spinning, it created a new value for consumers. It created more practical utility, that led to more funding, which attracted talent.”

The trends have become entangled, cross-sectional and convergent, and we’re all inched up to and peering from the precipice. Especially business leaders, who Webb notes, “are now making decisions out of fear and FOMO” as their scope for planning for these eventualities is shrinking rather than being augmented; it’s hard to augment what’s hard to grasp, after all.

Webb intends to resolve that indecision and FOMO through Strategic Foresight, defined as the “disciplined and systematic approach to identify where to play, how to win in the future, and how to ensure organizational resiliency in the face of unforeseen disruption.”

According to Webb, the motivators for decision makers will need to change if companies want to survive the coming supercycle, primarily used as an economic definition to characterize a period of prolonged economic growth driven by various factors and marked by increased demand for commodities and higher asset prices.

Tech supercycles are similar explosions of growth in society and commerce where tech is the driver; in the past, these were typically brought about by a singular ‘General Purpose Technology,’ far-reaching technological advancements that can transform society radically—think electricity, the internet, and the steam engine.

“This is the most complex operating environment I’ve seen in 20 years of business,” says Webb, a 20-year SXSW attendee and trusted source of things that will come to pass. “The wave of innovation that’s coming is so intense and so pervasive, it will literally reshape human existence…”

As Webb makes clear, this tech supercycle is different than those of the past.

The foundation of it is undoubtedly the General Purpose Technology we lovingly call AI, but interwoven within this paradigm shift are the two other aforementioned GPTs—Connectables and Biotechnology—and some clear nightmare scenarios are apparent.

In Webb’s discussion of the state of AI and where it’s heading, three main core concepts came up: Accountability, Concept to Concrete, and Unsecured AI.

In terms of accountability and AI, Webb notes that there really isn’t any right now. And there probably won’t be in the near future. She points out that ethics teams still aren’t stakeholders and the future path is paved with speed and scale that incentivizes more bias, not less, drawing attention to the fact that text-to-image LLMs (Large Language Models) have had, and continue to have representation issues—either through the erasure of one representation, like female CEOs, or in the opposite direction like racially-swapped founding fathers—an outcome of human interference to avoid the former (known as RLHF-ing, or Reinforcement Learning with Human Feedback).

Drawing on the continuing tendency for AI to do awful things, from Tay to recent issues, Webb says that it’s the incentive to move faster and farther rather than with deliberation that’s leading to these problems. “All those promises of ethics teams and responsible AI resolving issues of bias; it’s still not table stakes. Fixing the problem is challenging and enormous because the models have already been built.”

Her next subtrend, Concept to Concrete, represents a shift from providing AI with instructional prompts for literal answers to conceptual prompts for assisted thinking and moving from LLMs to LAMs (Large Action Models).

This shift means that we won’t be asking for an outcome based on a prompt, but rather, the model itself will predict what to do based on understanding human intention.

Finally, unsecured AI represents the move towards more unrestricted, open models, as opposed to what we currently experience as ‘walled gardens,’ which are limited in their operations but secure. But at a certain point, Webb notes, the closed models will run out of content to train on, while open models pose risks like racist AI, or an AI without ethical mooring.

The future slowdown of AI due to content (ie: training against all available public information on the internet) has a workaround. And it’s clear that to move from LLMs to LAMs, such a move will be necessary to bring us more predictive models that rely on behavioral information–information from us, about our movement, emotions, wants, and needs.

The need to gather more information about our behavior brings us to the next interconnected trend in the supercycle: Connectables or the world of connected devices.

The promise of connectables, says Webb, isn’t that they’ll necessarily make our lives easier: it’s the data that matters and there’s a wealth of it that can be leveraged, especially with AI-first hardware, to learn from us in ways impossible to do with content scraped from our social posts or articles. Webb says that ‘face computers’ like the Apple Vision Pro, in her view, are “designed to read your intentions.” And why wouldn’t a LAM use that data for a more hyper-personalized experience?

“That’s why we are about to be surrounded by millions of sensors that are always on, and always on us. They are around us and can collect multiple streams of data at once. The internet of things, the home of things, smart cars, smart offices, smart apartments… sensors everywhere […] this is the network of interconnected devices that can communicate and exchange data to facilitate and fuel the advancement of artificial intelligence,” explains Webb.

“Data from connectables gives AI the data that it needs, but as we advance all these systems and platforms, they’re becoming a lot more power-hungry. We have heard about semiconductor chip shortages and challenges,” says Webb. Adding to this resource shortage plaguing fabrication are the limitations inherent with the chips themselves and you can extrapolate some interesting conclusions. “Moore’s Law is starting to fail; we’re hitting limits. It may be possible to get smaller and smaller things on the chips, but it’s also getting more and more expensive,” says Webb.

We need limited materials for AI’s advancement that have us, at least currently, stuck. Here’s where biotechnology fits into the equation.

“Biology processes information in a way that silicon can’t. In other words,” says Webb, “if we’re trying to build machines that can think and behave like we do, we literally need to make them more like us.

The first subtrend of biotechnology, according to Webb, is materials science: AIs are already using the language of biology to make predictions to enable design—for example, EVO, which describes itself as “a long-context biological foundation model based on the StripedHyena architecture that generalizes across the fundamental languages of biology: DNA, RNA, and proteins,” is “capable of both prediction tasks and generative design, from molecular to whole genome scale.”

Webb: “DeepMind built an AI tool, same basic concept: generative biology. It found 2.2 million new materials, 380,000 of them are now in a lab being developed that can potentially power future technologies.” And that’s phenomenal, but as Webb notes, there’s something else at play: “So we can generate new biology, which means new therapeutics, new ways to manage climate change, new ways to deal with the global food shortage… but the question I would ask you is, “does this help our semiconductor chip problem? And that takes me to the final trend.”

“Sometime in the next decade, AI will be working with Organoid Intelligence or OI,” Webb says. “Biotechnology will move us past silicon-based computing systems,” by becoming faster, more efficient, and more powerful. It sounds like science fiction, but Organoid Intelligence is already here: researchers are using biological materials like brain cells for information processing from teaching a biocomputer to play Pong to training it to detect a specific voice among many.

So what does this mean for the future? What scenarios can we predict from the symbiotic progress between AI, connectables and biotechnology?

In listening to Webb, it’s easy to draw a comparison to ‘Black Mirror.’ For AI, Webb asks us to consider whether an open AI model in the hands of bad actors—or maybe even unprompted—could create a deep-fake conflict with global impact, even causing the next World War. For connectables, what if our feedback becomes so hyper-personalized that it feeds into a social credit system and limits individual freedom based on our self-reporting? Or does our work for us, but produces hallucinatory results in the process? For Organoid Intelligence, there are concerns about where we are getting the stem cells to build biocomputers; will they be ethically sourced? Or will they be developed in Special Economic Zones where international law doesn’t apply and the regulations around biotech experimentation are unregulated?

“Tech isn’t bad or good,” says Webb. So why highlight the most catastrophic scenarios of our current tech supercycle? “Without intervention, that is what I see coming at us.”

Watch a full VOD of the SXSW panel and read the full Tech Trends Report courtesy of Future Today Institute.