Digital Trust a Big Factor in Winning Consumer Spending

Businesses could reap considerable financial rewards of growing customer trust in their brand.

Stories of data breaches impacting millions of customers at popular brands, misuse of personal data and hacking into critical systems such as the electric grid today dominate national news. But what’s the impact on the consumer psyche? A new survey shows there’s good, bad and some really ugly news.

The good news for business: Consumers with a high degree of digital trust spend on average 53 percent more than those with lower levels of trust. That’s motivation for companies to continue to build and maintain the trust of their customers.

The bad: Overall digital trust among consumers is the equivalent of a D-minus with a score of 61 out of a possible 100, according to the Global State of Digital Trust Survey and Index 2018.

The ugly: Organizations’ perception of consumer trust does not match with reality, with trust scores of 75 for security professionals and 74 for business executives. That means companies mistakenly think they’re doing a much better job of protecting personal data than consumers believe they are doing or trust them to do.

A large majority (84 percent) of business and cybersecurity professionals believe digital trust has improved for their organization and nine out of 10 of those professionals give themselves very good to excellent grades for protecting personal information. Another factor not helping the lack of alignment of perception versus reality? Twenty-two percent of consumers say their perception of trust in digital organizations as decreased over the past year.

Get the full Global State of Digital Trust Survey and Index 2018 here

The bottom line on digital trust: The higher the level of trust, the more likely consumers are to spend online.

See the Infographic The True State of Digital Trust here

Reasons to worry about digital trust

This imbalance should be concerning to executives because nearly half (48 percent) of survey respondents said they dropped at least one service after it suffered a data breach of some kind. Half of the organizations surveyed claimed to have suffered such a breach with two-thirds occurring within the past year.

Events such as the Cambridge Analytica scandal do not help consumers’ confidence in how their personal data will be handled. A shade more than half of the consumer respondents to the survey believe that companies sell their data to third-parties, which many businesses surveyed admit with 49 percent selling the data and 67 percent using such personal data internally. One defense of the practice though: Virtually all (97 percent) of organizations said its terms of service allowed them to handle the data in such a manner. A 2017 Deloitte survey revealed that more than 90 percent of consumers admit to accepting a terms-of-service agreement without reading it.

Not all is lost

One area of difference between consumers and businesses could be a good sign for digital trust. While closer to half of the security pros and business executives surveyed believe security should take precedence over convenience, an overwhelming majority of 86 percent of consumers said they prefer security over ease of use.

Usernames and passwords still rule when it comes to logging in to systems across all device types. And poor password hygiene has been well-documented for years. A vast majority (89 percent) of respondents to this survey say they reuse passwords with roughly two out of every five passwords being used across different sites.

However, both consumers and businesses signal that biometric authentication systems such as fingerprint or facial recognition, iris scanning and voice identification are among the preferred login methods across devices in the future. Passwords may continue to be a major player in the security domain, but consumers are willing to embrace new technologies to make their online experiences smoother and more secure.

Jason Meserve

Jason is a tech marketer/journalist with 20 years experience.