How brands can overcome the rising tide of mistrust around consumer data

The cost of breaking consumer trust has never been higher

As the invisible currency of commerce, it may take months or even years for brands to build trust in consumers, and yet that hard-won trust can easily be destroyed in a matter of minutes. As Forrester reports, “trust is up for grabs”, so brands need to make sure they are working to gain consumer trust against the rising tide of misinformation that is causing mistrust across a range of platforms. 

Customer expectations are constantly changing, and brands today are faced with the need to focus on and build trust with consumers in new ways, and for new reasons. One of the primary areas is in the collection, analysis and use of consumer data.  

Data trust is vital for companies who are invested in understanding their customer and delivering exceptional customer experiences (CX) as a result of the data they collect. When they get this right, they find themselves in a cycle where data trust increases the amount of data people are willing to share. This all works towards personalising and improving the CX – thereby generating advocacy. When they get it wrong, the fragile ‘covenant of trust’ between brands and consumers is broken, resulting in distrust and disloyalty. 

Furthermore, 85% of Gen Zs say trusting a brand is important for making a purchase. Therefore, earning data trust should be the single most important priority for brands – higher trust levels correlate with better CX and drive brand loyalty, leading to profitability and growth for the business. 

Some consumers want you to know everything  

A survey by Entrust found that 64% of consumers are willing to share personal information with an app in exchange for more relevant, personalised, or convenient services. When it comes to data trust, some people don’t just accept that brands are collecting data about them, they explicitly want organisations to gather data about them. This is because they see the benefit – knowing their data is being used to improve and add value to their CX.  

But to achieve this, people need to know brands are using their data wisely, securely, and ethically. Some are sceptical of the ways in which their data is being collected. Further fuelling this mistrust are the stories of data abuse, data leaks, manipulative scams, and identity theft that make no distinction between the ethical use of non-sensitive data to serve people, and the misuse of sensitive data to harm them.  

 The next wave of legislation such as the European Digital Markets Act and the UK’s Online Safety Bill are positive steps towards rebuilding data trust in an environment where it takes seconds to lose. Google, for example, plans to withdraw its use of third-party cookies in Chrome by the end of 2023 based on a well-intentioned move, though some would be curious to know what data has already been collected via this method. 

Demonstrating the value exchange 

Research conducted by Acxiom last year shows 83% of consumers want a clear link between the data they share with organisations and the value they will receive from this exchange. Data trust cannot simply be claimed or assumed – it must be earned, and it requires brands to involve customers in a dialogue about what they are doing with their data and why. 

By being proactive in demonstrating how the data collected is used to drive value, and governing the use of customer data responsibly, companies will achieve a high level of data trust that will be a strategic asset for their business, leading to better decision-making and deeper customer relationships. For example, data trust increases the value of CX by making it more customer-centric. By using it effectively, brands can understand people better, meaning interactions become more collaborative and personalised. 

Other data protection accountability measures “behind the scenes” are vital for businesses to be able to demonstrate good levels of compliance such as data minimisation and retention policies. These also contribute to greater trust levels with individuals. 

Businesses already have a head start 

As data becomes more critical to every aspect of CX, data trust becomes a vital contributor to overall brand trust. The good news is that businesses have a head start when it comes to earning data trust. The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals businesses are one of the most trusted institutions in comparison to NGOs, government, and media. This puts them in a strong position to demonstrate how they are using data positively and ethically to deliver exceptional CX. 

Earning data trust starts with gaining a unified view of each customer, built on sound data management, and guided by a clear, customer-first data strategy. By unifying people, processes, data and technology, brands can create a solid foundation that gives them the insights they need to earn trust – treating customers as they expect to be treated, understanding sentiments and behaviours so they can tailor their services, and use this to deliver a high-value CX. 


About the Author

Mike Menzer is Executive Vice-President and General Manager at Acxiom International. Acxiom is a customer intelligence company that provides data-driven solutions to enable the world’s best marketers to better understand their customers to create better experiences and business growth. A leader in customer data management, identity, and the ethical use of data for more than 50 years, Acxiom now helps thousands of clients and partners around the globe work together to create millions of better customer experiences, every day.

Featured image: ©Dragonstock

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