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Trust: The "Trust paradox" in the connected world

Lars-Thorsten Sudmann
Feb 19, 2020 6:30:00 PM

For consumers, trust plays a vital role in the connected world of digitalisation. Surprisingly, the more companies get involved in the digital world to win the trust of their audience, the more they undermine it.

  • Digital business models run on data, which requires end users’ trust to collect and retain.
  • According to a recent study, trust among consumers towards brands diverges between developed and emerging markets.
  • To improve trust in the digital economy, experts recommend centring business models on consumers and understanding them better.

Without data, digital business is inconceivable! Google could function just as little as might Apple, Uber or Airbnb. One need not look across the Pond to understand the importance of data in the digital world. German companies rely on data as well, particularly regarding the digitalisation of their businesses. Thus, a company's ability to generate, store and gather data represents a considerable competitive edge. Apart from technology, however, soft factors such as trust play an essential role in the successful implementation of digitalisation. A consumer survey conducted worldwide clearly shows that trust means different things to different people.

"Trust gap" in the connected world

Global market research firm Kantar TNS surveyed 70,000 people in 56 countries and conducted 104 in-depth interviews as part of the "Connected Life Study". One part of the study examines the trust of consumers in providers and brands in four areas: technology, data, content and e-commerce. Kantar also found that European and US consumers’ trust in brands is undermined by low-quality and poorly executed online advertising and contents. In Asia and Africa, however, consumers appear to accept brand content and messaging, demonstrating a discrepancy between developed economies and emerging markets in their trust in branded content. While the former are suspicious of it, it is more widely accepted in the latter. Additionally, confidence in large global brands varies greatly between emerging and developed markets: In China and Nigeria, more than half of consumers (57 and 54 per cent respectively) trust global brands. However, confidence levels are significantly lower in developed markets such as Germany (21 per cent) and France (25 per cent). In these markets, consumers prefer smaller or locally operating brands.

“Germany and many other developed countries, exhibit a puzzling paradox", Walter Freese, responsible for the Connected Life division at Kantar TNS, remarks. "On the one hand, the desired connection between brands and consumers seems to have been reached: New and existing target groups are addressed through new channels and platforms, brand content is shared on social media, a personalised approach based on previous user behaviour is accepted, and even digital commerce is expanded. On the other hand, these developments seem to undermine consumer confidence in the long-term, rather than consolidating it."

Making customers the priority

In the study, the market research firm examined the importance of trust in four different areas: Confidence in technology, in the handling of data, in contents and financial literacy. This resulted in a clear picture of how companies could build trust; Freese recommends putting the customer first by "understanding their motivations, knowing the right moment to contact customers, recognising that the customers’ time is valuable and being more transparent in dealing with the collection of personal data, which many marketers have become oblivious to."
(Kantar tns / bloola)

More studies on "trust"

Further studies


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