January 30, 2023 , in technology

How important is 'digital trust'?

Studies show that the trustworthiness of digital technologies and platforms has become an important consideration for customers and consumers. But what is 'digital trust' exactly and how can it be developed?

Eidosmedia Digital Trust

The benefits of Digital Trust | Eidosmedia

We're well past the time when digital technologies were regarded as a pure benefit to be embraced with innocent enthusiasm. Nowadays questions abound about how much we can trust in the technologies and platforms that increasingly mediate our private lives and business activities.

But what exactly is digital trust, and how can it be built? More importantly, what benefits are there for organizations that succeed in building digital trust with their customers, clients, and consumers?

What is digital trust?

Digital trust is a fairly simple concept. It is, as defined by TechTarget, “the confidence users have in the ability of people, technology, and processes to create a secure digital world”. It’s up to companies to instill trust in their users by illustrating their ability to provide safety, privacy, security, and reliability. Consumers increasingly want to know what data companies are collecting and how they use it.

Why is digital trust important?

Consumers are increasingly savvy and more aware than ever of the dangers of data breaches, hacking events, and even run-of-the-mill data-selling operations. This knowledge makes potential users more discerning, and they expect companies to demonstrate how they will keep user information safe — and be open and honest about their data policies. Simply put, if people do not have digital trust in your brand, they are unlikely to do business with you.

The data bears this out. According to McKinsey, “Digital-trust leaders are 1.6 times more likely than the global average to see revenue and EBIT growth rates of at least 10 percent. In fact, with every step of progress a company makes toward establishing robust digital trust, we see a correlative increase in the likelihood that a company reports these higher revenue and EBIT growth rates.”

The state of digital trust

Rates of digital trust can vary widely, not only between different countries but also by technology. Just because a person trusts TikTok with their data, for instance, does not mean they are ready to put their life in the hands of a self-driving car.

A Eurobarometer survey from 2021, found that trust was, on the whole, quite low:

  • 56% of the EU citizens surveyed expressed their concern about cyber-attacks and cybercrime — such as theft or abuse of personal data, malicious software, or phishing
  • 53% of respondents indicated worrying about the safety and well-being of children online
  • 46% of EU citizens worry about the use of personal data and information by companies or public administrations

While digital trust has been a matter of public concern for years — complete with legislation to address privacy concerns — tech companies are beginning to take it seriously. Some, like Meta, have been dragged into the conversation while companies like Apple have proactively taken steps like App Tracking Transparency to address issues of digital trust and privacy. Google has gamely followed along with the deprecation of cookies and GAID.

The writing is on the wall: digital trust is critical to building lasting relationships with users but is also in short supply.

How to build digital trust

Building trust of any kind with your consumers is an ongoing endeavor and often includes efforts outside of the control of individual companies. Still, there are steps companies can take toward building digital trust:

Put privacy first

At the foundation of trust is privacy. McKinsey research shows that people want clarity about how their data will be used, so much so that they will often consider another brand if their first choice is unclear about data usage policies. So be clear about how you will use and protect user privacy.

Put simple precautions in place

Two-factor authentication may seem like an annoyance, but it is one of the simplest ways to add an extra layer of security for users. It’s increasingly standard for most consumer technologies and signals that a company is thinking about users and their security.

Invest in digital literacy

A recent presentation from the European Commission, indicated that levels of digital trust vary widely between EU countries and often correlate with digital literacy. It’s hard to trust what you don’t understand, so Investing in building digital skills can help build trust without even adding new security measures.

Use tools to keep users safe

According to ComputerWeekly, the market for digital trust technology is predicted to grow to $537 billion by 2027, up from $270 billion today. This is a direct response to the demand for better cyber security. Investing in these tools now will signal to users that a company takes its obligations seriously. Deloitte has suggestions for companies about where to start:

  • AI-based monitoring of data — Deloitte found that using AI as a means of “validating contextual data accuracy and governing data access and usage by participants across an ecosystem” may prove to be especially fruitful.
  • Data trusts — “Much in the same way a bank holds and manages financial assets, data trusts or cooperatives manage data for others. They’re a business model in which independent third parties validate, control, secure, and share information, governing the data’s proper use and managing legal data rights on behalf of its beneficiaries.”

As challenges and concerns mount, organizations of all types are under more pressure to ensure their customers and clients are kept safe. But it’s an ongoing challenge that requires companies to keep renewing their commitment to security and privacy.

To dive deeper into the topic of trust, explore the World Economic Forum’s “Earning Digital Trust: Decision-Making for Trustworthy Technologies”.

Find out more about the Eidosmedia approach to data security.

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