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Insight Blog

Read the latest thinking from the crossroads of marketing, insight and technology.

How to Build Consumer Trust in your Brand’s Use of Data

Trust is a powerful emotional ally to brands and businesses, and it’s something that consumers hold in abundance. The gain or lack of trust can mean the difference between failure and success in all scenarios that we could possibly conceive, and not just in a business sense.

Trust typically forms after a series of consistent and positive interactions. In terms of consumers and businesses, consumers that trust a business will hand over as much of their data as they feel comfortable doing in order to gain a more personalised experience from the brand. However, this trust can easily be broken with just one bad experience.

There is a positive correlation between the time spent trusting the brand and how easily a customer’s trust can be broken, as is described in our Tribes report, as  3 out of 5 consumers we surveyed would give a brand they have been a customer of for a decade less than 6 months to rectify a consistently poor experience. This statement is supported by PwC’s 2018 Global Consumer Insights Survey, which found that 35% of those surveyed ranked trust as one of their top three purchase influences.

Getting to the Root of the Problem

So, what is the problem? With trust being one of the top-ranking factors for influencing consumer behaviour in favour of a brand, what can brands do to enhance consumer trust in them?

Well, research is a good way of finding out. Talking directly to their consumers will enable brands to find out exactly what they think of the brand and it’s use of their data. There are many valuable insights that can be gained from this process, including finding out exactly what the consumers know about the brand and how much they trust it with their data. There might be a perception gap at play, which can be discovered through research and corrected with concept-tested improvements and campaigns.

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The first step in building trust, especially around consumer data protections, is to find out what consumers expect you might use their data for, and contrast the findings against your brand's current use of data.

If this perception gap is identified, it would be a good idea to walk the research participants through the brand’s processes when gathering, interpreting, and implementing all of the data the brand uses. This can be displayed to participants through newsletters or an digital information package, which can then be critiqued before being released publicly to all consumers.

However, what brands need to keep in mind is that, in every case of consumer mistrust, there has been a point in which that trust was given but then broken. With the customers who have had experiences like this, it is imperative that brands find a way to gently get to the route of that point in order to understand what actions were taken by the business in order for the situation to get to that stage. Once those actions have been identified, steps to amend them can be taken.

General Data Protection Regulation

Since coming into force in May 2018, this regulation policy has restored a good portion of consumer trust in brands with their data. Mainly because it imposes a strict restriction on what data brands can take from consumers, and how much. With large fines imposed onto brands who break this law, consumers are less putting their trust in brands, and more putting their trust into the higher regulatory authorities that pull brands up on their data misdemeanours.

However, this doesn’t mean that brand’s can’t use GDPR to build up consumer trust in their brand over time. If the brand openly and proudly abides by the rules of GDPR, consumers will notice and start to take more of an interest in that brand above the others who do what they can to wriggle around the regulations. While this may seem simple and largely ineffective, abiding by the law does go a long way to show a brand’s responsibility and respect for both the higher authorities and the consumers themselves.

Terms and Conditions

Every idea to build consumer trust in your use of their data can all be boiled down to one very simple act: be open with your actions.

It has become common knowledge that consumers don’t necessarily read the terms and conditions of any contract or service that they buy from or subscribe to. Because this is common knowledge, there are some businesses that take advantage of this, and hide unsavoury activity within the terms and conditions that the consumer then signs up to, consequently giving over any and all rights to the data the brand desires in the process. Sneakiness doesn’t build trust, it builds resentment.

To attain consumer trust, if a brand is gathering passive data from platforms and devices such as social media and wearable devices, say so clearly in a place that consumers will take notice of, whether that is in a short simple message before they create an account, or in a regular newsletter detailing what their information is being used for and how it is helping develop the company.

The terms and conditions can be a very daunting, long and heavy document, so if a brand has to put information in there, they could maybe think about redesigning the document to make it more readable and more appealing to look at for the consumer, so they actually do read it instead of skimming over it.

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Consumers are often wary of opaque terms and conditions, making them the perfect place to introduce transparency and build a tangible, trusting relationship.

In fact, the more opaque and difficult to understand a document is - the better opportunity it provides to build trust in data usage. GDPR and other regulations place a great emphasis on readability and accessibility. This is important as it opens up language to regular consumers and makes brands both more transparent and accountable for their actions. Additionally, it discourages the use of data in ways consumers may not approve of, due to that fact those processes become easier to scrutinise.

The Importance of Feedback

In market research, an active form of data gathering, participants are rewarded and incentivised for the time they invest in participating. One such technique that often leads to improvements in engagement as well as trust, is feeding back to participants the ways in which their feedback, comments and answers are being used to improve products, processes, marketing campaigns or other aspects of a business. Show them how their data is actively changing and improving the brand.

If we really want to give people a reason to trust what companies are doing with their data, we should apply this model elsewhere too. Instead of only receiving feedback on active data gathering techniques such as within market research, I would encourage brands to regularly publish updates on the improvements they are making based on consumer data from passive sources too, such as from social media.

Ultimately, consumers like to know they are having an impact. If they can see that they are making a positive difference, and the other party is being transparent about that, they will feel more positively about the other party. It might not be much; but with such great distrust in brands' current use of data - simply regularly sharing how that data is being used in a positive way is a good first step in the right direction to transparency.

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Emily James

Written by Emily James

As a graduate of Creative Writing, Emily has a passion for content creation. She brings our global vision to life through her excellent writing and editorial skills across a broad selection of our content, and manages communication through social media channels. You can follow her on Twitter and connect with her on LinkedIn.

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Topics: Market Research, Research in Society