The Underlying Mechanics of Consumer Trust in Market Research

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    In today’s world, consumers demand more from brands. After saturating the market for a good while, influencers and endorsements now have less authority as the industry shifts back towards ‘trust marketing’; consumers want to build a relationship with a brand again. In conjunction with this shift, consumer awareness of data protection and privacy rights has risen, and research participants are keen to ensure that they know what their data is being used for, and how.

    What’s behind this shift in how people are engaging with products and brands, and how do we in the market research industry promote trust in our research participants?

    The Shift in Brand Engagement

    The introduction of the GDPR in Europe saw a paradigm shift in the general public’s awareness of their rights with regards to their personal data. Whereas previously the UK’s Data Protection Act 1998 had provided the ground rules for handling and processing data, the GDPR came with more stringent conditions, heftier fines for non-compliance, and legal requirements for aspects like opt-ins for data sharing and the need for fully-explicit accountability statements.

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    Building up consumer trust starts with transparency and communication. With consumers demanding more interaction from brands, participation in market research is one great way to start up a conversation.

    Under GDPR, companies now have to be clear and informative about the purpose for gathering data, who the data will be shared with, how long the data will be stored for, and what the participant’s rights are in terms of opting-out. Because the Data Protection Act didn’t insist on as much transparency, under the DPA there was no requirement for a company to reveal or remove all data they held on an individual if requested; there was no requirement for a dedicated Data Protection Officer (DPO) to be identified within a company; nor was there as much expectation for affirmation action with regards to gaining and maintaining participant consent.

    American states are now beginning to implement their own equivalents of the GDPR: January this year saw the introduction of the CCPA, an act that secures the protection of California residents’ data. Other states are likely to follow suit in order to provide data assurances that individuals now rightly expect.

    Promoting Consumer Trust with Data Security

    Individuals want to know that a brand values them; part of this value must include respect for the individual’s decisions on who has their information. For a business, compliance with the GDPR is a legal requirement, therefore websites have to feature privacy notices that detail what data is being gathered and why, for example. However, creating a foundation of trust has to go further than simply ticking legal boxes; as a market research company we need to demonstrate to participants that we have policies and processes embedded into the core of our operations. Proving commitment to the maintenance of high standards of information security is vastly important when it comes to attracting clients, but it is also crucial in demonstrating assurance to research participants that their data is in safe hands.

    At FlexMR we proudly work to the ISO 27001 information security standard; we use an Information Security Management System (ISMS), the policies and procedures of which cover all instances where data is processed, accessed and stored. We undergo annual audits against the ISO standard, conducted by an independently regulated company. An ability to demonstrate strong adherence to ISO 27001 engenders trust in present and potential clients, but is also meaningful for research participants; whilst participants may not be aware of the ISO standard or certification, a commitment to the importance of information security should be clear in their experience with the MR company and engagement with its platforms and services.

    Promoting Consumer Trust with Other Measures

    Data security, integrity and governance play a huge part in building and maintaining consumer trust, but other factors are just as important. In the field of MR, researchers have many opportunities to promote consumer trust. As mentioned, companies now have to disclose to participants what data is being used and why; in-line with this transparent approach to data use, researchers can actively feedback to research participants what insights are being drawn from the data they provided, encouraging a feeling of value and purpose in the participant.

    For MR companies building communities of members for brand engagement and feedback, this can be invaluable in encouraging continued membership. Stakeholders and clients can also play a key part by feeding back what actions are being taken on the back of the insights and data generated. This could be in the form of a new product or service; an update to a business policy; or a new business trajectory.

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    With consumers becoming savvier with their data, open communication and tight data security measures are now essential to building up the necessary trust that encourages consumers to engage with your brand.

    Appointing research moderators can be another way of building and maintaining trust through demonstrating inclusion. At FlexMR we use dedicated research platforms; having moderators assigned to these platforms means that moderators can send messages to participants and vice versa, so if anything needs to be discussed participants and researchers have a direct line to each other.

    This inclusion can be further established through in-platform news and updates such as prize-draw winners, updates to terms and conditions, platform feature updates, insight activation news, and updates on new available platform tasks. This communication, coupled with trust in the company’s approach to data protection, means that participants feel as included as they can be in the research process and are keen to continue to participate.

    The Underlying Mechanics of Consumer Trust

    Transparency and inclusion are the underlying mechanics of consumer trust. The growing awareness of data subjects’ rights has led to increased clarity around research engagement, and research participants are now savvier about the assurances they require before sharing information. Working to high standards of information security, and building inclusive research communities are the key to building trust in market research.

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