October 26, 2017

Today’s connected world is driving a ‘consumer trust divide’ between suspicious minds in developed nations and more accepting attitudes in emerging countries, according to Kantar TNS’s latest Connected Life research.

Kantar TNS surveyed 70,000 people across 56 countries and conducted 104 in-depth interviews as part of the 2017 Connected Life study. The research explored consumer trust in brands in relation to four themes: technology, content, data, and e-commerce. The findings show that while European and US consumers’ trust in brands is being undermined by the poor deployment of advertising and content, consumers in countries across Asia and Africa, in contrast, appear to be embracing brand content and messaging.

The findings also show that many consumers are choosing privacy over convenience, preferring a greater say in decisions that impact them even if that means compromising on speed or ease: 43% of consumers globally object to connected devices monitoring their activities even it makes their lives easier.

The research also reveals that mistrust is prevalent in many markets but that it is not universal. While just 9% of Swedish consumers consider the content they see on social media reliable, in Indonesia 61% of consumers trust the information they consume on social media.

Trust in large global brands varies significantly between emerging and developed markets: in China and Nigeria, more than half of consumers (57% and 54% respectively) trust big global brands, but consumer trust falls significantly in developed markets like the USA and France, where just 21% and 15%, respectively, trust big global brands.

Commenting on the findings, Michael Nicholas, Global Lead of Connected Solutions, Kantar TNS said:

“We are now living in a connected, post-truth world where the default for many consumers is suspicion, not acceptance. In developed countries, the connection that brands have strived to have with consumers – whether reaching them through new technologies, sharing brand content, targeting them based on their personal data or widening the scope of ecommerce – appears to be eroding trust, not building it.”

“The divide that we are seeing between consumers in developed and emerging countries around the world poses a real challenge for global brands: namely, how can they build and maintain trust in this rapidly changing world? There are implications for every brand, because the most successful ones are typically those that are trusted by consumers. But when trust is lost, it can be hugely damaging.”

“Consumers in emerging countries trust technology and social media channels because they experience the empowering effects of both in their lives. When it comes to data, they still have tangible expectations from brands such as rewards in exchange for their personal information. It’s a very different picture in developed markets, where consumers demand more and expect brands to transform the overall customer experience in exchange for data”

Connected Life explored consumer trust in brands in four areas:

Trust in technology

The rapid evolution of technology is enabling brands to develop better, smoother customer service experiences, but poor deployment or a failure to meet basic needs can erode consumers’ trust and confidence in brands. This year’s findings showed connected consumers are polarised in their acceptance of artificial intelligence. More than a third (39%) of consumers globally are willing to interact with a machine (such as a chatbot) if their query is dealt with more quickly. This has huge implications for the pace at which companies automate customer functions, as well as the moments at which they do so. This year’s findings also showed that while advances in technology aim to make consumers’ lives simpler and easier, people feel increasingly distracted and harassed by it: one third (34%) of 16-24 year olds globally think they use their mobile phones too much.

Trust in content

Many brands rely on social media platforms to reach consumers quickly and easily but this year’s research shows that content on those channels is increasingly discredited and distrusted by consumers, with fake news and self-serving information impacting their confidence in what they’re reading. Nearly a third (32%) of consumers globally find the content brands post on social media channels irrelevant. Furthermore, there is a high and growing level of distrust in social media platforms, with half (50%) of North American and French consumers expressing concern about social networks’ control of what users see in their feeds. Yet those findings contrast sharply with developing Asian markets like Indonesia and the Philippines, in which just 8% and 12%, respectively, expressed concern.

Trust in data

When it comes to data, people are becoming increasingly aware of the price they are paying for their connected lifestyles, and many feel on the losing end of an unfair exchange. 40% of global respondents expressed concern about the amount of personal data that companies have on them, but it was especially high in some markets: almost three-quarters (72%) of Polish consumers are concerned – more than any other nation – and the majority of consumers in the United States (60%) and South Korea (59%) share that view. However, concerns are much lower in other markets, including Nigeria (32%), China (30%) and Indonesia (22%), where consumers have more transactional expectations from brands (for example, rewards in exchange for data).

Trust in ecommerce

There has been a large increase in brands offering social commerce options to consumers, whether mobile shopping services and the ability to purchase through social media platforms.

New technologies such as ‘buy buttons’ and mobile payments are making ecommerce more frictionless than ever, but many consumers are failing to see the benefits. While 64% of consumers in China would prefer to pay for everything using their mobile, consumers in developed Western markets are much less likely to embrace mobile payments: 57% of consumers in France and Germany, and 54% in the United States, don’t want to pay for anything with their mobile.

Nicholas concludes:

“Trust is fragile. Brands in emerging countries see higher levels of consumer trust today than those in developed ones but they shouldn’t take it for granted. To build and protect trust, brands need to put the customer first. That means understanding their motivations, understanding the right moments to engage with them, respecting their time as valuable, and being more transparent about how and when they collect and use their personal data. Above all, that means putting the customer first – something that many marketers have forgotten to do.”


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