Data privacy has been an increasingly important topic for brands, as the concern among consumers increases and stricter regulations come into effect. Are people more likely to trust social media platforms, search engines, or online retailers to protect their personal information? What about market research companies or media companies?

To answer these questions, DISQO created a consumer trust survey, which we will be conducting on a regular basis and sharing the results with you.

Over 27,000 responded to DISQO’s January 2020 edition of the Consumer Trust Survey, which provides insight into the most trusted institutions. It also raises a larger question to consider: how can brands build more trust among their customers and consumers as a whole?

Top Trusted Sites

As one might hope, an overwhelming majority (71%), agreed that they can trust financial institutions to protect and respect their personal information. Not only do these institutions have regulations set in place to provide their clients with peace of mind, but it’s also within their best interest to protect their customers’ financial assets, in order to maintain their own respectability in the market.

While financial information may be one of the most sensitive forms of information, it is more recoverable than something like a damaged personal reputation. It is still worth noting that even the most trusted organizations leave almost a third of the population concerned about their information being breached.

It comes as no surprise that the second most trusted source is online retailers (56%), like Amazon.com and Target.com. The level of trust that people hold with online retailers, however, should be higher, since consumers willingly choose to share their credit card information and purchase preferences with them.

Not too surprisingly, people are more likely to trust market research firms (53%) than media companies (47%), search engines (39%), or social media platforms (32%). After all, participation in market research is voluntary by design, research methods are transparent, and clearly communicated privacy protections instills added trust that all information gathered will be handled with care.

When examining the full spectrum of responses — from strong distrust to strong trust — the typical range of responses differed notably by source. Specifically, attitudes regarding social sites and search engines varied the most (IQR=3.40 & IQR=3.33 respectively). Understanding the level of confidence that consumers hold in the sites and institutions they interact with, provides insight into areas of weakness that brands should address.

Trust Relationships

Additionally, to determine the strength of the relationships between variables, we conducted a correlation analysis. All variables had a somewhat strong positive relationship, but three notable correlations stood out.

First, trust levels between search engines and social media sites had the highest correlation (r=0.76), albeit for the lowest overall trust levels. Following this pair, trust levels between media companies and online retailers was relatively strong (r=0.73). Similarly, the robust relationship between online retailers and search engines (r=0.70) indicates a high likelihood of trust between the two sources.

In addition to trust, this correlation indicates that those who interact with one site or institution are also highly likely to engage with the other. This positive association is one that brands can use to their advantage to help boost their traffic. On the flip side, having a negative association with a site that’s perceived to solicit personal information without user consent, is one that can harm a brand’s reputation, even if it may not be true. Remaining aware of shifting consumer attitudes on topics like data privacy can help companies grow long-term.

The Breakdown

Taking it a step further, we decided to see if there are any trends in relation to gender and age group. Interestingly, women are more trusting than men across all sources except search engines, with only a small difference between the two (40% for men versus 39% for women). The largest trust gap is evident when looking at financial institutions, where women are 9 percent more likely to be trusting than men.

Unlike women, who expressed their level of trust with slight to moderate intensity, men were more likely to give polarized responses.

When examining typical trust levels by age group, an interesting trend emerged. In short, trust decreases with age, which indicates that industries are doing a poor job of building trust — and respected relationships — over time. Rather, consumers are becoming more concerned about their privacy as they grow older, which arguably affects their engagement.

Takeaways

Instilling confidence among customers is something all brands should keep top of mind. Chances are, people aren’t reading through several pages of privacy policies for any site they visit. In order to build a better reputation and garner trust among consumers, it’s up to brands to convey a clear and authentic message about their data collection and protection methods.

About the Study

The Consumer Trust Survey was conducted in January 2020 and reached 27,803 members of the DISQO Audience. The study uncovered consumer trust in institutions and sites to protect and respect their personal information.