Over the course of my 30-year career in the technology sector, one of the most valuable leadership lessons I’ve learnt is that opportunities rarely present themselves. They must be sought out, often in the places we least expect them to be.
The latest example of this? Digital trust.
Digital trust refers to the confidence placed in an organisation to collect, store and use digital information in a manner that benefits and protects the consumer whose data is being stored. With 22 percent of global GDP attributable to digital goods and services, it’s become one of the most important concepts in business.
So when I read the findings of a new survey commissioned by CA Technologies on digital trust levels in Europe and globally, I was concerned.
Europe has a digital trust problem
Unsurprisingly, 56 percent of European organisations admitted they were involved in a publicly disclosed consumer data breach, most of them within the last year. More surprising was the finding that 47 percent of European business executives felt the long-term impact of a data breach on consumer trust would be negative, but small. 48 percent also felt business results would not be significantly impacted.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t align with what customers themselves think. Of the 39 percent of European consumers who have or do use the services of an organisation hit by a data breach, a whopping 43 percent stopped using those services because of a breach. In countries such as France, this figure was as high as 1 in 2.
These findings underline a harsh reality for European business leaders: the gap between consumers’ actual digital trust levels and business’ perceptions of that trust is higher in Europe than in any other region of the world.
A blueprint for a trust-driven business
At first glance, digital trust may feel like an irremovable albatross around the neck of C-suite executives across Europe. Look closer however, and savvy business leaders will spot an opportunity.
That’s because the study commissioned by CA also showed that consumers with the highest levels of digital trust increased their net online spending by significantly more than those with the lowest levels. Those with the highest levels of trust recorded a 57 percent increase in their online spending, 14 percentage points higher than those with low trust levels.
To put it bluntly, higher levels of digital trust mean better returns for your business. Here’s my 3-point plan for turning digital trust into a strategic advantage:
- Lead from the front. 34 percent of European business executives think security initiatives have a negative return on investment (ROI). If your business wants to show leadership on the issue of digital trust, that figure needs to change. That means making data security a central issue for the C-suite.
- Engage with your customers. 68 percent of consumers say being provided with easily accessible, understandable information on data protection policies improves trust. However, less than half say they are provided with that information. It’s time to take your security policy out of the terms and conditions and get creative to ensure it is clear and explainable.
- Build digital trust into your brand identity. Once internal and external leadership on data security is in place, ensure it is tied to your brand identity. 50 percent of consumers said their perception of a company’s data protection measures are driven by how well-known the brand in question is. Make your company stand out as a trusted partner.
Rachel Botsman, author of ‘Who Can You Trust?’, has argued that trust, the glue that holds society together, ‘has shifted from institutional trust to a new form of distributed trust. Instead of following upwards to institutions… it now flows horizontally to peers, friends, colleagues and fellow users.’
With so much of our time – and money – being spent online, regaining the digital trust of consumers will be crucial not just for business success, but for public faith in both public and private enterprises. As always, those that spot the opportunity first will the ones who yield the greatest rewards.
 World Economic Forum & Accenture, Davos 2017 Conference Report
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