Trust, driven by pandemic, takes a central role in digital commerce

digital commerce trust
Image by Black Salmon | Bigstockphoto

The past year has redefined the meaning of trust, especially as we spend more of our daily lives in the virtual space than ever before. With movement restrictions leading to the proliferation of digital commerce platforms, Asian consumers needed to trust businesses with their data and information, while organisations had to trust that their employees would stay productive working remotely. 

To shed light onto shifting perceptions of trust amid swift digital transformation, Okta, the leading independent identity provider, conducted a study – The State of Digital Trust – to look at whether brands have done enough in the eyes of consumers to build trust, and what factors impacted the way consumers interacted with digital services. We polled more than 1,700 office workers across Asia − in Singapore, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. 

Study results unveiled today notably found that:

  • Asians have a high level of trust in digital channels – only 10% of all Asian respondents said they don’t trust any digital channels to safely handle their data. This contrasts with 19% of Americans, the most untrusting group according to the same survey, which was also conducted in the US, Europe and Australia.
  • At the same time, Asians are more cautious than their global counterparts – 71% of Asian respondents shared that they have become more cautious about providing personal information online amid the pandemic – almost double the global average (41%).
  • Specifically, Asian respondents feel they are most at risk from identity theft (22%). Data breaches (18%) and password theft (16%) rounded out the top three concerns.
  • For brands, consumer loyalty is hard to gain and easy to lose. Digital trust has a big impact on brand awareness and reputation, and ultimately where Asians spend their money online – 50% of Asian respondents have lost faith in a company due to a data breach or security event.  

With Trust, Comes Customers

Digital trust is crucial in helping brands win and retain customers. When it comes to building brand trust, consumers care most about a company’s service reliability, strong security, quick response times and good data handling practices.

In making purchasing decisions: 

  • More than half (58%) of Asian respondents would be unlikely to purchase from a firm they didn’t trust.
  • 45% of Asian respondents listed data breaches as the factor that will most strongly deter them from purchasing goods and services online, followed by:
    • Images that misrepresent products (39%)
    • Websites with questionable legitimacy (38%)
    • Websites that request too much personal information (38%) 

Additionally, when it comes to retaining customers, data ethics is crucial. Asian consumers are most likely to lose trust in brands that intentionally misuse or sell personal data, followed by brands that fall prey to a data breach. 38% said they had permanently stopped using a company’s services and deleted the app following a breach.

“Asia-Pacific has far outpaced the rest of the world in online sales growth over the last year. This high demand, coupled with intense competition, has made brand trust a potential make-or-break for businesses looking to grow and retain an online customer base,” said Graham Sowden, Okta’s General Manager for Asia Pacific. “Customers are increasingly wary of online threats, and digital-first businesses have no option but to equip themselves with the right policies and technologies to drive trust, loyalty and success.” 

Workplace Productivity Founded on Trust

Meanwhile, in the workplace, Okta’s study showed that remote arrangements are here to stay. The majority of Asian respondents (61%) said they “always”, “often” or “sometimes” work from home today, and want more flexibility in WFH policies even after the COVID-19 crisis has receded. 

At the same time, professionals have been more cautious about potential cyber-attacks. Specifically, working from home has made Asian respondents more wary of:

  • Phishing emails (59%)
  • Data breaches (59%) 
  • AI-generated “deepfakes” used to spread false information (58%) 

To maintain employee efficiency and protect corporate data in a remote work environment, businesses need to educate staff on security best practices, and update legacy technologies that may be vulnerable to online threats.

Educating customers is also crucial – businesses should proactively communicate to customers how they are bolstering their cyber defences, thereby building trust. By taking a two-pronged approach of driving customer awareness and encouraging better account profile and credential management – for instance, through the adoption of user-friendly identity technologies like minimal – or password-less authentication − businesses can provide greater assurance to increasingly wary consumers without compromising their digital experience.

Most importantly, businesses must define the trust parameters by which employees, partners and customers access sensitive data and systems. As digital transformation opens new channels to engage with customers and employees, the cyber-attack surface expands in parallel − maintaining trust is vital to continued business success. 

Related article: People need digital trust – but based on the principles of human trust

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