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UK Insights

The generation game: fragmented attitudes to trust and data

Phil Sutcliffe

UK Board Director, Offer and Innovation

Digital 25.07.2018 / 13:21


Insights from Kantar TNS show how brands can build trust in a digital age... but generational attitudes differ. Part of our #FragmentNation series.

People are increasingly concerned about the data that businesses hold about them and how this data is used. Even before the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal, research undertaken by Kantar TNS with the MRS Delphi Group found that data security is now the biggest driver of trust in business and brands.

So it is not surprising that over half of people surveyed (51%) say “I don’t want companies to use any of my personal data.” Yet there is fragmentation. Another one third (33%) say, “I’m happy for companies to use my data if it can provide me with better goods and services.” This divide around data usage is more pronounced when comparing demographics. The majority of Millennials (54%) say they are happy for companies to use their data if it results in better goods and services, compared to only one in five Baby Boomers (22%). And 60% of Baby Boomers say they don’t want companies to use any of their personal data.

While Millennials are more likely to accept that companies will use their data, they also have a keener awareness of the risks. The two biggest drivers of trust for this age group are, “I won’t be put at any personal risk by providing my data” and “They don’t take advantage of the data they hold about me.”

Core foundations of trust

To build trust across all age groups, then, businesses and brands must ensure their data policies have three core foundations in place. Otherwise, Millennials won’t hesitate to call out failures in the use of their data, and Baby Boomers will opt out completely from providing any. The three data trust foundations we identified are:

1. Giving strong reassurance about data security;

2. Being transparent about how organisations are using data and the benefits for customers;

3. Walking the talk – real utility needs to be provided in the form of improved products and services based on the data people provide.

The recent GDPR legislation will be a tipping point. Either brands will leverage GDPR to reassure customers about data security and use this as the foundation for providing a better value exchange, or people will exercise their right to be forgotten.

Top performing brands

Our research also looked at brand perceptions on the trust drivers for 42 brands in the UK, drawn from seven sectors. The best performing brand was Amazon, which is fascinating given that Amazon arguably uses consumer data on a scale, and with a level of sophistication, unmatched by any other business. Crucially, Amazon delivers against the three data foundations of trust.

Amazon has yet to experience any significant data security issues that impact trust. It uses data in a transparent way, providing recommendations and giving equal weighting to negative and positive reviews. Most importantly, it provides real utility from its access to consumer data in ways ranging from convenience and fulfilment, to new services which (usually) better serve consumer needs. Whilst few have the data access and resources that Amazon has, brands can learn a lot from its approach.

The Three I’s of brand trust

With all this, there is a “what” and a “how”. The three data trust foundations describe what a business needs to do to build trust. Beyond this, how brands interact with consumers and their data can both (re)build trust and also enable them to win share by creating more distinctive, stronger brands. Qualitative interviews conducted by Kantar TNS across 13 countries identified three things that brands need to focus on – identification, inclusion and integrity.

1. Identification

When people talk about trust in brands, they do so in the same way they talk about trust in people. So it is important for brands to be ‘human’ to build trust, and this is key to identification; brands need to be real, vulnerable and transparent. In a digital world this desire for humanisation is more pronounced than ever. Whilst data can obviously enable greater personalisation, it is important that this feels relevant and adds value, such as making the purchase journey more frictionless. Being personal is also about showing some flex; for example, having a no quibble returns policy, or being prepared to bend the rules in some scenarios. Often this comes down to in-moment CX, and empowering front line employees to use customer data with a degree of autonomy and flexibility.

2. Inclusion

Inclusion is as much about treating people as equals as it is about making them feel they matter as unique individuals. For big brands this is especially important, as with size comes the risk of treating a consumer as a number. Being acknowledged and getting a response from the organisation that feels customised and relevant; or being invited to participate in shaping the direction of the brand through some kind of community; or just feeling as if the brand is easy to access and not distant, are all ways for brands to drive inclusion. Celebrating any milestone in a relationship is also a good way of making people feel that they are growing together with a brand. Technology and data, when used well, can enable all of these things.

3. Integrity

Integrity is partly about a brand’s ability to create consistent experiences. Consumers expect to see consistency irrespective of touchpoint and, again, technology and data enable this. Integrity also extends to brands owning their mistakes and clearly communicating a fix for any problems, especially when the problem relates to data security. Brands with integrity will also establish and respect boundaries, winning trust through building levels of sharing so customers control what and how data is shared.

So the good news is that while technology and the data it produces is a key factor in the crisis of trust prevailing across business, government and media, there is an opportunity to turn this on its head. Getting the three data trust foundations in place, and applying the Three I’s, will enable businesses to use technology and data in a way that builds more trusted, enduring relationships with customers.

Source : Kantar TNS, Lightspeed

Editor's Notes

Download the full FragmentNation report here.

Download the MRS Delphi report here.

This was a conjoint exercise where participants were asked to trade off against pairs of attributes (‘trust expectations’) across each of the seven categories. The research with a national sample of 1001 UK adults was conducted online by Lightspeed. Fieldwork was conducted between 5–9 January 2018 with quotas set to be representative of the UK online population. You can view the percentages and wording of questions. If you have queries about this research email

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