Mind the gap: the links between customer data and trust

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Emerging from the pandemic, digitally savvy consumers have reset their expectations of APAC brands. They now expect companies to go above and beyond in community engagement, workplace culture, and delivering relevant, personalised experiences in the digital economy. These set a new watermark for what consumers demand in exchange for brand loyalty and spend.

According to the new Adobe Trust Report 2022: APAC, responsible use of customer data is a clear trust multiplier or dealbreaker. It sets out what’s important to consumers when handing over their data and what they expect in return.

Chief Marketing Officer and Head of eCommerce and Digital business at HDFC Life, Vishal Subharwal, agrees, saying that expectations of the digital experience have changed and that customer data is an essential part of adapting to the shift.

“Any one brand doesn’t set consumers’ online experiences; rather, it is shaped and reshaped by their collective digital experiences when interacting with different technology companies, OTT services, eCommerce and others,” Vishal says.

“So, the expectation now is that if I’m online and I click a button, my job will be done. And that creates a huge differentiation between expectations and the actual experience. We must continually push ourselves to relook at the data we have on consumer journeys and use it to optimise the user experience.”

Closing the data trust gap

The Adobe research highlights a disconnect in the perceptions of brands and consumers. In short, brands believe they are already trusted custodians of consumer data, whereas most consumers have concerns.

The research finds that most APAC executives agree that to gain consumers’ trust, it’s important to use data transparently and securely while delivering better customer experiences. And executives believe they’re doing a good job, with 95 percent or more saying consumers trust them to keep their data safe and use it responsibly.

However, 85 percent of APAC consumers express concerns about how companies use their data, and almost half say they’re very concerned. Another factor that consumers and brands may disagree on is the value they receive. Over three-quarters of APAC leaders believe the benefits customers receive from collecting their data outweigh potential risks, while only 38 percent of consumers have the same view.

Vishal Subharwal says that getting the data–trust exchange right can be a delicate balance for businesses. “Customers are willing to provide personal information if it improves the product or service offering and ultimately leads to a better consumer experience,” Vishal says.

“In HDFC Life’s case, instead of having to scan various documents or source information from third-parties, customers are happy to provide that to us, or authorise access, which we can use to save them time.”

“It is a very fine balance, and consumers want something in return when sharing data with businesses. As long as they are aware of how their data is used, assured of its security and confident it won’t be used for any other purposes, they’re generally quite comfortable to do so.”

Moving in step with customers

Executives can better align to customers’ expectations by prioritising better data practices. According to APAC consumers, 82 percent say having choice about how companies use their data is important and 77 percent value transparency with how their information is being used.

The research also found that executives might not be prioritising the secure data practices consumers expect, with fewer than half (42 percent) of APAC executives making data privacy and governance processes a top priority.

Image with quote from Vishal Subharwal, CMO HDFC life: "We must continually push ourselves to relook at the data we have on consumer journeys and use it to optimise the user experience."

The commercial impact comes into sharp relief when considering how consumers are likely to respond to data missteps. Where a company has broken their trust, the majority say they will never give it their business again. This includes where their data is used without their permission, they experience a data breach, or their data preferences are disrespected.

The research does reveal what businesses can do to restore trust in the eyes of consumers. Consumers value action over words, and while three quarters do value an apology, the top driver is regaining control and transparency over how their data is used. In that way, consumers are reiterating what’s important to them in the first place.

To better understand the trends influencing the trust between consumers and brands, get a full copy of the Adobe Trust Report 2022: APAC report.