Trust is dead; long live trust!

- May 11, 2016 3 MIN READ

Without trust, what do we have? Well, we have the current state of the internet economy, that’s what.

It’s well documented that consumers distrust the way companies use their data, with as many as 65 percent of consumers believing brands use their personal data without consent. It’s also fairly well documented this distrust could hinder growth opportunities, but more on that later.

What’s most interesting about this state of distrust is that people are also willing to trade their data – even if the ‘when, where, what and how’ it will be used is somewhat unclear – for some return of value.

As far as use of personal data and trust is concerned, there is clearly a cognitive dissonance gap.

One could argue that this ‘willingness to trade’ data for some type of product or service, and therefore the cause of the cognitive dissonance gap, is a direct result of the almost non-existent control everyday citizens have generally had over their data. Our lack of trust has therefore been devalued through our actions.

With this our normalised reality, in his Harvard Business Review article titled Customer Data: Designing for Transparency and Trust, Timothy Morey brilliantly highlighted our willingness to trade:

Swapping Value for Data HBR

So in a market where brands are needed to enable everyday people to complete general day to day tasks, fulfill major life events and achieve the goals we set, and where we are more than willing to push our distrust to the side in order to gain some increment of value, is trust dead, hidden, or simply awaiting the right time for a dramatic comeback?

I would argue strongly that the market is at an inflexion point. Not necessarily a tipping point, but certainly an inflexion point. This is largely supported by strengthening legislative pressures such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Payment Services Directive 2 (PSD2) in Europe, but is also supported broadly by the views of what started out as a small, active community of privacy aware consumers, that is now becoming a much larger, more demanding one. To quantify this further, you only need to look at the global ad blocking statistics, with approximately 200 million people having installed ad blocking technology on their devices.

Moving from trust is dead to long live trust!

There is now little doubt that citizens are going to become the controllers of their personal data. This will mean the current way organisations design consent-based services is going to have to evolve significantly. Gone will be the days of “accept our cookies or f**k off”. Say hello to the days where organisations will ask for permission to utilise someone’s data in order to deliver a product, service or experience.

There’s some excellent thinking being done in this space currently. One specific example is the Consent Journey Canvas from Alessandro Carelli. Just like the Business Model Canvas or Value Proposition Canvas, this is a tool that can be used by designers, product managers, strategists and executives to design human-centric consent-based experiences.

Image Credit: Consent Journey Canvas V0.1 by Alessandro Carelli, Mark Lizar and Michele Nati. Available under Creative Commons License Attribution 4.0 International

Image Credit: Consent Journey Canvas V0.1 by Alessandro Carelli, Mark Lizar and Michele Nati. Available under Creative Commons License Attribution 4.0 International

Then there’s the longer-term vision where the customer is the platform in their own right, and new capabilities, like Life Management Platforms help individuals move from being the end-user, or even the product, to being the key enabler of value through seamless consent-based interactions.

This sounds wonderful, but that’s an exponential leap rather than an incremental one. And although this is very likely where the market is headed, organisations, and frankly everyday people, need a pathway of manageable steps that lead towards these new models.

Enter Trust as a Strategy, or TaaS for short. I introduced this concept in an article I wrote for Digital Catapult recently titled Trust as a Strategy: differentiating when the customer owns the data.

TaaS is where an organisation clearly sets the context that their tactics, actions and investments, and therefore some core success metrics, are designed to earn a relationship with customers based on mutual trust.

Brands do this because they believe trust will be a differentiator – something that will put their brand front of mind and front of wallet in the lives of their target customers.

So how do organisations go about executing TaaS, iteratively and incrementally, so that value is proven prior to significant investments being made?

Well, I’m only human. If I had the perfect answer I’d charge you more than a lot to tell you. What I can say fairly conclusively is that there are some approaches, let’s call them “Give to Get” TaaS approaches, that are backed by new, enabling person-first technologies, that seem to be working quite well.

I highlighted one such example in the article I recently wrote, where an organisation that operated across a specific vertical, and typically had a siloed relationship with their customers, was able to earn trust to the point at which their customers began sharing key information about the important things in their life. This enabled the organisation to determine new market opportunities, and frame a very specific, human-centric go-to-market strategy that provided unique differentiation in a hotly contested market.

So I say to you simply, long live trust and long live trust as a viable business strategy!