5 Key Insights From the 2022 Digital Trust Report

The past two years have seen widespread and sweeping change that’s impacted every aspect of our lives. From how we work to where we travel — and what we need from governments, banks, retailers and healthcare providers — our expectations have been transformed. We’ve experienced a global health crisis, of course, but we’ve also lived through a revolution in digital service availability and the creation of new efficiencies, conveniences and amenities. 

2020 and 2021 haven’t always been easy. But what began as a series of challenges that businesses and consumers needed to overcome has since evolved into a plethora of new opportunities. Today’s consumers are turning to digital services not only because they save time and reduce costs, but also because organisations are delivering top-notch online experiences across industries and use cases. If people are to reap the full benefit of these increasingly available digital services, they’ll need to share more of their digital identity and personal data. This demands trust. 

To better understand the state of digital trust among consumers — and to explore which factors are enabling modern digital businesses to win the loyalty of their customers — we surveyed 12,010 people from the UK, Ireland, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Italy and Switzerland in October of 2021. Our recent report, Identity: The Digital Trust Accelerator, reveals the depth and breadth of the changes that have taken place. Who and how we trust are now profoundly different, raising the stakes for brands hoping to deliver trustworthy digital experiences as consumer expectations continue to grow.

Here’s a look at what we learned:

1. Quality and convenience of digital experiences trumps brand reputation.

Digital services are now playing an amplified role in our lives. Annual worldwide retail e-commerce sales increased by more than 1.5 billion USD since the start of the pandemic, a year-over-year growth rate greater than 45%. The use of (and investment in) digital health technologies skyrocketed, with the industry now projected to be worth $650 billion globally by 2026. And consumers have embraced online and mobile banking at unprecedented speed.

These trends are reflected among our survey respondents. Digital has become the preferred channel for conducting financial transactions (chosen by 52% of respondents) and receiving government services (43%). A majority of respondents (61%) said they were doing more of their banking online than they had been when the pandemic began; these consumers are choosing online banking because they associate speed, convenience, robust data protection and high-quality services with digital financial service offerings.

Such preferences are driving emerging FinTech companies (offering online-only banking) towards the top of the global financial services marketplace. More than one in every five respondents to our survey now has an account with a challenger bank, within online-only banking particularly favoured among young people.

The burgeoning popularity of challenger banks sends a clear signal to legacy financial services institutions: for today’s consumers, providing high-quality digital experiences — including streamlined, secure access to accounts and other resources — is more important than having a well-established reputation or known brand name. This preference will only grow stronger as young people come to make up an ever-larger portion of the market in the future.

2. People are consuming more digital services, and as a result, have higher expectations when it comes to security and convenience.

It’s not just online banking that’s taken off during the pandemic. People have gotten comfortable purchasing goods and consuming a wide variety of services online, including digital government services such as filing taxes or checking driver’s license status via a web portal. Consumer trust in government-provided digital services varies across countries and regions, with 56% of Swedes expressing trust in online government services, but only 41% of Britons.

Cultivating the trust of their constituencies will be increasingly important for government agencies as they continue to roll out new digital initiatives such as digital identity verification systems and public health tools like digital vaccine passports. While the advent of such solutions has sparked public debate, a majority of respondents to our survey (55%) supported the idea of government-led vaccine passport initiatives, and 63% said they’d be willing to have some personal details incorporated into a digital ID.

These systems have many advantages for governments, including efficiency, ease of use, cost savings and centralisation of information access. But the citizens who are reluctant to adopt them usually feel this way because they lack trust that their data will be protected (54%) or fear its theft or cloning (49%). Allaying these anxieties by cultivating users’ trust will be essential if governments are to realise the full benefits that digital services offer them and their citizens. 

To do so, they’ll need to incorporate security controls that are robust and reliable, but that don’t introduce unnecessary friction into the login experience. Every time that friction occurs, it undermines the end user’s primary reason for turning to digital services in the first place — what they’re after is convenience.

3. Today’s consumers are willing to share their data, but only if they receive something of real value in return.

When the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) first came into force in 2016, it marked the beginning of a wave of similar laws protecting individuals’ right to privacy and consumers’ control over their personal data, a wave that has since swept the globe. Within Europe and the UK, public awareness of the GPDR’s existence and importance is widespread, and a clear majority (55%) of the respondents to our survey voiced their support for this legislation.

As growing numbers of regulations like the GDPR are passed in an increasing number of jurisdictions, public awareness of the value of personal data, the potentially severe consequences of its theft and the right to privacy has grown. 76% of the respondents who said they supported the GDPR also said that they believe that enforcing data privacy initiatives is a key responsibility of public sector organisations.

People understand the value of their data and believe its privacy should be protected, but this doesn’t mean they’re unwilling to share their data. Instead, most respondents (64%) stated that they’d be willing to trade their personal data for benefits such as an accurate medical diagnosis or treatment, discounts on a purchase, or admission to a public venue such as a bar, restaurant or pub. These answers reveal that there’s growing awareness that data has both monetary and utilitarian value, and people are increasingly willing to treat their data as an exchangeable asset.

Attitudes about when it’s worthwhile to trade personal information for particular benefits vary across countries and demographics. In general, though, people are more inclined to exchange their data for money, goods, services or other benefits when they believe they’re getting something worthwhile in return.

4. Companies are perceived as “stewards of digital trust.” They need to see themselves this way, too.

Consumers and citizens have become increasingly conscious of the worth of their data, but there’s also greater public awareness of the benefits of information exchange. In tandem with these realisations, people have become more likely to believe that public and private sector organisations bear a strong responsibility to protect the information with which they’re entrusted. 

This was the case for every type of data we asked about in our survey, but the more important the data was perceived to be, the higher the expectations were that organisations would protect it. Hence, governments, healthcare organisations and financial services companies were believed to bear a greater burden of responsibility than social media companies.

Overall, 50% of survey respondents said they believed it was the government’s responsibility to implement rules and regulations to protect their data, with rates significantly higher in some countries. But consumers increasingly believe that private sector organisations should be held responsible for protecting customer data. Those that fail to do so may face increasingly punitive regulatory penalties, but they’re also likely to lose the confidence of their customers and the trust of the public.

As digital experiences become an ever more critical part of customers’ relationships with brands, it’s essential that organisations not only deliver personalised and convenient experiences online, but that they also build a solid foundation of trust. After all, this foundation is what long standing customer relationships will be built upon in the months and years to come.

5. Accessibility and security can no longer be thought of as mutually exclusive. Modern digital organisations must deliver both.

The massive shift to digital that began in 2020 shows no signs of slowing down. Delivering services online is enabling public sector organisations to create new efficiencies and better serve their citizens. For the private sector, digital platforms have become important — and expanding — sources of revenue, but they’re also allowing brands to build lasting relationships with large audiences.

People turn to digital services primarily because they’re looking for ease and convenience. If brands want to win and retain the trust of their customers, they must deliver these benefits, which are widely expected in today’s world. 

Identity lies at the heart of an organisation’s ability to provide the secure, consistent, personalised, convenient experiences that consumers now demand. Every time a user logs in, they need access to the right resources — swiftly and effortlessly. No matter which device or platform they are using, they should enjoy a seamless omnichannel experience that is tailored to their unique identity and preferences. And all of this must be achieved without sacrificing security or introducing unnecessary friction.

Okta is leading the way with a secure customer identity & access management (CIAM) solution that over 14,00 customers trust to help them deliver digital customer and workforce experiences that stand out from the crowd.

Learn more about how Okta Customer Identity solutions cultivate user trust while keeping attackers at bay. Or download the full report Identity: The Digital Trust Accelerator to explore more of our findings.