What Is Digital Trust, and How Does it Enable Modern Digital Business?

The sudden shift to digital that took place in 2020 was an unprecedented shock for many. Consumers and corporations alike had to navigate a new landscape in which years’ worth of technology transformation was compressed into mere months, and people had to learn new ways of working, shopping and engaging with one another. In the midst of all this change, the concept of digital trust gained newfound importance.

Values and ethics have always been important in business. And the advent of legislation like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) evidenced that governments and citizens believed personal data protection to be a fundamental human right, even before the outbreak of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Still, modern digital businesses that want to be perceived as honest, reliable and dependable must pay more attention to cybersecurity than ever before. To build trusting relationships with their customers, they’ll need to establish the right technology foundation – one that can enforce security and identity policies without introducing friction. And they’ll need to keep in mind that digital trust is now a critical business enabler that can foster lasting customer loyalty. 

What is Digital Trust?

Digital trust refers to the level of confidence that customers, employees, other stakeholders or members of the general public have in an organisation’s ability to protect its information assets and technology resources. In today’s world, maintaining the confidentiality, integrity and availability of IT systems is a fundamental business obligation, and an organisation’s ability to achieve this imperative is seen as a reflection of its core values. 

As digital experiences become increasingly important to customers’ relationships with brands, organisations must put people, processes and technologies in place to mitigate cybersecurity risk. At the same time, they need to consistently deliver digital experiences that delight customers, give them frictionless access to the right services and resources at the right time, and treat them as valued individuals through personalisation and customisation. 

In general, to win and retain digital trust, technology ecosystems must be:

  • highly secure
  • frictionless
  • responsibly managed

Why Digital Trust Matters

Whenever a customer chooses to buy a company’s digital product, they’re expressing trust in that business. From this perspective, every online purchase is an act of digital trust. Conversely, if research, prior experience or brand reputation leads someone to believe that a digital business is unreliable, they’ll go elsewhere. The more digital trust a company can build, the more users it will be able to attract. Recent research has shown that a 5% increase in customer loyalty can boost lifetime customer value by as much as 76%.

Individual consumer purchasing decisions are directly correlated to digital trust. Three out of four US consumers say they’re unlikely to ever make a purchase from a digital brand they don’t trust, and 47% of Americans report that they’d permanently stop using a company’s services if they learned that a breach or misuse of their data had taken place. 

On a national and even global scale, digital trust supports and enables economic growth. As the world economy grows increasingly dependent upon always-on connectivity, data exchange and technological innovation, digital trust is increasingly becoming a fundamental part of doing business. 

As the digital business ecosystem continues to grow, an organisation’s ability to cultivate digital trust will become increasingly vital to its success. This is why, according to predictions made by IDC Research, more than a third of organisations will have replaced Net Promoter Scores and similar metrics with digital trust indices by 2025. Over the next few years, customers and markets will demand a unified approach to measuring trust and will begin to employ quantitative metrics to assess things like security, privacy, compliance and customer experience.

The downstream impact of this mounting emphasis on digital trust will be a stronger organisational focus on cybersecurity and privacy. Increasingly, cyber risk mitigation and data protection will be viewed as essential guarantors of customer experience. To avoid excessive – and potentially devastating – risks in a volatile and uncertain future that will demand business agility at every turn, decision-makers will need to incorporate cybersecurity strategies into the heart of every digital transformation initiative that their organisations undertake.  

Building a Digital Trust Strategy 

In any trusting relationship, both parties know that they can rely on the other to treat them — and any sensitive information they choose to disclose — ethically and with respect. If a business is to earn and retain the digital trust of its customers, it must give them confidence in the reliability of its technology systems and the services it delivers. It also must provide them with ongoing value, without introducing frustration or wasting their time. 

In the digital world, this requires the right technology foundation. Modernising identity management makes it possible for users to access resources quickly and efficiently while also incorporating next-generation security controls that protect sensitive data and prevent identity theft. Great user experience drives trust: when customers can access all of your digital properties smoothly and seamlessly from the device of their choice, enjoying a consistent experience everywhere, they’ll perceive your business to be reliable and consistent.

Organisations that implement single sign-on capabilities across their digital ecosystems so that users can access every portal and application with one set of credentials – or, in the case of passwordless authentication, with none at all – facilitate ease and convenience. This leaves customers with the lasting impression that their time is valued.

Taking advantage of an adaptive multi-factor authentication solution lets an organisation protect its customers’ identity information by enforcing risk-based policies that require additional verification factors only when users’ needs and the particular situation warrant it. This way, security requirements can flex to keep pace with contextual risk levels. Prompting customers to supply an added layer of authentication before high-risk transactions or unusual activities allows them to feel secure without introducing friction where it’s unnecessary.

Here’s how a secure Customer Identity & Access Management (CIAM) solution like Okta’s can make the user experiences that your organisation delivers stand out from competitors’.

  1. Focus on UX - Take users swiftly to what they want. A CIAM solution streamlines the digital experience to enable quick, simple login and minimal data input.
  2. Build next-level security into your systems - Cultivate trust and prevent identity theft with security controls that add minimal friction, such as multi-factor authentication.
  3. Personalise the experience - Unify your identity data to create a single source of truth for every customer, helping you deliver personalised experiences that drive loyalty and trust.
  4. Automate privacy compliance - Keep on top of the most recent privacy requirements (GDPR, CCPA etc.) with an identity solution that automatically ensures consent is correctly requested, stored and updated.
  5. Be consistent across devices - Create great omnichannel experiences that are consistent across all devices, platforms and even brands by tying individual profiles securely to users’ unique identities.


When you build and deliver customer-centric digital experiences by integrating authorisation and identity management, you’ll protect your customers – and their data – and cultivate their trust.

Want to know more about what it takes to build digital trust in today’s world? To explore the results of our survey of more than 12,000 consumers from the UK, Switzerland and seven EU countries, download our new report Identity: The Digital Trust Accelerator, and learn how organisations are winning the trust and loyalty of citizens and consumers. You can read some key insights from the report in this blog.