Digital trust in businesses are predicated on multiple factors, most notably service reliability, at least, in Asia. (Photo by Jack TAYLOR / AFP)

Digital trust in businesses are predicated on multiple factors, most notably service reliability, at least, in Asia. (Photo by Jack TAYLOR / AFP)

Ensure reliable service if you want the digital trust of Asian consumers

Digital trust is created when consumers are confident that the people, technology, and processes they interact with or know about create a secure digital world. It is also crucial in helping brands win and retain customers. 

As the Covid-19 pandemic has redefined the way we live, work and play, pushing most of us online more often, so has our expectations for the digital world. With movement restrictions leading to the increased uptake of digital consumerism especially on e-commerce platforms, Asian consumers needed to trust businesses with their data and information, while organizations had to trust that their employees would stay productive working remotely.

Service reliability most important for digital trust

A recent study by independent identity provider Okta showed the shifting perceptions of trust amidst a rapidly digitalizing world in 2020. When it comes to building a brand’s digital trust, consumers care most about a company’s service reliability, strong security, quick response times, and good data handling practices.

In Malaysia, 250 office workers were surveyed, as part of a total of more than 1,700 office workers across Asia (including Singapore, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia). 

Service reliability is, on average, deemed the most important to building digital trust in a brand.

How polled Asian consumers rated the importance of these factors for digital trust in a brand. Source: Okta Report

How polled Asian consumers rated the importance of these factors for digital trust in a brand. Source: Okta Report

However, amongst all polled Asian countries, Malaysians particularly valued quick response times from customer service teams, ranking it as the most important factor (26%) when it comes to digital trust of the brand. 

Other factors considered important to Malaysians when it comes to digital trust include service reliability (25%); good security policies (25%); transparent and easy-to-understand data practices (16%). 

Amongst Asian respondents, assessing the digital trustworthiness of a brand is weakly related to the brand’s possession of strong ethical values. The region saw an average of eight percent of respondents prioritizing it, but the lowest of the lot came from Malaysia at five percent.

Asians trust digital channels but are also more security cautious

Regionally, the report found that Asians have a high level of trust in digital channels – only 10% of all Asian respondents said they don’t trust any digital channels to safely handle their data. 

This contrasts with 19% of Americans, the most untrusting group according to the same survey, which was also conducted in the US, Europe, and Australia. 

At the same time, Asians are more cautious than their global counterparts – 71% of Asian respondents shared that they have become more cautious about providing personal information online amid the pandemic – almost double the global average (41%).

Specifically, Asian respondents feel they are most at risk from identity theft (22%). Data breaches (18%) and password theft (16%) rounded out the top three concerns. 

Unethical data practices drive customers away

Asian consumers are most likely to lose trust in brands that intentionally misuse or sell personal data, followed by brands that fall prey to a data breach. 

Over half of Asian respondents (58%) would not likely purchase from a brand or company they do not trust. Specifically, almost half (45%) of Asian respondents cited data breaches as the key deterring factor from spending on goods and services online. 38%  said they had permanently stopped using a company’s services and deleted the app following a breach.

Other factors that would deter purchases include images that misrepresent the product (39%); websites with questionable legitimacy (38%), and websites that request too much personal information (38%).

For brands, consumer loyalty is hard to gain and easy to lose. Digital trust has a big impact on brand awareness and reputation, and ultimately where Asians spend their money online – 50% of Asian respondents have lost faith in a company due to a data breach or security event. 

As such, Okta advises businesses to take a two-pronged approach of driving customer awareness and encouraging better account profile and credential management. Examples include adopting user-friendly identity technologies like minimal or password-less authentication to better assure increasingly wary consumers without compromising their digital experience. 

“Asia-Pacific has far outpaced the rest of the world in online sales growth over the last year. This high demand, coupled with intense competition, has made brand trust a potential make-or-break for businesses looking to grow and retain an online customer base,” said Graham Sowden, Okta’s General Manager for the Asia Pacific. 

Workplace productivity needs high digital trust too

Okta’s study showed that remote arrangements are here to stay, especially for professionals in a rapidly digitalizing Asia. The majority of Asian respondents (61%) said they “always”, “often” or “sometimes” work from home today and want more flexibility in work from home (WFH) policies even post-pandemic.

With that said, Asia-based professionals have been more cautious about potential cyberattacks, and are warier of phishing emails (59%); data breaches (59%), and AI-generated “deepfakes” used to spread false information (58%). 

To maintain employee efficiency and protect corporate data in a remote work environment, businesses need to educate staff on security best practices and update legacy technologies that may be vulnerable to online threats. Educating customers is also crucial – businesses should proactively communicate to customers how they are bolstering their cyber defenses, thereby building trust.