Improving digital trust with a roadmap

What’s most important in interacting with companies in an online environment? From payment transactions to signing up for a service to accessing an onboarding form, it’s impossible to deny that today, one of the primary concerns for customers and businesses alike is: trust. In this case, digital trust.

More than one of the more recent buzzwords being used in the tech and corporate world, digital trust is already proving its longevity through its inherent importance in how we navigate online space.

Customer trust is about much more than whether the website looks reliable or if their data will be handled and stored securely and appropriately. How a customer feels about their interaction with a business online can have a major impact on the continued success of that company - especially in a time when much of that interaction has been forced to move online.

What does digital trust entail?

The first word that likely comes to mind for businesses, especially with growing threats of hacking and potential data leaks is: cybersecurity.

It is certainly a big part of building a business that offers clear reasons to encourage trust from customers and other businesses (such as potential partners or investors). But a recent report published by World Economic Forum (WEF) took it further to define digital trust as:

...individuals’ expectation that digital technologies and services – and the organizations providing them – will protect all stakeholders’ interests and uphold societal expectations and values.

This definition helps to clarify that for companies, the topic of digital trust is much more than just the protection of private data. It involves ensuring trust on every level with which they operate, which also means providing a certain amount of transparency into exactly how data is used, and what steps are in place to protect that data.

The definition also takes the role of a business beyond the general protection of data. In the report, it continues to explain that businesses that truly establish digital trust take this into consideration in every aspect to the extent that they do not work with or support businesses that do not make any efforts to increase and provide clear indications of digital trust.

The concept of digital trust also extends beyond the business-to-consumer (B2C) relationship and the business-to-business (B2B). Municipalities and even governmental organizations are included in the report, citing their need to regulate digital technologies and the responsibility to ensure these solutions meet societal needs and values when it comes to digital trust.

How well is digital trust being implemented?

It’s clear that individuals, companies, and even government level operations should prioritize digital trust when it comes to how they conduct business and manage data. While it’s not only about cybersecurity, this is perhaps one of the first steps that companies take to show outwardly a commitment to digital trust.

And yet, it’s clear that many businesses aren’t yet taking the necessary steps to build and improve their digital trust.

A study by pwc revealed that 90% of those in leadership roles in companies did not feel that their business is ready to meet the current cybersecurity requirements and expectations that establish trust.

That kind of statistic might be surprising, especially considering the introduction of technology and solutions specifically designed to make it easier for businesses to quickly make an impact on improving their level of digital trust.

And yet, a study by KPMG found that 75% of those in leadership roles in businesses believe that new software and technology (such as AI, for example) is likely to add to potential new threats in the area of cybersecurity.

This shows a continued distrust in new technology. While there is certainly a good reason for caution when choosing to adopt and implement new solutions, this is the fastest and simplest way forward for businesses looking to improve their own digital trust. Fortunately, there are ways that these steps can be taken, in a systematic, secure way.

What can businesses do to improve digital trust?

The WEF report acknowledges how crucial digital trust has become and recognizes the role that digital transformation can play.

With companies moving quickly to adopt new solutions that will allow them to function and stay competitive in a world that moved suddenly, nearly fully online due to the events beginning in 2020, digital trust is important not only for business operations and their own data security, but also extending that to the customers that look to them for products and services.

The report, therefore, provides a clear framework for companies looking to build digital trust. It aims to helps companies achieve three main goals:

  • Accountability and oversight
  • Inclusive, ethical and responsible use
  • Security and reliability

To do so, the decision makers and stakeholders should focus on the main values that the company is looking to uphold and project throughout the process.

The report then lays out a roadmap that contains four main steps that help businesses go beyond basic compliance and meeting bare minimums to rethinking how they operate in order to implement trust from the ground up.

The four steps are:

  1. Commit and lead. The commitment to improving digital trust needs to come from the top. Those in leadership need to show how digital trust impacts the business and how a strategic approach to improvement will impact and benefit all areas of the business.
  2. Plan and design. Next comes determining what elements are currently in place to support digital trust, identifying what and where changes can be made, how long it will take (ideally with timeline), and what the predicted outcomes will be.
  3. Build and integrate. This is where the change really starts. Technology and software is implemented and with this there must be changes to how processes are managed, what training for new tools is needed, any necessary communication updates, all with keeping the goal of digital trust in mind.
  4. Monitor and sustain. Once new programs, solutions, and systems are implemented, a true commitment to digital trust doesn’t end there. Businesses must keep track of performance, evaluate how and measure the results, and stay on top of new updates or changes as the online world continues to evolve.

Businesses looking to improve their digital trust can easily start to make changes with the right software and tools. But one thing the report made clear is that true commitment to change must come from leadership, from decision-makers in companies who recognize that digital trust is not just another trend but could in fact be key to continued and future survival of a company.