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What will happen to Consumer Trust in a post-COVID world?

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Remember the Cambridge Analytica breach in 2018? Also known as the greatest scandal in Facebook's history, loud enough to send dear Mark straight to the Supreme Court. It doesn't matter that he was confronted by people who clearly didn't know how Facebook worked in the first place – the platform's reputation was scarred deeply and the brand had to recover from a pretty crippling blow.

Since then, Facebook has created its own corporate brand in 2019 to regain some traction, but the effects of that story have had huge repercussions on social media privacy and people have since been even more concerned about their online data. Throw GDPR into the mix and there you have it – tailored advertising is not perceived as safe or even a pleasant experience, and it's almost regarded as a threat by consumers.

With the pandemic forcing us to witness the spirit of Spring wither out the window (over-dramatisation), brands in general and the advertising industry in particular have the chance to start planning for a better future, one in which consumers will regain some trust in advertising and its methods.

A chance to rebuild trust

A 8,000-consumer study from data company Kantar has unveiled last week that global consumers, but especially UK ones, have a concerning lack of trust in social media and online advertising. 58% of UK-based connected consumers have stated they are concerned that more tailored content will compromise their privacy, while only 43% said they prefer to see ads that are relevant to their interests and needs.

70% of UK consumers don't trust what they see on social media

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Source: Kantar DIMENSION, 2020.

Moreover, 70% of UK consumers don't trust a lot of what they see on social media. Consumer trust in communications and the advertising industry has evidently fallen, and the problem seems to have spread to print media as well, though newspapers and information websites have a much higher score on the trust scale (see above).

However, with COVID-19 forcing people to stay indoors, consumption and reach of both of these sectors has allegedly increased, leading to more occasions for brands and advertisers to work on themselves to regain the trust of their consumers.

How to rebuild consumer trust?

According to the CEO of Kantar's UK and Ireland media division, Mark Inskip, the only way to regain trust is to aim for authenticity, transparency and consistency in all your communications.

"Steps can be taken to reinstate that trust by enforcing responsible use of consumer data across the board, but everyone in the industry must come together to agree on a clear and unified approach," Inskip said. Advertisers are urged to clearly disclose their content and display sensitivity in engaging audiences on any platform, from social media to traditional broadcasting.

Protect consumer data not because you need to, but because you care

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Photo by ThisIsEngineering from Pexels

Consumers should receive accurate and relevant content, framed within appropriate contexts across all platforms. A recent report from PwC has shown that a positive brand experience is more influential than great advertising in the eyes of a consumer, and if the future is experiential, so could be advertising itself. As we all ease back into a new normal, consumers will not be happy nor willing to share positive experiences if they feel like their information has been mishandled – and that is the easiest way to not only undermine, but to destroy consumer trust altogether.

We've all been there before GDPR. Nothing is more frustrating than signing up to a newsletter (and thus giving our personal email address) expecting to receive relevant news, only to then get annoying ads from a third party we never gave consent to.

A post-COVID world

The pandemic has increased reach for advertisers and media experts on traditional broadcasting channels. As lockdown measures get eased across the world, there will be more chances to start anew with tailored, not invasive communications. All brands and advertisers should keep in mind that, without transparency, authenticity and relevant customer experiences, they may bring almost as much harm upon themselves as another Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Find your own identity and voice, care deeply about your consumers and don't sell their data against their consent. Show them that you care about their privacy just as much as you care about your own. Find more ways to exceed your customers' expectations with positive brand experiences, and that will be enough to build their trust. A trust that will, in turn, allow you to generate more data to tailor their experiences even more. Such as with a consumer loyalty program or an exclusive discount for a specific target audience, for instance.

Protect consumer data because you care, not because you're expected to. It's relatively easy to make up for lost revenue – but you can't force a disilluded customer to trust you once again.
 

Header image: Rufus Leonard.
 

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