A new study reveals serious public concerns about the spread of misinformation and its impact on trust between consumers and brands – it even suggests that European consumers have wrongly spent billions of euros and pounds on products and services in the last 12 months as a result.

That claim comes from Yext in its Searching for Trust report which is based on responses to an online questionnaire completed in August by 6,000 consumers across France, Germany and the UK.

The online brand management company found a widespread belief that misinformation – inaccurate, misleading or outdated material – is a problem in today’s society (92% agreed) and an expectation it will become even more of a problem in future (66%). The events of the past six months have exacerbated fears: 53% are more concerned about misinformation now than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic.

And those attitudes are not restricted to the daily news agenda: 47% said brands have a real problem when it comes to displaying the proper information online and 79% believe brands should be tackling misinformation more seriously.

One of the areas where this issue arises is in search, the first port of call for consumers these days when looking for information. Most (45%) blame the brand itself for any misinformation they receive, rather than the search engine or web browser and a third (34%) of respondents claim to have suffered personally when acting upon such content.

The report estimates that French and German consumers have been hardest hit financially as a result, with each nation spending around €3.1 billion, while UK consumers are not far behind on £2.1 billion.

At this time brands may welcome a revenue boost however it arrives, but the study notes that will be outweighed over the longer term by the increase in customer support costs and loss of business due to an erosion of consumer trust. “Wrong answers in search results risk damaging trust and ultimately lost revenue,” it states.

“Misinformation is now a key battleground for trust,” said Jon Buss, Managing Director, EMEA at Yext. “With more consumers than ever searching for answers about brands and products online, expectations about the accuracy of what they find have become greater than ever,”.

As businesses look to recover from the economic impact of the pandemic, tackling misinformation and sharing accurate answers will have a significant role to play in rebuilding trust; 63% of consumers admitted that correct information from a brand is closely linked to trust and that, in turn, the vast majority (71%) of consumers will buy from a brand they trust. 

Sourced from Yext