The gap between what brands and APAC consumers expect from data privacy is high, according to Adobe’s 2022 Trust report. Adobe’s Gabbi Stubbs speaks to WARC’s Asia Editor Rica Facundo to unpack the data and uncover the new symbols of trust in the digital economy.

WARC: Trust is a cornerstone in marketing. But how does the concept of trust apply to the digital economy?

Gabbi Stubbs: Every customer relationship (or any general relationship) is built on trust and that’s absolutely true of marketing as well.

One of the fundamental aspects of trust in the digital economy is around delivering or having a mutually beneficial value exchange that operates between a brand and the customer.

Fundamental to that is clearly knowing the customer and being able to help them, guide them and show them the value. According to our Adobe Trust 2022 research, we know that 83% of APAC customers say that those great personalised content experiences, when delivered at the right time, in the right place, in the right context, are the pieces that actually build trust.

But the speed at which digital organisations needed to be digital-ready has far outpaced the possibility of being able to do things well or correctly.

What does it mean to deliver ‘digital trust’ correctly?

A brand not only needs to be able to deliver personalised experiences but ensure that it can be a really great custodian of the data. This is so that customers can continue to trust the brand and continue to give you more information so that you can continue to give them greater experiences.

And then there’s ensuring that the value exchange is beneficial to both the consumers and the brand. Until brands can get there, there will be a breakdown in trust. What we’re increasingly seeing is that marketers think there’s a tension between personalisation and privacy. The reality is that both of those things are wholly centred on the identity of the person in order to be able to do digital marketing – they can’t be mutually exclusive.

So it’s really the piece that’s going to power the digital economy moving forward but also to be able to be effective and how you build foundational trust across those interactions and those engagements as well.

What do you think the state of digital trust is in APAC?

There’s a massive gap between the notion of trust from a consumer perspective and the notion of trust from a brand perspective, which we are seeing repeatedly. It emerges when you start asking a brand how they think they deliver transparency or their actual policies around data, for example. They think that they have significant transparency that sits around those sorts of areas. They think that their policies and utilisation of data are clear. Their view is phenomenally different from customers.

Brands may think that they’re doing enough around transparency. But customers also want a level of control that sits around their preferences. So they want to be able to say that you should only be using the data that’s valuable or needed in those contexts.

Source: Adobe APAC Trust Report 2022

What symbolises what digital trust looks like today?

Traditionally, marketers have used their product or service as a mark of what represents trust. The reality is that the mark of trust today is the data that’s being used to deliver an experience across every single touchpoint that a customer has with a brand.

Every single touchpoint that a customer has with a brand is a collection of the brand itself and therefore an opportunity to be able to build, maintain or even lose trust moving forward.

So, acknowledging and honouring one’s preferences is a mark of how you actually gain additional trust but speaks very much to the privacy context as well.

Is there anything in the APAC market that makes those challenges slightly different?

The expectations around the use of data in APAC seem to be significantly more heightened than other markets.

In markets like Southeast Asia and even India, it’s predominantly mobile-first. So it’s a very personal experience in itself and you can understand why the expectation of marketing to be more relevant and personal is actually quite high.

But ANZ, for the most part, has already largely rejected a lot of third-party data. So even our switch into slightly more mature, first-party data strategies, was probably already significantly well underway.

The gap is also pretty big between brands and consumers. You have more than three-quarters of APAC leaders, for example, who really think the benefits the brand delivers far outweigh the possibilities or the dynamic of actually collecting the data in itself and the potential risks that might be associated with them.

But conversely, only 38% of customers agree and that’s again a massive change to most of the rest of the markets. So again, one of the nuances in our market is that the delta is actually quite wide between expectations of brands and customers. We have, in many cases, a massive catch up to do in terms of how we deliver some of those things, how we utilise technology and what technology or processes we actually utilise.

Why do you think that gap is so big?

From the customer point of view, they are significantly more conscious and empowered. So the dynamic in terms of who’s in control has definitely changed.

One of the key things that is really interesting about digital marketing, which is very different from traditional marketing, is the ability for digital to be able to give you immediate results. It has almost become a crutch for a lot of marketers to drive short-term outcomes.

This came at the expense of longer-term brand metrics and those that sit around loyalty. This is one of the reasons why you’re seeing the wedge between the two. You have these short-term activations, as opposed to prioritising understanding the whole of life cycle of a customer, across their entire engagement with the brand.

We almost need to take a step back and make sure that we’re not just thinking about the next thing, but we’re thinking about things that are another year down the track with them, and how we might actually develop that brand relationship with them for the longer term.

More access to immediate data may have encouraged short termism but doesn’t it allow brands to build more long-lasting relationships with customers?

Absolutely. This is a beautiful part where those two pieces of research come together. We know that customers value personalised experiences and that they want to be able to make sure that their data is used appropriately.

But at the same time, they also want to be able to have a brand come in and say, hey, you need to know me, I want you to show me, I want you to help me be able to make those decisions. So those two things come together. 

If you don’t have that rich view of them and have it collected in a way that they can trust you to use it appropriately, you’re not going to get a relationship that moves forward centred on trust and builds that lifetime relationship.

Are there any brands in the region that are doing this well and starting to close that digital trust gap?

In Australia, supermarket brands such as Coles have really gone through and wholly redefined their customer experience.

The basis of what they’re doing and how they build trust is based on unifying that customer data into that single view. So they can deliver those personalised experiences with the shopper but also with respect to the privacy, be able to move forward and start to build and deepen those relationships that they have with each of those customers as well.

In Singapore, The Mandai Wildlife Group went through the process of mapping the customer journeys to help deliver those personalised and omnichannel experiences.

It enabled them to understand the behaviours that they had on their customers before they entered the park. And then when they had that understanding, they’re able to deliver again those personalised experiences during those visits. And then they continue to build out the relationship and strengthen that relationship once they leave the park as well.

What effectiveness metrics should brands use to measure digital trust next year?

It’s a really tough one because a lot of people have actually moved away from measuring metrics other than short-term. A lot of people will look to a dashboard when they have to report back to the CMO or the board.

The metrics that are harder to measure, you aren’t going to see a dial shift in those monthly reports. So think about your NPS scores. Think about the actual return on investment that might sit with individuals or individual segments and how you move the needle on them over time.

Those long-term brand metrics are the ones that are really going to indicate whether or not that trust is being embedded because it fundamentally reflects their feeling about you.

Whether they spend more money is the ultimate definition of whether or not somebody trusts you, whether they’re prepared to engage with you more frequently. And number two, whether things like an NPS score that moves up, it’s still very traditional but it’s still the most common denominator of how you actually understand a brand’s value in and of itself.