Highly connected but increasingly suspicious: Study reveals ‘consumer trust divide’ in APAC for brands online

  • Lack of trust in brands in developed APAC markets, such as Australia and Singapore
  • Emerging, mobile-first markets like Vietnam and Myanmar remain open to brands, with fewer concerns about sharing personal data online than more developed markets
  • Brands need to ensure they learn from their mistakes in developed markets to keep consumers in emerging markets onside

Today’s connected world is driving a ‘consumer trust divide’ between suspicious minds in developed nations and more accepting attitudes in emerging countries, according to Kantar TNS’s latest Connected Life research. This is most obvious in Asia Pacific, where brands need to navigate the dichotomy between polarised markets in order to effectively connect with consumers across the region.

Kantar TNS surveyed 70,000 people across 56 countries and conducted 104 in-depth interviews as part of the 2017 Connected Life study. The research explored consumer trust in brands in relation to four themes: technology, content, data, and e-commerce.

The findings show that trust in global brands is low in countries with mature digital ecosystems such as Australia and New Zealand, where only 19% and 21% respectively say that they trust global brands. In contrast, consumers in emerging mobile-first markets such as Myanmar and Vietnam are optimistic about the opportunities that connectivity brings, and appear to be embracing brands’ products, content and messaging, with 54% trusting global brands in both countries.

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The findings show that despite the benefits that can be delivered through sharing data, many consumers in developed markets in Asia are cautious about how much of their personal information they share online. 56% of consumers in Korea and 62% in New Zealand object to connected devices monitoring their activities, as they may not feel they are gaining any benefits as a result of sharing this data and are on the losing end of an unfair exchange. Conversely, only 15% of consumers in Indonesia and 20% in the Philippines have the same anxiety.

In an age of ‘fake news’, the research reveals that mistrust filters through to the content that people are consuming online. However, this differs hugely across markets. While just 14% of Taiwanese consumers consider the content they see on social media reliable, in Indonesia 61% of consumers trust the information they consume on these channels – one of the highest trust levels globally.

Commenting on the findings, Nitin Nishandar, Regional Managing Director, Brand & Shopper,  Kantar TNS said:

“Thanks to an explosion in the levels of connectivity across the region, brands now have the ability to interact with consumers whenever and wherever. However, instead of forging closer relationships, intense over-communication has led to the emergence of cynicism amongst consumers in more developed markets.

“This is a different story in emerging markets that have not historically had the same level of interaction. Consumers here are still open and enthusiastic about the possibilities that the online world presents – they are interested in what brands have to say and trust them with their personal data. Brands that have managed to establish their trustworthiness with consumers need to tread carefully to ensure they meet expectations and showcase the value that comes from closer consumer understanding.” 

Connected Life explored consumer trust in brands in four areas:

Trust in technology

The rapid evolution of technology is enabling brands to develop better, smoother customer service experiences, but poor deployment of this technology or a failure to meet basic needs can erode consumers’ trust and confidence in brands. This year’s findings showed connected consumers are polarised in their acceptance of artificial intelligence. Almost half (44%) of consumers in emerging markets in Asia are willing to interact with a machine (such as a chatbot) if their query is dealt with more quickly, however this number is lower for developed Asia (29%) who are less willing to interact with these new forms of technology. This year’s findings also showed that while advances in technology aim to make consumers’ lives simpler and easier, people feel increasingly distracted and harassed by it: almost one third (31%) of 16-24 year olds across APAC  think they use their mobile phones too much.

Trust in content

Many brands rely on social media platforms to reach consumers quickly and easily, but this year’s research shows that content on those channels is increasingly discredited and distrusted by consumers, with fake news and self-serving information impacting their confidence in what they’re reading. Nearly half (47%) of consumers in Australia find the content brands post on social media channels irrelevant, however this decreases to 11% in Myanmar and 8% in Indonesia where consumers are more welcoming of brand content within their social media feed.  There is also a high level of distrust in social media platforms themselves, with 51% of New Zealanders and 50% of Australians expressing concern about social networks’ control of what users see in their feeds. Yet those findings contrast sharply with emerging Asian markets like Indonesia and the Philippines, in which just 8% and 12% respectively, expressed concern.

Trust in data

When it comes to data, people are becoming increasingly aware of the price they are paying for their connected lifestyles, and many feel on the losing end of an unfair exchange. 52% of respondents from developed Asia expressed concern about the amount of personal data that companies have on them – higher than the global average of 40%. However, concerns are much lower in emerging markets, including Myanmar (12%), Philippines (15%), Vietnam (18%) and Thailand (20%) where consumers have more transactional expectations from brands (for example, rewards in exchange for personal data).

Trust in ecommerce

Despite the introduction of new technologies such as ‘buy buttons’ and mobile payments making ecommerce more frictionless than ever, many consumers are failing to see the benefits. While 64% of consumers in China would prefer to pay for everything using their mobile, consumers in much of Asia Pacific are far less likely to embrace mobile payments. This is true in developed markets such as Australia and Singapore where 53% and 36% respectively don’t want to pay for anything with their mobile despite their advanced payment ecosystem. Similarly, consumers in emerging markets are wary of this service – 46% of consumers in Thailand and Vietnam do not want to use mobile payments. Low levels of credit card ownership, high levels of fraudulent products and poor logistics mean that innovative solutions are required to overcome these barriers to ecommerce acceptance.

Michael Nicholas, Global Lead of Connected Solutions, Kantar TNS, concludes:

“Trust is fragile. Brands in emerging countries see higher levels of consumer trust today than those in developed ones but they shouldn’t take it for granted. To build and protect trust, brands need to put the customer first. That means understanding their motivations, understanding the right moments to engage with them, respecting their time as valuable, and being more transparent about how and when they collect and use their personal data. Above all, that means putting the customer first – something that many marketers have forgotten to do.”




Notes to Editors:

About Kantar TNS

Kantar TNS is one of the world’s largest research agencies with experts in over 90 countries.

With expertise in innovation, brand and communication, shopper activation and customer relationships we help our clients identify, optimise and activate the moments that matter to drive growth for their business.

We are part of Kantar, one of the world’s leading data, insight and consultancy companies.

Find out more at www.tnsglobal.com

About Connected Life

Connected Life is Kantar TNS’s annual study of digital behaviour, conducting quantitative interviews with 70,000 consumers across 56 countries and over 100 qualitative interviews across 12 countries. In Asia Pacific, 23,895 quantitative interviews were conducted. Fieldwork was conducted from May – August 2017. The definition of developed nations and emerging countries are based on the World Bank classifications. Developed nations include: Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan. Emerging countries include: China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Mongolia, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. Study content includes: media consumption, device infrastructure, digital activities, purchase (online and offline), respondent profiles, brand engagement touchpoints, drivers of eCommerce, deep dive into social networks, and attitudes to brands and technology.