You’ve likely had concerns about the trustworthiness of the data we collect. Are consumers honest with us? Do they fabricate responses to earn rewards? Do they report what they believe, or what they believe we want to hear? As we pursue a perpetual goal of collecting honest and trustworthy data, I would like you to take a minute to tackle this issue from another perspective. Do consumers trust us?

According to the recently completed GRBN Global Trust Survey of more than 7500 consumers in eight countries, many do not. The results are alarming, (or if you prefer a half-full perspective—there’s significant room for improvement). Here’s a few highlights that will hopefully get your attention:

  • Only 33% of participants stated that they trust market research companies
    • 19% don’t trust us
    • Nearly half (48%) aren’t sure if they trust us

Trust is the intangible currency of our relationship with consumers. How can we expect to trust their responses when only a third believe that they can trust us? Where’s the balance?

There are nuggets of hope residing in the data. Consumers appear to be generally cynical about most industries. In fact, only two types of organizations were perceived to be trustworthy by a majority of survey participants:

  • Local police – trusted by 53%
  • Health authorities – trusted by 52%

Anchoring the bottom of the trustworthy scale were media outlets and social media, both trusted by only 20% of consumers surveyed. Perhaps it’s at least somewhat reassuring that we are considered more trustworthy than Facebook.

The results identified three areas that I believe the insights industry can more effectively address to boost our trust currency:

  1. Survey length
  2. Protection of personal data
  3. Communication of benefits

How many of you have already left this article because it’s too long? If you are still reading, how likely would you be to embrace the opportunity to share your thoughts with me by completing a 30-minute online survey after reading this article? Don’t worry, I’m not going to ask.

Nearly half of the survey participants stated that surveys are generally too long. What is the ideal length? I’m guessing it’s probably shorter than your latest survey initiative, much shorter. Response rates and the quality of answers would likely improve if we simply shaved off a few of the “nice to know” questions. Let’s collectively eliminate scope creep to improve the consumer experience. Target 12 minutes as your maximum length. Then trim it down to 10 minutes or less to optimize participation, attention, quality, and the likelihood that consumers will participate again when asked.

The most startling insight from the GRBN Global Trust Survey—only 21% of participants trust market research companies to protect and appropriately use personal data. 33% do not trust the industry to protect their PII. A few ideas to improve these results:

  • If your initiative does not require PII, don’t ask for it (and inform the participant that it won’t be collected).
  • Reassure respondents that PII will be safely guarded and appropriately removed when no longer needed.
  • Safeguard all PII data. A breach can decimate a business along with the impacted consumers.

The most disappointing insight from the survey—less than half (44%) of survey participants believe that market research benefits them, while a vast majority (two thirds) believe that it benefits the sponsor.  That’s an imbalance that will likely always occur, but can we narrow the gap? I worry that participation may stagnate if we don’t demonstrate and communicate the “what’s in it for me?” benefit of participating in research. I’ll ask the UX experts to weigh in. What can we do to enhance the experience and the benefits of participation?

Please share your thoughts (in 10 minutes, or less, please).

Kevin Menk

Managing Partner

Strategic Resource Partners, LLC

Co-chair – Americas Research Industry Alliance (ARIA)

GRBN Executive Management Board Member