By David Rothstein, RTi Research

Trust is not a new concept.  Trust is, always has been, and always will be vital to any transaction in any industry.  Without trust, business simply cannot be done.

As Stephen M. R. Covey eloquently explained in his 2006 book “The Speed of Trust”, with trust comes greater speed and efficiency, reduced transaction costs, increased innovation and creativity, and improved customer loyalty and employee engagement.

GRBN’s Global Trust Survey assesses the level of trust associated with our market research industry, and therefore provides an important measure of the efficiency at which we can work.  Or said another way, a measure of the friction we are working against.  The higher the trust, the lower the friction.

It is heartening to see that market research is more trustworthy than other industries like government (sadly) and social media companies (not surprisingly).  At the same time, it is frustrating to see how little we are trusted among the public on an absolute basis (30% trust us).

We’ve got to do better. Compared to the other industries included in this research, and considering that 43% of respondents are unsure about us (vs. 23% distrust), there is plenty of room for us to run.

For starters, it’s clear the greatest concern and mistrust among respondents is how their personal data is handled (or how they perceive it is handled). We must continue to “do the right thing” for our respondents, protecting their personal data, and not using it in any way inconsistent with their expectations, or outside the various industry association codes of standards and ethics.

Next, surely we can improve the way we interact with respondents. We can create more engaging surveys, eliminate long screening questionnaires, ask smarter questions that make sense to consumers, and generally treat our respondents with the respect they deserve.

Lastly, we must be thoughtful and cautious about our use of AI. When AI is incorporated into market research practices, it negatively impacts trust in market research companies (net trust index falls from +7 to -37). Consumers are highly skeptical about the use of AI in market research, including tools as seemingly innocuous as using AI chatbots or avatars in the online interview. To maintain trust, we must tread lightly and intelligently.

Perhaps the most satisfying finding in the entire study is that the personal benefit consumers believe they receive from market research has increased – across every country! Let’s ensure we can continue that trend by doing the hard work of building a greater level of trust with our constituents and stakeholders. Above all else, let’s be sure not to squander our greatest asset.

David Rothstein, RTi Research