There is an emphasis in the marketing literature on data-mining as a facilitator of customer-centricity and competitive advantage. It is tempting to assume that benefits flow automatically to both buyers and sellers from ICT solutions (indeed the term ‘solution’ is axiomatic). This study examined the concepts of trust and trustworthiness in the e-commerce environment in relation to vendors known / not known to consumers and finds serious concern amongst consumers about the security, privacy and confidentiality of their personal data.
This study contributes to understanding consumer concerns about data protection in the online domain by:
• Exposing a high level of consumer concern over the requirement to provide personal details when shopping online;
• Indicating a need for immediate action to improve the security of customers’ personal data, and to provide assurance of the same;
• Revealing the importance of providing an ‘opt-out’ facility;
• Exposing the extent to which consumers need reassurance about data security, whether or not they have experience of the vendor offline;
• Enhancing understanding of the key role of website design and process functionality in perceived trustworthiness of vendors;
• Indicating that there is a high level of interest in the concept of a ‘digital security box’ motivated by a desire to eliminate unauthorised access to personal data.
Our findings suggest several managerial implications. We find that consumers are extremely concerned about the security, privacy and confidentiality of their personal data, whilst the literature (and media coverage) suggests that companies are failing to respond appropriately. Vendors need to take consumer concerns much more seriously and respond more proactively, for example, by encrypting data as a matter of course, storing data in one place, encrypted, protected by digital keys and with strict policies regarding replication. For consumers, ‘opt out’ should be the default unless they specifically, actively opt in to their data being shared or sold in return for some reward. All non-essential data should be deleted automatically, and personal data should be stored strictly according to data protection legislation. Data security can be a valuable source of differentiation, yet online vendors do not yet appear to be fully cognizant of its importance. We call for companies to take data protection much more seriously. We call also for the government to be more proactive in ensuring that consumer data is protected by strengthening data protection regulation and improving monitoring and audit activities.
This research has several limitations that point to future research directions. While our study focuses primarily on measuring trust and trustworthiness, future research could also measure consumers’ risk averseness and perceived self-efficacy in using ICT as both potentially could be intervening variables. Also, future research might explore the difference in the effect of trust between online stores that sell high and low-end products and different types of e-tailers such as pure play e-commerce sites, ‘bricks and clicks’, discounters, aggregators, mall-based stores and so on. We predict that the protection of consumer data will become an increasingly high profile issue that Web 2.0 applications proliferate and it behoves vendors to respond appropriately. We see a pressing need for more academic research in this field to provide empirical evidence to inform and support vendor responses. Despite the limitations of our study, we see it as an important addition to the marketing literature on trust in the e-commerce domain. As intimated, trust is a cornerstone of e-commerce activity; without it there would be no online transaction. Vendors need to remember that once broken, trust cannot be easily repaired; to misquote Abraham Lincoln, ‘If you once forfeit the confidence of your customers, you can never regain their respect and esteem’.
Extracted from Safe In Their Hands 2009 Research Paper from University of Surrey / PAOGA
I have emboldened what I believe are key points.