What Causes Consumers to Lose Trust in Digital Brands?

Neustar-Consumer-Perceptions-Trustworthy-Websites-Sept2015A majority of consumers don’t trust websites that suffer from security and usability issues, says Neustar in recently-released research [pdf], although inaccurate content is the most common complaint of those identified. Indeed, 91% of the more than 750 adults surveyed for the report said that they don’t trust websites that contain errors or mistakes.

Close behind, almost 9 in 10 (88%) reported not trusting websites that frequently go down (i.e. off-line and unavailable). Another usability issue relates to slow load times, with two-thirds saying they don’t trust websites that take too long to load.

A range of security concerns also affect trust, per the report:

  • Three-quarters don’t trust websites when identity and authentication procedures appear too easy;
  • More than 6 in 10 don’t trust the websites of companies that have had breaches; and
  • Some 55% don’t trust websites that do not have security safeguards to protect their personal information.

By comparison, fewer (31%) lack trust in websites that only rely on passwords to identify and authenticate.

(The focus on security may be a reflection of the survey being conducted by the Ponemon Institute, which researches privacy, data protection and information security policy.)

Interestingly, the report notes that “respectful advertising (less aggressive banner ads)” placed last out of 11 factors deemed important to the website experience, trailing security, performance and content factors.

Still, respondents don’t like interruptive ads. Among 10 reasons for disliking a website, ads that interfere with content (55%) and ads that redirect users to sites they don’t want to see (52%) were the most commonly cited. (Cue hand-wringing about the rise of ad blocking.)

Yet, despite all the research about the importance of relevant ads, just 15% of respondents said that ads of no interest to them are a reason for disliking a website. Those results suggest that consumers are fine with ads, as long as they stay in the background…


Meanwhile slow page loads were one of the more commonly-cited reasons to dislike websites, cited by half of the respondents. Respondents appear to be most impatient with social media, entertainment, e-commerce and travel/hospitality websites, as fewer than 1 in 8 would be willing to wait an additional (to what is not specified) 5 seconds for them to load.

In other intriguing results from the survey:

  • Almost 8 in 10 respondents worry about security when site performance is sluggish;
  • Speedy checkout (41%) is important to almost twice as many consumers as quick navigation to another page (23%), and important to almost three times as many consumers as accessing the home page (16%);
  • Roughly 7 in 10 consumers report having left a website due to security concerns;
  • Only about 1 in 4 have high expectations for e-commerce site security, while 95% do so for the security of banking and financial services sites;
  • Almost one-quarter of respondents don’t have a positive perception of a company’s brand a year after a data breach;
  • Some 55% say that security is important (top-3 box score on a 10-point scale) to their perception of a brand, and half say that data privacy is important to their perception.

For more on the website experience, see the following articles:

About the Data: Respondents represented all regions of the US and all levels of education. 52% were women and 48% men; close to half earn between $41,000 and $80,000 per year.