DigiCert Report Highlights Importance of Digital Trust

This syndicated post originally appeared at Zeus Kerravala, Author at eWEEK.

Brands need to take digital trust seriously – or face losing customers.

The proliferation and importance of data in our daily lives is driving the need for digital trust. On the enterprise side, the increase in connected devices, a greater threat surface and concerns over cybersecurity are the main reasons why organizations are looking for ways to safeguard their online business processes and interactions.

To better understand how organizations perceive digital trust and how far they’ve come in adopting it, DigiCert and Eleven Market Research surveyed 400 enterprises and 400 consumers around the world in September 2022. The respondents consisted of IT, information security, and DevOps senior and C-level managers from enterprises with 1,000 or more employees. The survey findings were published in the 2022 State of Digital Trust report, which was released by DigiCert this month.

Four Pillars of Digital Trust

Before diving into the findings, it’s important to understand the foundation of digital trust. Digital trust consists of four key building blocks:

  • Standards that define trust.
  • Compliance and operations that establish trust and verify the digital certificates or instruments of that trust.
  • Trust management to ensure companies are properly handling certificate life cycles.
  • Connected trust for more complex supply chains.

“Digital trust matters. All enterprises (100% of the respondents) view digital trust as important,” said Diana Jovin, vice president of product marketing at DigiCert. “Interestingly, with consumers it’s also important (68%) but not to the same degree. But, both groups suggest that if you broke that chain of trust, they would either switch business partners or stop doing business with a company that violated the trust.”

Trust is Core to Customer Retention

According to the data, 99% of enterprises believe their customers would switch to a competitor if they lost trust in the company. In fact, about two-thirds have switched vendors after losing trust in that vendor. Nearly half (47%) of the consumers surveyed said they stopped doing business with a company that lost their trust in the past, while 84% would consider switching in the future.

Digital trust is just as important for employees (100%) as it is for enterprises. The majority would consider switching vendors if they lost trust, with approximately half (51%) saying switching would be “likely.”

Not surprisingly, the industry where digital trust ranks the highest in importance is financial services, followed by tech companies, retail, and manufacturing. Both financial services firms and their employees value digital trust due to the sensitive nature of their data.

Data, Security, and Customer Expectations Raise the Bar on Digital Trust

The top driver of digital trust is the growing importance of data. Every person in the world will consume around 20,000 gigabytes (GB) by 2025 — that’s 174 zettabytes (ZB) in total data. While the amount of data is significant, the importance of the data is even more valuable, whether it’s personally identifiable information, medical records, or personal photos.

The second driver is the increasing threat surface as enterprises move to hybrid work environments. With remote sites, multiple clouds, and connected devices, enterprise networks have become more vulnerable to cyberattacks. As a result, the number of bad actors like hackers, cyber criminals, hacktivists, and inside actors grows each year — another reason why having digital trust is crucial.

Customer expectations have gotten greater. As mentioned above, people are quick to switch to a competitor if they lose trust in a company. Although all companies value customer loyalty, one of the top concerns for consumers is security because more than half have experienced cyberattacks. The most common one is hacked accounts (26%), followed by data breaches (20%), bank and credit account theft (18%), account takeover (14%), hacked devices (13%), and identity theft (12%).

With so much at stake, enterprises are optimizing digital trust to protect their customers and employees. A typical organization started its digital trust journey two to three years ago and has completed 75% (or more) of the journey so far, the report found.

However, the top challenge cited by IT has been managing digital certificates. Regulatory compliance, the complexity of securing multi-vendor networks, and the lack of staff expertise were cited as the other leading challenges.

There are several digital-trust initiatives enterprises have implemented to address these challenges. The main one is device identity and operations security, now fully implemented by 74% of enterprises. Zero-trust policies have been fully implemented by 58% of enterprises and certificate life cycle management by more than half of enterprises (55%).

Across the board, top-tier companies are doing much better in driving digital trust outcomes, said Jovin. That’s because the top tier is four-and-a-half times as likely to believe a loss of customer trust will lead to losing the customer. These companies are also more likely to believe digital trust affects their brand, sales, and margin. Furthermore, they’re about five times as likely to switch partners if they lost trust in them.

The top-tier companies are also further along in their digital trust journey and are likely to complete that journey much earlier than the bottom tier. Unlike the bottom tier, the top tier is more concerned about cyber threats. These companies take cyber threats seriously and are up to three times as likely to be engaged with important cybersecurity safeguards.

It’s Time to Establish a Digital Trust Office

DigiCert recommends organizations establish a digital trust office and appoint a leader who can be in charge of key initiatives. It’s a new concept, and those in IT architect positions most often take on the role of a digital trust officer. However, it will be essential going forward to create this stand-alone position within IT since it combines systems and data.

“When we look at the findings, we see digital trust attached to outcomes in a meaningful way. It can affect top-line revenue, customer loyalty, and customer engagement,” said Jovin. “Our advice to organizations is to think about digital trust as a strategic imperative that supports the business, not just an amorphous security concept.”

Author: Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.