Digital Maturity: Building Customer Trust Drives Success
April 23, 2018

Ari Weil

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Balancing digital innovation with security is critical to helping businesses deliver strong digital experiences, influencing factors such maintaining a competitive edge, customer satisfaction, customer trust, and risk mitigation. But some businesses struggle to meet that balance according to new data.

The data comes from a survey conducted by Akamai and Forrester that gathered the opinions of 350 global IT leaders. These findings showed that companies that meet the standards of being "digitally mature" — that is able to balance innovation and security — experience faster growth than their competitors. The most digitally mature companies more frequently report double-digit revenue growth than their peers.

Customers are actively seeking strong digital experiences driven by high performing websites and applications personalized to their needs. Critical to making that happen is leveraging real customer data to inform the direction and creation of new products and services that power future growth. The most mature companies succeed by putting customer data at the center of both experience and security strategies.

Building Customer Trust

Customers will not sacrifice their privacy for strong digital experiences

The real key to success in the digital era is building customer trust. Customers will not sacrifice their privacy for strong digital experiences and are more willing to share personal data with brands they trust. In fact, mere suspicion of a company's negative data use practices can cut revenues by up to 25 percent.

When firms fail to deliver on security, the damage is three-fold. Data breaches can cause damage to brand reputation, customer trust, and revenue. Customers are willing to share more data with companies they trust; in turn, their data creates rich opportunities for companies to deliver more relevant experiences. On the other hand, lost trust negatively impacts the evolution of digital experiences that drive revenue growth. Trust is the glue that binds customers to a brand.

Fortunately, this survey found that many executives understand the importance of building trust in their customers, as 75 percent say trust will be critical to their business in two years. And more than 50 percent of executives believe they already have a high level of trust from their customers. On the other hand, a significant percentage of executives are not as confident, with 36 percent reporting that they have only a moderate level of trust from their customers.

Balancing Security with Digital Experience

It's troubling that executives do not draw a strong connection between customer data and future revenue

Unfortunately, many companies are struggling to balance security with digital experience. While the average respondent scored high in agreeing a breach would have a catastrophic impact on their business, they scored lowest in making the connection that revenue is secured when customer data is secured. Since customer data is critical to improving products and experiences, it's troubling that executives do not draw a strong connection between customer data and future revenue.

In order to succeed in delivering both strong digital experiences and maintaining customer privacy with security, companies should adopt a Zero Trust framework to better deliver on the shared imperative. Zero Trust networks accomplish the dual tasks of deep, continuous data inspection across the network and lean operation and oversight. It puts the focus of enterprise security on the data itself and requires businesses to continuously assess what is trustworthy activity.

Customer data is key to success in the digital era, so businesses need to treat customer data as a valuable asset to be defended against outside threats. To maintain the trust of their customers, businesses must protect their customers' data as if their company's future depends upon it — it most likely does.

Ari Weil is Global VP of Product and Industry Marketing at Akamai
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