How Can Businesses Build Customer Confidence In A Digital Economy?

The importance of developing business-customer relationships with digital trust.

By Peter Boyle, Chief Technical Officer, Burning Tree.

Online shopping is becoming the norm within the retail market. Whilst this presents many opportunities for businesses to expand and thrive, it also means that organisations must focus on a new aspect of customer relations: building digital trust.

The pandemic dramatically accelerated the UK’s proportion of online retail sales, which reached a record high of 35.2% in January 2021. And that was only the beginning; lockdowns were a catalyst, but digitisation is not slowing down in the post-pandemic world. Consequently, many companies continue to evolve the online shopping experience for customers.

The decline of in-person shopping means that online user experiences influence consumers’ buying decisions more than ever. Most people are aware of the growing threat of scams and cyber attacks. As a result, establishing digital trust helps users decide which companies will keep their personal information safe.

‘Digital trust’ describes the confidence online users have in the ability of processes, people and technology to create secure digital transactions, dividing the dependable services from the corrupt ones.

So, gaining the trust of digital customers is non-negotiable in the modern world. But how can businesses develop digital trust — and what will happen if they do not?

Attracting loyal customer bases through digital trust

When people make a purchase or interact with an online retailer, they demonstrate their digital trust in that business. However, the quality of the service is no longer defined by how an interface looks or how easy it is to navigate.

Customer expectations have evolved with digitisation. Driven by device proliferation and improved internet connectivity, modern online shoppers expect to encounter seamless digital processes from sign-in to purchase — particularly since the pandemic, which increased the number of people using online services regularly.

Today, customers are more aware of how their data is used and stored and base their shopping behaviours on a provider’s ability to ensure security. The Okta Digital Trust Index (2021), which surveyed 13,000 office workers, found that 88% of people in the UK were unlikely to purchase from a brand they did not trust. And according to a Retail Week report on the 20 most-trusted UK retailers, 58% of consumers are highly conscious about their safety when shopping online, citing identity theft as a significant concern.

Plus, with most businesses working online in some capacity, the government is introducing regulations for using technology to manage digital identities. An updated UK digital identity and attributes trust framework was announced earlier this year to make sharing digital identities between users easier and safer, allowing more control over what personal information is available to different services and organisations.

There are several ways businesses can generate a loyal digital customer base — from inviting positive customer reviews to providing excellent customer service. But when it comes to digital trust, three main factors make people in the UK more likely to trust a brand: its service reliability, tried-and-tested security policies and quick response times — all of which can be facilitated by successful digital transformation.

Developing cyber security to support digital trust

Cyber security is an essential consideration for organisations undergoing digital transformation, which involves implementing technology to automate processes, encourage a more cyber-aware business culture, increase security and refine user experiences. As such, retailers must protect data from a cyber breach to remain compliant and secure digital customers.

According to Okta’s survey, 47% of UK people permanently stopped using a firm’s services after hearing of a data breach. As such, IT professionals are harnessing advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning to support existing traditional threat models and automate risk management to reduce the overall probability of falling victim to a cyber attack.

Many organisations are also taking a ‘zero-trust’ approach to cyber security, which means that no network activity is trusted immediately. Every device, service, application or user connected by a network must go through a robust identity and access management process to gain a least privileged level of trust and associated access entitlements. A zero-trust framework helps bolster cyber security and minimises the likelihood of a breach.

Effective customer identity and access management (CIAM) solutions also enable organisations to capture and interpret customer profile data to inform customised user experiences whilst controlling secure access to services and applications. A robust CIAM solution may involve implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA), self-service account management and single sign-on (SSO) to minimise friction, increase engagement and develop trust in business processes over time.

Implementing cyber defences is integral to building digital trust. Still, having a robust cyber security system should be a fundamental requirement within every organisation — no matter its business goals. As the threat landscape worsens, cutting corners can lead to significant reputational and financial damage. So, ensuring cyber security should be an urgent priority — not an afterthought.

About the author

Peter Boyle AuthorPeter Boyle is the chief technical officer (CTO) at Burning Tree: a specialised information security company operating globally. He is responsible for creating a suite of security products to complement Burning Tree’s existing consulting capability. Under Peter’s direction, Burning Tree is creating a product suite that helps companies overcome many of the complex security challenges we see today — without incurring the overhead of an in-house security team.

Peter joined Burning Tree from BT, where he spent 20 years working in information technology — including eight years as the head of identity and security services. In this role, he was responsible for the design, development and operation of a range of platforms covering identity lifecycle management, privileged user management, single sign-on (SSO), authentication, security information and event management (SIEM) and threat detection.

Peter can be reached on LinkedIn ( or via Burning Tree’s website (

September 28, 2022

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