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Sarah K. White
Senior Writer

How to earn the trust of millennials concerned with security

Nov 02, 20156 mins
CareersIT Leadership

Millennials are growing increasingly weary of data and security when it comes to their favorite brands. And that means it's vital that companies include a strong cybersecurity message in their marketing plan to help rebuild trust.

Part of a great marketing strategy includes building trust with consumers, especially with influential groups like millennials. You might also call them Generation Y or digital natives, but whatever you call them, it applies anyone born between 1980 and the early 2000s. This group is usually top of the list for companies’ brand awareness efforts, but the biggest threat to your marketing strategy lies more in your approach to cybersecurity than how much money you spend on advertising.

Intercede, a company specializing in identity management and secure authentication technology, surveyed roughly 1,000 U.S .and 1,000 U.K. participants aged 16 to 35 about levels of digital trust. And the study found that millennials have suspicious attitudes and a general mistrust towards businesses. In a time where celebrities’ iCloud accounts are hacked and every few months there is another data breach, it makes sense for young people to have a general sense of uncertainty towards where their data goes and how it’s used.

“The increase in data beaches is impacting the way millennials view businesses today — with users adopting habits that favor data sharing on a case-by-case basis. This should be a point of concern for corporations increasingly capitalizing on consumer data in order to improve everything related to the customer experience, including marketing itself,” says Richard Parris, CEO of Intercede.

The stats are dismal when it comes to millennials’ trust in businesses. Only 4 percent of millennials reported having complete trust in their telecommunication operators, 13 percent have complete trust in their employers and only 5 percent say they trust their internet service provider.

Companies need to include cybersecurity in marketing strategies

The study asked millennials how important it was for them to have authorization over different categories of data that they share with companies. When it came to personal identifying, financial and medical data, over 80 percent of respondents said it was “very important” or “vital” that they have control over who can access that data. Location data was next, with 74 percent responding that it was “very important” or “vital” for them to control that data. Meanwhile, 58 percent want authorization over social media content and 57 percent for purchasing preferences.

According to Parris, It’s vital for businesses to take this shift seriously, and to help build — or rebuild — trust with one of the most influential groups of consumers. But simply pandering to this younger audience with marketing strategies that includes tweets, gifs and memes won’t work. 

The study reveals that when it comes to businesses handling sensitive data, consumers are more concerned about what is happening to their data and how it’s being secured, rather than the company’s capability to hire a great social media specialist.

“Millennials have lost trust in the ability of companies to secure their online information. In order to build back confidence, businesses need to invest in modern identity management and secure authentication techniques that minimize the risk of data exposure and hacks,” says Parris. “Building a marketing message that incorporates the focus a company places on properly securing personal data will absolutely help to build confidence among consumers — especially an action-oriented generation like Millennials, who today command the largest disposable income.”

Lack of trust doesn’t mean millennials are tech-shy

Rather than avoiding technology, millennials have adopted a more progressive attitude towards how they want to share their data online. They aren’t afraid of apps and smartphones, and they certainly aren’t ready to give up the comforts of modern technology because of security threats. In fact, almost a quarter of those polled said they gave up authorized access to their data simply because they figured that businesses and governments would find a way to get it whether they wanted them to or not.

Instead of abandoning their favorite apps and websites, millennials instead await the next generation of cybersecurity. And that means more than requiring a complex password for an account, which might actually be a deterrent for millennials. When asked how likely they were to use an app, website or other secured resource or device, 18 percent said they are less likely to use it if it requires a complex password and only 6 percent believe a password can effectively secure their data.

Millennials are more interested in the next phase of secure authentication, even if it means implanting digital chips for secure identification and authentication for devices. The study found that 30 percent of millennials are interested in the idea of a digital chip implant for secure-identity management on technology devices.

The best thing your company can do to build trust around security is to invest in the latest technology and stay ahead of the cybersecurity curve. Invest in a strong team of cybersecurity professionals who can not only actively look for possible breaches, but find weak links in your systems and help to create a more proactive approach.

How to maintain trust after a breach

If your company does find itself in a security breach, the worst thing you can do is attempt to brush it under the rug.  Honesty is key in a breach says Parris, and companies need to do everything they can to alert the public as soon as possible. Be upfront about what data was released so consumers can act quickly to ensure their data is safe.

“This is the best way to properly prevent future attacks and it is necessary that information must be relayed to those whose data has been exposed in the breach.  Without both steps being taken as a priority, the company is exposing themselves and their users to additional hacks,” says Parris.

And perhaps the most important thing to remember about maintaining trust with millennials is that they do care about their security. Just because they might be one of the most connected generations doesn’t mean they aren’t aware of the threats that lie beneath their favorite apps and websites, Parris says.

 “Millennials have mistakenly been classified as a generation that doesn’t care about cybersecurity. But this survey shows that quite the opposite is true. They do care about data security and privacy,” Parris says. “They are concerned, and that concern is making an impact on how they engage online with businesses and government institutions today.”

Proactive prevention is key and, in the event of a security breach, honest communication should be the first step. Outdated security will get you nowhere, even if you have the best marketing strategy around it. All the money and effort put into creating brand awareness can quickly fade if your company’s most important demographic loses trust in your brand.