Thought Leadership

Establishing Trust in Technology: Helping Brands Build Stronger Bonds With People

A family, sitting on the couch using their technology devices for entertainment and communication

Technology permeates every aspect of our lives. It powers the ways we work, travel and shop, and it holds the potential to solve some of the world’s most pressing issues—from improving health outcomes to advancing clean energy.

The adoption of new technology hinges on several things: an innovative concept, a credible brand, and a clear benefit. But nothing is more vital than trust—without it, technology’s potential for good is undermined.

Designing questions that get to the heart of consumer trust can be challenging and consumers may struggle to identify and articulate their confidence level in a particular technology. That’s why Escalent created Tech TrustBuilder™, a scientifically validated tool that measures trust and its key components.

Building on years of Automotive & Mobility research into consumer trust in autonomous vehicles (AVs), Tech TrustBuilder employs behavioral science principles and advanced data analyses to transform the complex topic of trust in a particular technology into something that is approachable, measurable and addressable. In doing so, Tech TrustBuilder empowers brands to build and foster consumer confidence in the products, services and experiences they offer.

The Three Components of Technology Trust

Trust is foundational in that it informs every consumer decision. But it is also complex, fragile and difficult to measure. What is trust, how can it be measured and how can we earn it?

To answer this question, Escalent undertook an extensive academic literature review of research on trust—in particular, trust in technology. Three core components emerged from this undertaking: competency, process and intent. Competency measures consumer perceptions of the technology’s ability. Process deals with how the technology accomplishes its goal. Intent addresses the technology’s ultimate purpose. Together, they are the three building blocks of trust in technology.

From this understanding, Escalent developed Tech TrustBuilder, a tool that provides a granular understanding of how these components come together to indicate trust, or lack thereof, in a particular technology.

The Benefit of Listening Vs. Talking When It Comes to Trust

The three components uniquely contribute to revealing trust in technology.

Too often, brands assume they simply need to educate consumers about the advantages of their offerings to prompt adoption. In the case of autonomous vehicles, automakers have primarily focused their efforts on explaining the benefits of autonomous transportation in hopes of increasing market penetration.

However, our findings demonstrate that trust-building happens on multiple, deeper levels. Tech TrustBuilder scored consumer trust in AV technology at 50 on a 100-point scale. When viewed within the context of previous years of Escalent’s research, this indicates consumer trust in AV technology has plateaued and not changed despite industry efforts.

Automakers may have captured the confidence of early adopters but have made little progress in tapping into the broader market. To further build trust—particularly among consumers who are slow to embrace new technology—automakers will need to address people’s real concerns and perceptions.

While understanding the motivation behind the technology (intent) and the way in which technology goes about achieving its goal (process) is important, we uncovered that the greatest driver of trust is the predictability and ability of technology (competency).

Ironically, consumers in our survey scored the competency of AV technology the lowest of the three components, which indicates that a lot more trust-building at the most important level is necessary. Automakers can tell consumers about the benefits of AVs, but until consumers feel AV technology will reliably do what it is supposed to do in all conditions, consumers are unlikely to get on board.

Knowing Your Audience to Build Trust Effectively

Escalent’s findings also demonstrate clear differences between high-trust and low-trust consumers—especially regarding their emotions.

Respondents with high trust in AV technology were more likely to feel safe, brave and intrigued, naturally aligning with early adopters. On the other hand, the low-trust group demonstrated visceral, negative emotions, including nervousness, worry and suspicion.

While early adopters play a crucial role in socializing new technology, brands need to appeal to the masses to achieve broad success. AVs offer the promise of mobility for everyone regardless of factors such as age, access and ability. To achieve that lofty goal, automakers need to bridge the trust gap with consumers who are apprehensive about the implications of autonomous transportation. Automakers will need a deep awareness of where consumer concerns lie—and a clear understanding of how to change the picture.

With insights from the Tech TrustBuilder solution, brands can do just that. By assessing each component of trust—competency, process and intent—Escalent can identify which is underperforming, pinpoint problematic perceptions within a brand’s consumer base and recommend tangible actions to promote adoption.

Moving the Trust Needle for the Greater Good

Technology is designed to make the world better. To unlock its life-changing potential, brands need to build and retain consumer trust.

Where other surveys demonstrate the broad landscape in which a product or offering operates, Tech TrustBuilder empowers brands to identify specific barriers to trust. By breaking down the concept of trust into three distinct components, we can establish benchmarks to measure where technology stands with consumers.

In doing so, we can use what we know about human behavior to help people see, feel and believe in the benefits of technology—clearing the road for adoption.

If you would like to learn more about the study or Tech TrustBuilder, please click the button below to send us a note.

Let's Connect


About Tech TrustBuilder™

Escalent interviewed a national sample of approximately 4,300 consumers age 18 and older from August 2021 to January 2022. Respondents were recruited from the Dynata opt-in online panel of US adults and interviewed online. Quotas were put in place to achieve a sample of age, gender, income and ethnicity that matches the demographics of the US population. The data have a margin of error of one percentage point at a confidence level of 95%. Escalent will supply the exact wording of any survey question upon request.

Gwen Ishmael
Gwen Ishmael
Senior Vice President, Qualitative

Gwen Ishmael is the former senior vice president of the qualitative division of Escalent.

Dania Rich Spencer
Dania Rich-Spencer
Vice President, Automotive & Mobility

Dania is a highly accomplished market researcher with a track record of designing and implementing complex research and analytical programs that positively impact business performance.

Stephan Schroeder
Stephan Schroeder
Vice President, Automotive & Mobility

With over 20 years of research and consulting experience in the automotive industry, Stephan is a trusted advisor for his clients. He helps OEMs and suppliers improve their business performance as well as develop and implement new customer-facing solutions and services.