Skip to main content

Highly connected but increasingly suspicious: Sceptical Malaysians don’t believe what they see on social media

Kantar TNS surveyed 70,000 people across 56 countries and conducted 104 in-depth interviews as part of the 2017 Connected Life study. The research explored consumer trust in brands in relation to four themes: technology, content, data, and e-commerce. The findings show that while Malaysians spend 7.2 hours online every day, the opportunity for brands to engage with them there is under threat, as consumers are mistrusting of online content and are sceptical of brand motivations.

The research revealed that sceptical Malaysians do not trust the content they are consuming online, as just 17% of connected consumers consider social media content to be reliable. This contrasts markedly with other Southeast Asian countries such as the Philippines and Indonesia, where 59% and 61% respectively trust this content. Almost one in three (31%) also have concerns about how much control the social media networks have over the content that they see on their feeds.

The study also showed that trust in brands varies significantly between markets. In Malaysia, consumers are moderately cynical, with only 41% of the connected consumer population trusting global brands. This trust level falls significantly in other markets such as Australia (19%), however in emerging markets such as Vietnam, 54% of consumers remain trusting of these brands. 

The findings show that despite the benefits that can be delivered through sharing data, Malaysians are cautious about how much of their personal data they share online. 38% of consumers in Malaysia object to connected devices monitoring their activities even if it makes their lives easier, compared to 15% in Indonesia. What’s more, over half (51%) of Malaysians have concerns about the amount of personal data that brands have on them, compared to 33% across the region. Malaysians are becoming increasingly aware of the price they are paying for their connected lifestyles, and many feel on the losing end of an unfair exchange.

Commenting on the findings, MC Lai, Managing Director, Malaysia, Kantar TNS said:

“Malaysians spend a large proportion of their day online. We’re constantly connected to the internet thanks to our mobile devices and ever-improving data costs and speeds. However, marketers need to realise that Malaysians are not easy targets in this digital world. In comparison to other less developed countries in the region, consumers here are more mistrusting of what they see online, and are more uncomfortable with brands collecting their personal data. Brands need to step up their game and demonstrate the value they can bring to consumers’ lives if they want to earn their trust and ensure that they are able to use these channels for meaningful brand conversations.”

The rapid evolution of technology is enabling brands to develop better, smoother customer service experiences, but poor deployment or a failure to meet basic needs can erode consumers’ trust and confidence in brands. Malaysians are currently ambivalent on the matter of chatbots – while 38% say that they would accept interacting with an AI-powered machine such as a chatbot if it meant their query was dealt with more quickly, a similar number (30%) would object to using one. This year’s findings also showed that while advances in technology aim to make consumers’ lives simpler and easier, people feel increasingly distracted and harassed by it: 38% of 16-24 year olds in Malaysia think they use their mobile phones too much.

New technologies such as ‘buy buttons’ in social and mobile payments are making ecommerce more frictionless. However, despite the mature digital ecosystem in Malaysia, less than one in three (29%) Malaysians say that they are willing to pay for products using their mobile phone. What’s more, 39% would object to doing so. Cash is still king in Malaysia, so innovative solutions that make people’s lives demonstrably easier are needed before consumers are convinced to move onto newer payment options.

Michael Nicholas, Global Lead of Connected Solutions, Kantar TNS, concludes:

“Trust is fragile. Brands in emerging countries see higher levels of consumer trust today than those in developed ones but they shouldn’t take it for granted. To build and protect trust, brands need to put the customer first. That means understanding their motivations, understanding the right moments to engage with them, respecting their time as valuable, and being more transparent about how and when they collect and use their personal data. Above all, that means putting the customer first – something that many marketers have forgotten to do.”