News & positions

EVENTS 01 April 2014

European Consumer Summit 2014: Boosting consumer trust in the digital market place

This year’s Consumer Summit focused on how we can ensure that consumers reap the full benefits from the digital market place. AIM participated to share consumer brand manufacturers’ ideas on the best way to achieve this objective.

This year’s Summit entitled “European Consumers in the Digital Era” brought together some 400 participants representing the European institutions, national governments, consumer and business associations and regulatory authorities.

On the occasion of the Summit the European Commissioner for Consumer Policy, Neven Mimica said: “Consumers have a lot to gain from the digital economy: better deals to be found, more content to access and cheaper ways to communicate. At present only 50% of consumers in the EU shop online. There is a clear potential for growth but we have to make sure that consumers can be as confident shopping online as they are when shopping on the high street.”

TRUST ONLINE: enhancing trust through intermediaries, trustworthy consumer reviews and beyond?

As a key player of the digital economy and a major digital content provider, brands are committed to work with the European Institutions to ensure that consumers benefit from the Digital Single Market. Brands are in a unique position to make use of the latest technological advances and bring alive online the quality that is associated with branded consumer goods. Brands are also natural enablers of the essential trust that is required for the digital economy to thrive, simply because consumers feel more confident trading online when they know what they buy.

However, consumers have legitimate concerns when shopping online: data protection, fake reviews/websites, counterfeit goods and enforcement of consumer rights. They can only be answered if all actors in the digital value chain act responsibly and fairly.

Therefore, during the first panel Peter Strömback, Netopia, called “…online service providers to take more responsibilities to shape the online world”. On a more specific issue, considering that 80% of online consumers are using price comparison websites to find better deals, BEUC referred to the Risk & Policy Analysts’ study commissioned by the European Commission, which recommends that “…review website operators (and service providers) ensure that the content of reviews is genuine…”. Finally, the rapporteur of the seminar on “trust online” recommended to “…consider the role and liability of intermediaries”.

Amongst the other solutions discussed to improve trust online, self-regulated trust marks developed by associations were discussed. However, the criteria and real value for the single customer needs to be broadly explained. A new plethora of logos and marks should be avoided. Peter Boris Schmitt, representative of Henkel AG & Co. KGaA, member of AIM, attended the seminar on “trust online” and considers that “…the question of how B2C e-commerce evolves remains open. More direct action from operators is needed to build trust in the digital market place. Secure and safe business transactions as much as the protection of personal data are the future game changer. Here voluntary trust marks developed by associations and self-regulated can contribute to enhance consumer confidence.”

DIGITAL LITERACY: what skills do consumers need in online shopping and social media?

Last but not least, numerous participants insisted on consumer empowerment online. The seminar on “digital literacy” reviewed efforts that can help to improve digital skills of consumers. It highlighted the specific skills that digital consumers need with respect to social media advertising and on-line tracking to be empowered users of e-commerce and social media.

Several members of AIM attended the seminar and Hans Helbig, Global Head of Digital Marketing at Reckitt Benckiser and Chairman AIM Digital Committee made a presentation in this panel on the role of corporate social responsibility in social media.

Sophie Crousse, Public Affairs Vice President, Consumer Healthcare Europe at GSK, member of AIM, insisted on the following point: “the Consumer Summit clearly identified the need for consumers to have the right digital skills to become truly empowered to make more informed choices in online shopping and social media. The EC framework for the development of digital competence of all citizens could be used for consumers. It consists of detailed descriptions of all competences that are necessary to be proficient in digital environments and describes them in terms of knowledge, skills, and attitudes. Three proficiency levels are suggested for each competence. The report provides as well a self-assessment grid for mapping digital competence levels. Cooperation between Brands industry and policy makers can drive better consumer digital literacy hence better empowerment.”

Following the meeting, Hans Helbig declared: “It is clear to all from the Consumer Summit that digital represents a paradigm shift in consumer behaviour that has the power to disrupt across industries, borders and sectors. The key here is the speed at which it moves, and we need to be equally clear that creating a safe environment for consumers will need to take this speed of change into account. Without cooperation between brands and policy makers our efforts will infringe rather than support the consumer in this evolution. The Summit made this very clear and unambiguous.”