The most trusted websites in the UK: More data fuel for the privacy fire.

Amazon remains the most trusted website in the UK, despite the recent slowdown in growth and negative press surrounding its tax arrangements, whilst Google appears to be losing the trust of the UK consumer due to its persistent privacy controversies.

These are the initial headlines from the first in a series of polls conducted by Mustard to measure and track which brands and organisations hold the mantle of “must trusted” across various sectors and industries.

In a repeat of a poll first conducted in February 2012, Mustard set out to establish which websites UK consumers trusted the most.

Amazon has taken top-spot from Google, with one in four (24%) saying they trust the world’s largest online retailer above all others. With broad appeal, Amazon was voted “most trusted” by all age groups and by both men and women.

The other big winner from the poll is PayPal, in second place and with 14% naming the online money transfer service as their most trusted website – notably PayPal polled higher than the “online banking websites” category as a whole (13% and in 4th place overall).

In contrast, the percentage of consumers selecting Google as the “most trusted” has plummeted from 31% in 2012 to 12% in 2014. Google, having topped the rankings in 2012, is now positioned FIFTH in the latest poll. Males and older people, in particular, are less inclined to say they trust Google the most.

Which begs the question, what is Amazon doing well that Google isn’t? Or what has Google done badly that Amazon hasn’t?

Executives of both brands were asked to give evidence to the Public Accounts Committee in 2012 over tax avoidance claims, so “courting controversy” alone cannot be the decisive factor.

Our belief is that to understand trust you need to look deep into the heart of the user experience, and the primary need-states at the point of use. The key difference boils down to perceptions of how information is accessed, shared and used. Data fuel for the privacy fire.

What is at the heart of the Amazon user experience?

Over the years, Amazon’s reputation has been built on its extensive range, delivering on its mission of being “the most customer centric company… a place where consumers can find anything they want to buy — online”, and backing this up with personalised recommendations, value and service – ranging from reliable to excellent.

Amazon has been on a mission to build trust, and it has been allowed to grow the business through third-party selling, with customer reviews acting as the ‘trust-enabler’.

From a user perspective, the relationship revolves around the following premise– “I provide Amazon with information (on purchases and searches) which helps me receive targeted and inspirational recommendations”. Critically, the users feel they get back more than they give.

What is at the heart of the Google user experience?

Google’s well publicised mission is to “organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”.

In isolation, this is a very customer-centric proposition, albeit slightly more inward looking. The customer is often not thinking about a world of information. In most instances, they interact with the brand because they have a single search in mind, with the aim of a single definitive answer.

But the more you explore how this is being delivered from the user’s perspective, the more noticeable the differences with the Amazon promise and experience.

The relationship is certainly more complex. From our qualitative explorations, Google+ appears to have caused confusion, even amongst its brand advocates. And from a device perspective, whilst the Amazon Kindle has successfully carved a very distinct position in the eReader market, the Google phone has not managed to do the same.

But even in the core territory of search, the service delivery feels significantly more “black box”. In contrast with Amazon, information transfer is more akin to “Google takes my search information and uses it for algorithms for its own benefit”. It is far less transparent and feels less quid pro quo.

It can be easily argued that it is the issue of privacy and permissions that has eroded consumer trust in Google.

Thousands of blogs and articles have already been written on privacy – it has hardly been out of the news, especially since the errors of Google Buzz in 2010/2011, from which Google is now facing independent audits for the next twenty years. This has been compounded by controversies including the privacy change in 2012 and mounting concerns over streetview filming. Many still believe that Google operates in breach of EU law. If you want to find out more we suggest you Google it. Or Bing.

And elsewhere in our rankings, Facebook has fallen from 5th in 2012 to 11th in the latest poll. Over the years, Facebook detractors have cited privacy concerns as grounds for ‘unliking’. Privacy was also the main talking point when the WhatsApp purchase was announced earlier this week.

Google privacy news:

Facebook privacy news:

The top 20 most trusted websites in the UK:

1. Amazon


2. PayPal


3. BBC


4. Online banking websites


5. Google


=6. Moneysupermarket


=6. eBay


8. Trip Advisor


9. Wikipedia


10. Online grocery shopping websites


11. Facebook


12. Rightmove


13. Yahoo


14. You Tube


=15. Pinterest


=15. MSN


17. LinkedIN


18. Flickr


=19. Bing


=19. Twitter


This poll conducted among 2,103 members of the Toluna Research Panel between 18th and 21st February 2014.