BCG Henderson Institute

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From Amazon to LinkedIn to Uber, digital business ecosystems have increasingly become mainstays of daily life. What makes these ecosystems so appealing is that they enable total strangers to transact with one another quite frictionlessly. But doing so rests on a critical linchpin—trust.

Whether you are an ecosystem orchestrator or contributor, digital trust can create flywheel effects that also, of course, benefit users. According to our research, 86% of successful ecosystems have actively embedded trust in their platforms and operating models. The absence of trust, however, can cause significant friction: in more than half of the ecosystems that failed, trust played a critical role in their demise. At a time when trust in many of our institutions is suffering, and online interactions and transactions are increasingly supplanting physical ones, it’s incumbent on businesses—and ecosystems in particular—to treat trust as a strategic priority.

But while it’s easy to recognize the need for trust, it’s more difficult for leaders to understand how to embed it in their ecosystems. Trust is complex. And a vast and growing array of technologies that claim to tackle trust at scale compound that difficulty.

To help leaders overcome these roadblocks and reinforce end-to-end trust among their users, we’ve developed an organizing framework for building a robust digital trust network (DTN). This framework represents the layers of integrated mechanisms and tools that enable secure and trusted transactions and interactions among members and users. With the DTN framework, ecosystem leaders can stress test their trust architecture, identifying gaps, solidifying weak points, and instituting adjustments that can engender and strengthen trust, without getting mired in the minutiae of technological tools.

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