A Question of Trust

This week, Amazon has announced something that many consider a step too far and it’s made me think about how and why we decide to trust certain brands, what it takes to earn that trust and what happens when that trust is broken.

Amazon has developed some outstanding innovations such as Amazon Prime Now providing one-hour delivery in nine UK cities, and the ongoing trial of a drone delivery service in the USA.

Amazon is infiltrating our lives and as it grows from a large online shop to a pioneer of delivery methods, manufacturer and TV production company, it’s using the latest technology to enhance its service and the lives of its customers. But is this latest move taking our trust one step too far?

The latest announcement, called Amazon Key, literally gives Amazon’s delivery people unsupervised access to our homes. If you’re not at home to receive your package, they can open your front door and leave your order inside. The $250 system comes complete with a security camera that you can watch live or playback later, so you can at least check that nothing untoward happens. However, even with that reassurance, commentators are predominantly opposed to the idea.

The system can also be used for more than just Amazon deliveries. It allows you to grant access to friends, family and other service providers with notifications sent to your phone whenever someone locks or unlocks the door. These are people you probably trust, and rightly so because you know them personally.

The same can’t be said for an unknown delivery person. To some extent, we’ve already allowed Amazon into our homes with its digital personal assistant, Alexa, so some may argue that letting delivery drivers in is not that large a leap.

Amazon’s promotional videos show smartly-dressed delivery people in Amazon-branded clothing completing deliveries. In reality, we often see deliveries that use third-party, self-employed drivers who aren’t directly employed by Amazon, and won’t have been trained in the practices and procedures, or been vetted to the same security standards. Only last week a friend of mine received a message from Amazon to inform him that his package had been safely delivered and left inside his garage. Except that he doesn’t have a garage.

We’ve blogged about innovations being all around us before (here) and in a world where we can control so much of our lives through our phones using only our voice, fingerprints or even our faces as biometric security measures, should we allow technology to replace the established lock and key entry to our homes? It depends on the robustness of the system, the permissions given, and the individuals involved in the process.

The reality doesn’t match the promotional video, that is the problem, and it comes down to trust.

At Target, our clients trust us because we work hard to earn it. Our team is made up of individuals who have all developed relationships with clients so that there is an inherent bond, based on a shared understanding of objectives and trust.

Can Amazon ask its customers to trust a stranger to access their homes when they aren’t there? I think not. Trust is earned by individuals and companies through reputation and the building of relationships. It cannot simply be passed from one to another – it’s a personal choice to give an individual your trust. If Amazon effectively shares your trust with third parties that you have no prior knowledge of, that trust could be irrevocably damaged.

We might make the decision to trust a company to deliver a product we purchase, but allowing a complete stranger into our home without supervision to complete that delivery is something entirely different.

I trust Amazon to deliver. Does that trust extend to granting its delivery people access to my house?

Not yet.

Toby Aiken

Account Director