2024 will start off with a backdrop similar to that of 2023 as businesses and consumers continue to face economic uncertainty, tense geopolitics, environmental extremes, and rapid technological innovation. Several factors will intensify in 2024: The mainstreaming of AI will test trusted relationships; elections in the US and the UK will exacerbate divisive cultural debates; stubborn inflation and stagnant wages will fuel ongoing strikes; and El Niño will push temperatures higher.

Good preparation and a concerted effort to drive some of the most important levers of trust — such as empathy, dependability, and accountability — will enable companies, governments, and employers to not only maintain trust with stakeholders but to strengthen it even further in the tumultuous year ahead. Here are some of Forrester’s key predictions to help business, marketing, and technology leaders prepare for 2024:

Trust in newspapers will see a resurgence in 2024.

  • Consumer trust for businesses (established and startups) will see a 10% decline. The Olympics and the US presidential election will generate significant business investments. But consumer skepticism will be at an all-time high, and consumers will call out any mismatch of brand values. Meanwhile, the continued spread of misinformation will affect all companies — even those not investing in big events. While digital-only firms and startups are typically at a trust disadvantage, established businesses will also suffer. Businesses must sharpen their strategy, aligning internally on brand values and their stance on social issues. They also must understand where there is risk of losing consumer trust by auditing media platforms and partnerships, communication and messaging strategies, and investments in third parties.
  • A G7 government will see a double-digit decline in trust due to infrastructure failure. In the last four years, a series of health, environmental, financial, social, and geopolitical crises have tested governments’ ability to keep people safe, foster economic growth, and ensure effective recovery from emergencies. A lack of adequate business continuity readiness will see at least one G7 country suffer a catastrophic event, with crippling impact on its national security, economy, or public health and safety. Given that dependability is the most important predictor of how likely people are to believe that they can rely on the institutions of government, failure to prevent a disruption of this magnitude will trigger a steep collapse in public sector trust. Mission leaders wishing to avoid this fate must strengthen their security and risk capabilities.
  • Public fines for violating employee privacy will erode high levels of trust in the US. Our data shows that employees’ trust has been strong during the last few years. But this is set to change in 2024, and not only because of macroeconomics. In California, the enforcement of employee privacy requirements started in July 2023, and regulators are hard at work. Employers, take note: Forrester’s Consumer Trust Imperative Survey, 2023, shows that news of a legal breach of ethics in a company can produce negative responses on trust. Consumers may stop doing business temporarily or permanently or warn friends and family to avoid the company. We predict that by the end of 2024, fines for violating employee privacy in the US will lead to a drop in employee trust. Employers must review their privacy practices to ensure that they are meeting both regulators’ and their employees’ expectations.

These predictions are not destiny for all organizations. Those that prepare will earn trust with key stakeholders while others lose it. Remember, when individuals lose trust, they redirect it somewhere else, so trust (and its advantages) are up for grabs. Adopt the motto “Praemonitus praemunitus” (forewarned is forearmed).

To learn more about our predictions for the coming year, Forrester clients can access our Predictions 2024: Trust report. If you aren’t yet a client, you can download our complimentary Predictions guide, which covers our top predictions for 2024. You can also find additional complimentary resources on the Predictions 2024 hub.

If you’d like to continue the conversation, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.