Online brands need to prepare themselves for “a far greater level of consumer interaction and accountability,” according to a new study.

Brands2Life’s “Walk the Talk: What Consumers Expect from Today’s Online Brands” looks at the pitfalls—and the opportunities—that come with the increasing amount of consumer interest in the reputation of online brands.

More than four out of ten (41 percent) of the survey respondents say that they have either stopped or reduced their usage of an online brand in the past year due to that brand’s malpractice or reputational problems.

That number is even higher for consumers between the ages of 18 and 24, with 68 percent of them saying an online brand’s bad reputation or misdeeds have caused them to cut back on their use of that brand.


But it seems talk and action are far different things for many of the respondents. While 90 percent said they would stop using a brand in the future if it fell short on customer service, that number fell to 15 percent when they were asked if they had actually stopped using a brand for that reason in the past year.

While such hot-button topics as diversity, environmental policy and giving back to society are major factors in determining a brand’s reputation, they are not at the top of the list. Good customer service and protecting data and privacy were cited as top priorities by 94 percent of the survey’s respondents.

Having a diverse workforce was deemed important by 73 percent, with giving back to society cited by 80 percent and taking action to reduce environmental impact by 84 percent.

As regards what online brands can do to make consumers want to engage with them, 46 percent of respondents cited honest and authentic marketing.

To make consumers more likely to use a brand, however, it’s still the old standbys that are the most important. Reducing prices (71 percent) and compensating customers for faulty products and services (69 percent) outpaced such criteria as doing something to help disadvantaged people and making a commitment to reduce carbon emissions (both at 55 percent).

And in an era when the importance of taking political stands seems to be top of mind, the survey respondents’ attitudes were decidedly mixed, with 37 percent saying that online brands should definitely or probably take a stand on social issues and 45 percent saying that they should not.

The Brands2Life study, conducted in partnership with Opinium Research, polled 6,001 consumers across France, Germany, the UK and U.S.