Special Session Summary Consumer Trust in an Internet Environment

Marlene Morris, Georgetown University
[ to cite ]:
Marlene Morris (2001) ,"Special Session Summary Consumer Trust in an Internet Environment", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 28, eds. Mary C. Gilly and Joan Meyers-Levy, Valdosta, GA : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 315.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 28, 2001     Page 315



Marlene Morris, Georgetown University

Although it has a long history of attention in management literature, the concept of trust has only in recent years become a common topic in consumer behavior literature. Despite its recent growth in use and popularity, the uncertainty that remains inherent in the emerging electronic consumer environment brings the issue of trust to the forefront of marketing research with many interesting implications for practice and theory alike. To this point, much of the research conducted in the area of consumer trust in Internet environments has dealt with the issues of privacy and security. The three studies in this session examined various additional aspects of trust as they pertain to electronic commerceBdimensions of consumer trust as well as antecedents and consequences of varying levels of consumer trust in Internet marketers.

The first paper, "Antecedents and Dimensions of Consumer Trust in Quality of Recommendations Made by Agents in an Online Shopping Environment," by Lerzan Aksoy and Paul Bloom (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), examined the antecedents, and dimensions of, consumer trust in the quality of recommendations made, across three popular types of agents. It was postulated that this trust is a multi-dimensional construct, which has separate antecedents. The impact of this trust on amount of information search, consideration set size and decision quality, was examined, over a variety of recommendation agent types. It was expected and found that the different dimensions of trust exert opposing effects on information search, consideration set size and decision quality and hence have a differential impact on consumer welfare, satisfaction, loyalty and retention.

The second paper, "None of Your Business: The Critical Role of Trust in Information-Driven Marketing Relationships," by Tiffany Barnett White (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign), investigated attempts by Internet marketers to build relationships with consumers by collecting personal information from them that will allow for provision of increasingly personalized services and products. This research measured consumers’ willingness to reveal the personal information that is necessary for such relationship-building efforts to be successful, with a focus on the role that consumer trust plays in facilitating and hindering consumer disclosure in Internet environments. This investigation demonstrated that consumers with greater rust and familiarity with a given Internet provider are more willing than those with relatively lower trust to reveal financially risky personal information. However, these "high trust" consumers are less likely to reveal socially risky personal information.

Finally, the third paper, "The Effects of Individual Differences on Consumer Trust in Internet Marketers," by Marlene Morris (Georgetown University), addressed differences across individuals that are predicted to affect perceived reliability of information in on-line shopping environments as well as trust in the information and information-provider. Specifically, individuals’ gender and ethnicity are found to affect trust and perceived likelihood of victimization at the hands of Internet retailers.

Taken together, along with stimulating discussion from the various session attendees, the papers in this session did help to further our understanding of the dimensions of consumer trust as it pertains to electronic commerce as well as some of the antecedents and consequences of varying levels of trust in Internet marketers, including customer retention and relationships. While many of the practical and theoretical marketing issues that are studied within the context of the Internet and electronic commerce mirror those that have been studied in traditional consumer environments, the importance of trust in this particular domain continues to present a unique issue for Internet marketers and researchers.