Trust in B2C E-Commerce Interface

Trust in B2C E-Commerce Interface

Ye Diana Wang (University of Maryland, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-026-4.ch610
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Abstract

Electronic commerce (e-commerce) is changing the way people make business transactions, especially in the business- to-consumer (B2C) area, and it is becoming a significant global economic force. Since Internet technologies and infrastructures to support e-commerce are now in place, attention is turning to psychological factors that affect e-commerce acceptance by online users and their perceptions of online transactions. One such factor is trust, seen to be key to the proliferation of e-commerce. Trust has existed as long as the history of humans and human social interactions, and it has been studied long before the emergence of the Internet or e-commerce. With respect to consumer behavior, studies have mainly focused on trust and trust relationships in the off-line world and have emerged from numerous disciplinary fields since the 1950s (Corritore, Kracher, & Wiedenbeck, 2001). These disciplines, including philosophy, sociology, psychology, management, marketing, ergonomics, human-computer interaction (HCI), and industrial psychology (Corritore, Kracher, & Wiedenbeck, 2003), have together contributed an extensive body of literature on trust in general, and therefore, they are important grounding points for the examination of trust in the online world. However, “trust is an extraordinarily rich concept, covering a variety of relationships, conjoining a variety of objects,” as Nissenbaum (2001, p. 104) has pointed out. Due to the complex and abstract nature of trust, each discipline has its own understanding of the concept and different ways to conceptualize it according to the features of a particular context. There are almost certainly many potential sources of influence that promote or hinder online trust. However, the current article focuses on the HCI or interface design perspective in inducing online trust, that is, to use what consumers can see on an e-commerce interface to affect their feelings of trust toward the online merchant that the e-commerce interface represents.
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The Nature Of Trust

Electronic commerce (e-commerce) is changing the way people make business transactions, especially in the business-to-consumer (B2C) area, and it is becoming a significant global economic force. Since Internet technologies and infrastructures to support e-commerce are now in place, attention is turning to psychological factors that affect e-commerce acceptance by online users and their perceptions of online transactions. One such factor is trust, seen to be key to the proliferation of e-commerce.

Trust has existed as long as the history of humans and human social interactions, and it has been studied long before the emergence of the Internet or e-commerce. With respect to consumer behavior, studies have mainly focused on trust and trust relationships in the off-line world and have emerged from numerous disciplinary fields since the 1950s (Corritore, Kracher, & Wiedenbeck, 2001). These disciplines, including philosophy, sociology, psychology, management, marketing, ergonomics, human-computer interaction (HCI), and industrial psychology (Corritore, Kracher, & Wiedenbeck, 2003), have together contributed an extensive body of literature on trust in general, and therefore, they are important grounding points for the examination of trust in the online world. However, “trust is an extraordinarily rich concept, covering a variety of relationships, conjoining a variety of objects,” as Nissenbaum (2001, p. 104) has pointed out. Due to the complex and abstract nature of trust, each discipline has its own understanding of the concept and different ways to conceptualize it according to the features of a particular context.

Even with the diverse trust research, researchers from every discipline do acknowledge the value of trust and generally observe and accept four characteristics of trust. First, there must exist two specific parties in any trusting relationship: a trusting party (trustor) and a party to be trusted (trustee). The two parties, comprised of persons, organizations, and/or products, constantly evaluate each other’s behaviors. Second, trust involves vulnerability. Trust is only needed, and actually flourishes, in an environment that is uncertain and risky. Third, trust decreases complexity in a complex world and leads people to take actions, mostly risk-taking behaviors. “Without trust people would be confronted with the incomprehensible complexity of considering every possible eventuality before deciding what to do” (Grabner-Krauter & Kaluscha, 2003, p. 787). And fourth, trust is a subjective matter. It is directly related to and affected by individual differences and situational factors.

The previously mentioned characteristics of trust make it especially needed in e-commerce because people perceive economic transactions in a virtual environment as posing a higher degree of uncertainty than in traditional settings. Most e-commerce transactions are not only separated in time and space, but are also conducted via limited communication channels and impersonal interfaces, making trust a crucial facilitator for people to overcome fear, risks, and complexity. Therefore, online consumers need trust as a mental shortcut to reduce the complexity of conducting business transactions with online vendors (Luhmann, 1989). Such trust occurring in cyberspace is commonly termed “online trust,” and we limit the scope to the online trust that is pertinent to B2C e-commerce, namely, the trust that occurs for an individual Internet user toward a specific e-commerce Web site or the online vendor that the Web site represents. Derived from the general definition for trust (Rousseau, Sitkin, Burt, & Camerer, 1998), online trust can be defined as follows: an Internet user’s psychological state of risk acceptance based upon the positive expectations of the intentions or behaviors of an online vendor.

There are almost certainly many potential sources of influence that promote or hinder online trust. However, the current article focuses on the HCI or interface design perspective in inducing online trust, that is, to use what consumers can see on an e-commerce interface to affect their feelings of trust toward the online merchant that the e-commerce interface represents.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Communication media: The methods or tools in which information can be exchanged and communication can be facilitated. Examples include telephone, television, e-mail, Web sites, video conferencing, and instant messaging, to name a few.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM): An approach that recognizes that customers are the core of the business and that a company’s success depends on effectively managing its relationship with them. CRM is about locating and attracting customers and thereby building long-term and sustainable relationships with them.

Electronic Commerce (E-Commerce): An emerging business form in which the process of buying, selling, or exchanging products, services, and information is undertaken via computer networks, including the Internet.

Online Trust: An Internet user’s psychological state of risk acceptance based upon the positive expectations of the intentions or behaviors of an online vendor.

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