PurposeThe potential for e-commerce is limited by a trust deficit when traders do not interact in a physical, bricks-and-mortar context. The theory of information richness posits that equivocal interactions, such as ones requiring trust, can be facilitated through communication media that transmit multiple cues interactively. This study aims to examine the potential of information-rich virtual worlds to reduce this trust deficit compared with more traditional Web-based e-tailing environments.Design/methodology/approachRather than focusing on stated intentions, the authors adopt an experimental approach to measure behaviour. Participants receive performance-related financial incentives to perform trust games in different information-rich treatments that represent three retail environments: a physical environment representing bricks-and-mortar trade, an electronic environment representing Web-based online retailing and a virtual environment representing virtual world retail.FindingsThe authors find that the two dimensions of trust significantly differ between the treatments. In particular, as hypothesised, both trustingness and trustworthiness are higher in the virtual than in the electronic environment. However, contrary to the hypotheses, physical trade is not associated with greater trust than virtual trade.Research limitations/implicationsThe authors extend previous research by demonstrating how the information richness of the virtual world interface can promote e-commerce by deepening trust between trading partners. This research also complements existing work that approaches product and service interfaces through the lens of servicescapes.Practical implicationsThe findings also contribute towards the development of services marketing practice and the design of e-commerce environments.Originality/valueMuch of the work in this space considers purchase intentions and attitudes around trust, whereas this study looks at actual trust behaviour in the virtual space.
Journal of Services Marketing – Emerald Publishing
Published: May 8, 2017
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