Academic journal article JITTA : Journal of Information Technology Theory and Application

Third-Party Assurances: Mapping the Road to Trust in E-Retailing

Academic journal article JITTA : Journal of Information Technology Theory and Application

Third-Party Assurances: Mapping the Road to Trust in E-Retailing

Article excerpt


Consumer trust of Internet vendors is a major factor influencing the success of e-commerce. To enhance consumer trust, many e-retailers are experimenting with various trust-building strategies, including participation in third-party assurance programs. This study presents a model describing the relationship between third-party assurance seals, trust, and online purchasing intentions. Five manipulations of a simulated retail website were used to test eight model-derived hypotheses. Initial results do support hypothesized relationships between disposition to trust, trust of the e-retailer, perceived risk, attitude toward purchasing from the e-retailer, and intention to purchase. Hypotheses addressing a positive relationship between the viewing of assurance seals and consumer trust of a specific e-retailer are not supported. Contrary to early studies, post hoc results reveal that one seal type, the privacy assurance seal, did have a small, but significant, positive impact on consumer trust of an unfamiliar e-retailer.


The Better Business Bureau (2001) reports that people who choose not to buy products or services online do so for two main reasons: 1) lack of trust regarding the security of online shopping, and 2) lack of trust regarding the reliability of businesses on the Web. Other surveys--academic, practitioner, and government-sponsored-- reveal similar reasons why consumers choose not to make purchases online (Beer 1999; Ernst and Young 1999; Hoffman and Novak 1998; Hoffman and Novak 1999; Keen 1997; National Consumers League 2000; U.S. Department of Commerce 1998). This suggests an underlying gap between online retailers' interest in attracting shoppers to their electronic storefronts and many consumers' trust in those e-- retailers. In response to this recognized gap, third-party assurance services (i.e., TRUSTe, BBBOnline, Verisign) have entered the e-commerce playing field. E-retailers hope to build consumer trust and stimulate increased online sales by displaying such third-party assurance seals on their websites (Huang 2001; Schoder and Yin 2000).

Research on the theoretical foundation of trust and the role of trust in fostering consumer acceptance of e-commerce has only recently begun to produce conceptual and empirical results (Gefen 2000; Huang 2001; Jarvenpaa et al. 2000; Noteberg et al. 1999). The utility of third-party assurance seals for building and maintaining trust between consumers and online merchants has received substantial support from those in the e-commerce industry, but academic research has lagged behind practitioner interest. The few published results of empirical research incorporating third-party assurance seals have tested the impact of assurance seals on intention to purchase or consumer expectations of specific merchant behaviors. This study expands that research stream by addressing the following two research questions:

1. What impact does viewing third-party assurance seals have on a consumer's trust of an unfamiliar e-retailer?

2. What impact does trust have on a consumer's intention to purchase from an unfamiliar e-- retailer?


The exploratory research model that serves as the foundation for this study is presented in Figure 1. The left portion of the model depicts proposed antecedents to trust: seal notice, attention to seal, and disposition to trust The right half of the model depicts the relationship between consumer trust in an e-- retailer and intention to purchase mediated by perceived risk and attitude toward purchasing from an e-retailer. This portion of the model is adapted from Jarvenpaa, et al. (2000). Table 1 presents definitions of each component included in the model. Model constructs, related prior research, and the hypothesized relationships between components are discussed in the following sections.


Trust has received considerable attention in the business and social science literature. …

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