Academic journal article Journal of Theoretical and Applied Electronic Commerce Research

The Impact of Testimonials on Purchase Intentions in a Mock E-Commerce Web Site

Academic journal article Journal of Theoretical and Applied Electronic Commerce Research

The Impact of Testimonials on Purchase Intentions in a Mock E-Commerce Web Site

Article excerpt

Abstract

Purchasing through virtual market is different from the process that takes place in the traditional market. In this market, things are less tangible and more threatening. Therefore, trust becomes crucial and it is established in a different way. This study examined the effect of testimonials on the level of trust in e-commerce. It also examined the impact of product touch level and price on the effect of testimonials. Two mock e-commerce sites were used, one with testimonials and the other without. The experimental approach simulated a complete shopping process with students whose age was between 21 and 30, on a fully functional website, with subjective and objective behavioral measures. The subjective measures were based on two questions that participants were asked along the experiment. The objective measures consisted of metrics such as navigation patterns in the site, number of products in the shopping cart, and readiness to enter credit card number. The presence of testimonials had a greater impact on users with little internet-based shopping experience, was associated with increased trust, and was more significantly pronounced for price than for product touch level. In addition, the results showed that a decreased level of trust was associated with higher prices. The impact of testimonials is accounted for in terms of history sharing and building an online community.

Keywords: Trust, Electronic commerce, Purchase intention, Testimonials, Product price, Product touch level

1 Introduction

A certain form of trust develops in any relationship between people (e.g. [5], [14], [28]-[29]) and it is particularly central when they exchange information [12]. According to Mutz [21], trust was always relevant when dealing with buying and selling of goods. However, generalized trust in others is more important nowadays when dealing with electronic commerce, where people enter a website in order to purchase a product and are required to provide personal information before they can actually make the purchase.

Based on an examination of different theoretical perspectives, the trust concept can be classified into three general categories: personality, sociology and economics, and social psychology. When dealing with trust in e-commerce, the most relevant perspective is the social-psychological one because it focuses on transactions [15]. One example of a social- psychological definition of trust, offered by Mayer, Davis and Schoorman [19], is "the willingness of a party to be vulnerable to the actions of another party based on the expectations that the other will perform a particular action important to the trustor, irrespective of the ability to monitor or control that other party". In ecommerce sites, trust implies that the information the customer discloses (e.g., credit card number) will not be abused, that the seller will fulfill his or her promises, and that the products will have the expected quality [10], [13], [30].

Generally, trust is built through repeated interactions over time or by established social networks [3]. It is especially crucial at initial stages and its importance diminishes with experience, over time, as people learn about those with whom they interact [8]. However, in e-commerce, most of such repeated interactions are not necessarily established because many of the transactions take place between parties that have no prior relationships and the contact is a one-time interaction. New customers often enter the "virtual market" without having any familiarity with a given retailer, and retailers often do not have an established and familiar brand name. In the virtual environment, the "traditional" way of establishing trust is not realistic and might limit and reduce the flexibility of checking out new opportunities by the parties [3]. E-commerce websites need to find other ways to improve their trustworthiness in order to encourage purchases [34]. Therefore, the question of how to establish trust in the "virtual market," an environment with unique characteristics, is important and still open. …

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