A comparison of consumer perception of trust-triggering appearance features on Indian group buying websites.

Author:Sharma, Varinder M.


Trust-triggering appearance features are considered vital to establishing trust in consumers visiting websites for the first time. This becomes even more crucial for group buying websites because of their daily changing deals. This study tests consumer perceptions about ten such features on three Indian group buying websites using one-way AN OVA with repeated measures. Results show significant differences among the websites on four features. Interestingly, the website with most distinguishing features also scored highest on trustworthiness. Important contributions to the literature, and implications and future research issues associated with the results are addressed.

Keywords: Group Buying, Trust triggers, Appearance features, Trustworthiness, Indian websites.


Consumers visiting a retail website for the first time look for certain cues in that website to assess its trustworthiness because perception of trustworthiness is essential for them to feel comfortable in sharing their personal and financial information with it. According to Doney and Cannon (1997), trust is an order qualifier for a website, therefore, if consumers get a sense of trustworthiness from their website visit, they may also transact with it. Over the past decade, a steady stream of literature has been building to find out the features which if incorporated effectively in a website would enable it to quickly earn consumer trust sufficient enough for them to engage in transactions with it. The underlying assumption is that the very first impression formed about the extent of credibility of a website is based upon the presence or absence of trust-triggering features. Depending upon this impression, consumers may feel comfortable to engage in further interaction with that website. Extending this to the group buying websites, we think that earning consumer perception of trustworthiness is even more important for these websites because of their daily deals, i.e., deep discounts (seem too good to be true) on deals that change daily.

Studies conducted on trust-triggers in websites have been largely carried out under controlled conditions on experimental websites designed solely for specific research purposes. This study advances the literature by conducting a comparative assessment of consumer perceptions of trust-triggering appearance features on three functional Indian group buying websites. The study attempts to address two related research questions. One, which trust-triggering appearance features are perceived significantly superior on which of the three websites? And two, is there a relationship between the number of superior trust-triggering features in a website and the perception of its trustworthiness? Based on our literature review, we found that these questions have not been answered so far.

In order to address these questions, this study first describes the importance of trustworthiness of a website followed by a discussion about the literature on website trust-triggers, and develops testable hypotheses. The next section discusses the results of hypothesis testing on three Indian group buying websites using data from a sample of 110 MBA students of a large Indian university. The last section describes the study-related implications, limitations, and future research issues. This study makes several theoretical and practical contributions. On the theoretical front, the study advances the literature on relationship between trust-triggering features and the website trustworthiness onto the group buying websites. As a result, this study acts as a link between two different literatures, which, according to Hunt (1991), is important in itself as it lays the pathway for future empirical testing. On the practitioner front, the results of the study shed light on specific trust-triggering features a website needs to enhance to improve its consumer perception of trustworthiness, which may not only improve its sales but also its competitive position.


Trust has been conceptualized as one party's belief, attitude, intention, behavior, or expectancy in the other party that its promise, verbal or written statements, resources and capabilities, integrity, credibility, openness, or actions can be relied upon (Anderson and Narus, 1990; Morgan and Hunt, 1994; Siau and Shen, 2003). Tan and Thoen (2000) went a step further by suggesting that trust in the transaction control mechanism is even more important than trust in the transacting party. McKnight and Chervany (2001) note that the concept of trust falls into three major categories: impersonal/structural, dispositional, and personal/interpersonal. Uslander (2002) classified trust into moral trust (an enduring predisposition that strangers can be trusted) and strategic trust (knowledge-based trust resulting from decision to trust someone over time). Likewise, Siau and Shen (2003) regarded consumer trust in a firm to consist of competence-, predictability-, and goodwill-trust. Regardless of these conceptualizations, consumers are unlikely to patronize a seller that fails to create a sense of trust in them (Jarvenpaa et al., 1999). The history of business world is replete with examples of failed businesses because consumers lost trust in those businesses' abilities to cater to their needs and wants. Doney and Cannon (1997) regard trust as an order qualifier without which, consumers may not do business with a firm. Similar conclusions have been reached by several other scholars as well (Lumsden, 2009; Schlosser et al., 2006). Therefore, it is essential for a business to not only earn but maintain consumer trustworthiness to remain in business for a long time.

Brick-and-mortar businesses establish trust with their consumers through a variety of ways such as physical locations, employees, and displays, which help store visitors to develop some level of trust to do business with them. Fast forwarding to the e-commerce format, a seller's website is its store front and therefore, has the burden to establish its trustworthiness with consumers. Ostensibly, it is much harder for a website to establish trust with consumers due to its impersonal nature and low entry and exit barriers of website owners (Jarvenpaa et al., 1999). By impersonal nature, it is meant that unlike traditional businesses where employees, specifically, salespeople in person can address consumers' concerns about specific purchases and hence earn trust for their firms, a website has to do all that by itself through the description of the firm, its history, location, contacts, purchasing, return policies, products and services, and steps to select and purchase items using specific methods. Most importantly, the descriptive material on a website has to be perceived as trustworthy to earn consumer business.

The importance of trustworthiness of a website to a firm's business finds support from several studies. For example, According to Jarvenpaa et al. (2000), trust is a critical factor in stimulating purchases over the internet. According to Basso et al. (2001), the probability of repeat purchase from a website increases if it has a higher rating of trustworthiness. According to Robins and Holmes (2008), if a site is not credible, consumers are less likely to use it. They found significant relationship between consumer perception of a website's credibility and its design. Schlosser et al. (2006) also found that consumer trust in a website was strongly related to their purchase intentions. In another study, Heijden et al. (2000) found that trust in a website affects shoppers' perceived risk toward shopping from it. It is clear that trust is essential for a website to earn consumer patronage; consumer is one click away from leaving the website if he/she does not perceive its trustworthiness given that he/she has access to many competing websites. This heightens the importance of the first impression of a website on a visitor. The next section discusses the trust triggers and their importance in trust development in a website.


According to Basso at al. (2001), first impressions are very important in developing consumer trust in a website because judgment of trustworthiness occurs as soon as a visitor comes to the website. Similar assertions have been made by Robins and Holmes (2007). In their view, web is primarily a visual medium. When a visitor comes to a website for the first time, he/she makes the first credibility judgment about it very quickly based upon the visual design elements. It is a preconscious judgment at the visceral level that a consumer makes in the first few seconds based upon his/her expertise or experience from certain previous unrelated events before any cognitive processes take over....

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