The effects of 3rd party consensus information on service expectations and online trust
The marketing literature has recently explored a number of ways in which trust can be communicated by Internet retailers, including 3rd party consensus ratings. This paper explores the impact of consensus sequences over time and across high and low ranges, rather than the mere valence of ratings as presented in past research. Second, effects are compared across products with variant levels of risk. Two experiments investigate service quality inferences, expected satisfaction, and trust beliefs for online retailers as outcomes of 3rd party consensus information (i.e., agreement among a firm's past customers). Results indicate that online trust beliefs vary positively with consensus ratings and trust is higher when ratings trends increase rather than decrease. Service quality inferences and expected satisfaction are shown to mediate these relationships. More interestingly, results of study two suggest sequence direction becomes insignificant when ratings do not approach certain range limits (e.g., high, moderate, low cut-offs). Comparisons across products varying in risk show that consensus ratings are more important when consumers evaluate high risk products. Implications for both researchers and practitioners are offered.
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