Media capabilities influence consumers’ trust in online exchanges. However, in the sharing economy, where consumers interact with service providers through a platform, conventional models of trust must be revisited. Our research identifies how media synchronicity and anonymity influence the relative importance of institution-based trust in sharing economy exchanges. We collected data from 248 ride-hailing customers and 288 cryptocurrency users to test a moderated mediation model of trust. We find that in the sharing economy media synchronicity and anonymity lead customers to develop trust toward service providers directly and undermine the impact of institutional trust mechanisms. This indicates that in sharing economy exchanges, trust can be built directly with the service provider, or alternatively, indirectly through the platform. Consequently, organizations in the sharing economy can strategically design their systems to engender trust by choosing between (1) emphasizing the platform’s reputation or (2) encouraging direct communication between the consumer and service providers.
Key words and phrases: Online trust, sharing economy, media synchronicity, online anonymity, media capabilities, moderated mediation, institution-based trust, platform trust, platform reputation