Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 26 Number 3 2009 pp. 175-206

Trust-Assuring Arguments in B2C E-commerce: Impact of Content, Source, and Price on Trust

Kim, Dongmin and Benbasat, Izak

ABSTRACT: The research question examined in this paper is whether or not product price can be used as a proxy to predict how customers' trust will be influenced by different trust-assuring arguments displayed on a business-to-consumer e-commerce Web site. Drawing from the elaboration likelihood model (ELM) and Toulmin's model of argumentation, we examine the effects on consumer trust of two levels of source and two levels of content factors, under two levels of product price, in a laboratory experiment with 128 subjects. Product price was predicted as a moderating factor that would influence the customer's motivation to scrutinize more closely the content of the trust-assuring arguments. The results suggest that customers are more influenced by the content of trust-assuring arguments when the price of a product is relatively high than when it is relatively low. Presumably, Internet stores employ a third party's trust-assuring arguments because customers are less likely to trust an unknown Internet store's own trust-assuring arguments. However, the results paradoxically may imply that when customers have more at stake (e.g., buying a high-price product), they do not necessarily have to rely only on an independent third-party source to form high trust beliefs about the store. When customers purchase a high-price product, they seem to form trusting beliefs by scrutinizing argument content rather than by depending on heuristic cues (e.g., an independent party's opinion) as the ELM would predict.

Key words and phrases: elaboration likelihood model, price, third-party certification, Toulmin argumentation model, trust, trust-assuring arguments, trust in e-commerce