Collaborative Consumption: The influence of trust on sustainable peer-to-peer product-service systems
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A recent trend in sustainable consumption is that of online peer-to-peer product-service systems. These are online social networks that facilitate the access to underutilized private goods. Through this network, participants can rent and rent out personal items to others and get access to things they need, just for the time they need them. An important factor for the success of these start-ups, is the trust that participants have in the network and other participants. From general e-commerce literature, it appears that institutional mechanisms can reduce the risk involved in an online transaction and enhances the online trust of consumers. Objective. The first objective of this research is to see which institutional mechanisms have an influence on the willingness of Dutch consumers to rent and rent out goods. Ten mechanisms are included based on the online trust model of McKnight et al. (2002). These are: identity verification, privacy assurance, monitoring, payment security, guarantee security, a review system, information disclosure, vouching for trustworthy participants, the possibility to form private groups and the possibility to communicate. The second objective aims to find differences between consumers. Do certain groups of people need such institutional mechanism more than others? Method. By means of two online questionnaires an experimental setting is created. The influence of the ten institutional mechanisms is tested by providing one group of respondents the high scenario (n=79) and the other group of respondents the low scenario (n=89). After each of the scenarios, the willingness to rent and rent out a projector from and to two fictional characters, Tim and Martijn, was measured. Additionally, several personal variables were measured such as the disposition to trust, demographic factors and experience with e-commerce. The data is analyzed with statistical analyses in SPSS. Results. The results show that for a few institutional mechanisms, the willingness scores significantly differed between the high and low scenario. In the case of renting the projector these were: an identity verification check of the participants, high information disclosure about the participants, an insurance option and the option to make a private group to share items with friends. Institutional mechanisms that were significant for renting out the projector were: the possibility to vouch for ‘good’ participants, an insurance option, the possibility to ask for a deposit and also the option to make a private group to share items with friends. Additionally, respondents valued the possibility to publicly report misbehaving participants. In analyzing the results further, there was no major indication that the influence of these mechanisms was different for different groups of people. Finally, respondents were more willing to participate as a renter of items from someone else than as a lender of their own personal items. Conclusion en discussion. Online sharing platforms need to incorporate certain institutional mechanisms to reduce risk and enhance the level of online trust of their participants. These results are a first indication of which mechanisms are important. However, the influence was measured on a hypothetical basis and not in real life situations and the sample consisted mostly of women and students. Practical recommendations that can be given from the results to current and future start-ups are to take the relevant institutional mechanisms into consideration and further investigate the possible impact of them in the different sharing contexts and test real online sharing behavior.