Trust in P2P Transactions
Trust is the foundation of all economic transactions, in the real world and on the Web. The crucial difference between the two is that in the real world, we have ways of judging whether our counterpart is trustworthy, whereas on the Web, we usually transact with people we have never met. Especially in the growing sector of peer-to-peer (P2P) platforms, users share very valuable assets such as houses and cars, exposing them to higher risk than in classic e-commerce. According to a recent study by Campbell Mithun, trust concerns are the number one barrier to sharing on collaborative consumption platforms. This indicates that as the sharing economy grows, a foundation of trust between users is necessary to lower their perceived risk of participating in P2P marketplaces.
I investigated this topic further in my bachelor thesis titled Building Trust in P2P Marketplaces: an Empirical Analysis of Trust Systems for the Sharing Economy. I received many interesting insights by interviewing people from across the globe such as researchers, social innovators, P2P platforms as well as startups attempting to create online trust systems.
A number of tools that help users judge each other’s trustworthiness online already exists. Five-star rating systems as popularized by eBay are a very common type of feedback system. These ratings are often accompanied by user comments and reviews to provide descriptive information about a transaction. On platforms such as Taskrabbit, identity verification by phone and email as well as background checks are tools used to ensure safety. Further tools that verify identities and let users tap into their existing social networks when joining a new site are social media connect buttons (for example Facebook Connect). Several startups such as TrustCloud, Briiefly, Legit and PeerTrust are attempting to merge these tools into one trust system that allows users to take their online reputation with them wherever they go.
Apart from these tools my findings suggest that online communities can also foster trust. According to an interviewee, tight-knit communities of people with similar interests, tastes and values can function as a type of trust system. This is the case at the German ridesharing company Carpooling.com, where most users have in common that they are current or former students.
Guest Blogger: Francesca Pick
Francesca studied Communication and Cultural Management at Zeppelin University in Friedrichshafen, Germany. To read more of her research, please visit the full thesis.