How Can Online Trust Be Established Through Humanized Website Design?
Khaled Hassanein and Milena Head
The Internet has provided businesses of all sizes with opportunities to expand their market base, improve operational efficiency, create new links with trading partners, and provide better customer service, among others. However electronic commerce (e-Commerce) has, in many cases, failed to live up to its potential. In particular, business-to-consumer e-Commerce transactions have not reached a point of critical mass, largely due to a lack of online consumer trust. Trust is a critical component for any business transaction, and is particularly essential in the e-Commerce environment, where transactions are more impersonal, anonymous and automated. In order to allow e-Commerce to fulfill its potential benefits, methods for instilling trust into this environment must be studied and applied.
One significant difference between online and offline environments, is that the offline shopping experience encompasses a wide range of emotions involving various types of interactions with humans through multiple sensory channels. The online shopping experience, on the other hand, is primarily geared towards reducing the user's cognitive burden through functional and performance-based website design heuristics. As such, e-Commerce may be viewed as being de-humanized, since it is more impersonal, anonymous and automated than traditional person-to-person commerce. Therefore it is important that emotions be considered when designing e-Commerce sites.
This project will closely examine the concept of online product trust identifying the various factors that influence it. It will also investigate how the concepts of online trust, site appeal and willingness to purchase are impacted by a more humanized approach to Website design. In particular, the following objectives will be pursued:
- To develop a comprehensive model for online product trust based on a deep understanding of the various factors that influence consumer trust within an online environment.
- To investigate how users interact with and react to a wide range of humanized interface elements (e.g. emotive textual descriptions, relevant pictures of people, appropriate video clips, virtual communities, virtual and real shopping agents) by collecting and analyzing their keystrokes, mouse movements and even eye movements as they interact with these elements.
- To assess the impact of various humanized elements on consumer perceptions of online trust, site appeal and willingness to purchase for various product categories.
Potential Benefits to a Sponsoring Organization
Results from this research program will have significant implications for Website developers and online retailers. By incorporating the appropriate humanization elements for different product categories, online retailers may be able to instill a much needed higher level of trust in their company and products with the online consumer. Considering the importance of trust in the seller-buyer relationship, this could have significant positive impact on the future success of their e-Commerce operations.