THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN BRAND AWARENESS, TRUST AND WILLINGNESS TO REVEAL PRIVATE INFORMATION IN ECOMMERCE
 
Student researcher

Snow Dong (Ph.D. student)
Kathleen Moore (Ph.D. student)
Alison Murphy (Ph.D. student)

This paper was based on a project as part of the Comm 506 course

Faculty Supervisor

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar

Introduction

Amid constant and numerous news accounts of fraud and online theft, concerns over personal information privacy and the security of financial information in the eCommerce environment remain dominant today. The commoditization of personal information is as important to online vendors as the products they sell. With consumers becoming increasing aware of the dangers of submitted private information online, they become more vigilant in protesting that information. Vendors could enable technological functions within their sites to secure information but often employ a third-party security verification (3PSV) program that vouches for the online vendor in the form of a seal of approval when the vendor adhered to a standard of security principles.

This study seeks to explore the effect of both website brand awareness and 3PSV awareness on eCommerce users’ trust in the website from the perspective of heuristic information processing. The study will also evaluate if the users’ trust in the eCommerce website affects the users’ willingness to reveal their private information during their online purchase.

RESEARCH QUESTION(S) AND HYPOTHESES:

RQ1: For adult eCommerce users, controlling for demographics and previous experience and attitudes, what is the relationship between the degree of website brand awareness, the degree of 3rd party security verification awareness, and the level of trust of the website?

RQ2: For adult eCommerce users, controlling for demographics and previous experience and attitudes, what is the relationship between the level of trust of the website, the intended willingness to reveal private information, and the actual willingness to reveal private information?

Adult eCommerce users are more likely to:

H1: Trust a website if they have a high degree of awareness for the website brand.

H2: Trust a website when there is a 3rd party security verification logo.

H3: Trust a website if they have a high degree of awareness for the brand of the 3rd party security verification logo.

H4: Trust a website if they have a high degree of awareness of the website brand, regardless of the 3rd party security verification logo.

H5: Actually reveal private information if they have a high degree of trust in the website.

H6: Have stronger intention to reveal private information if they have a high degree of trust in the website.

H7: State that they will reveal less private information when shopping online in comparison to the actual private information that they reveal when they are shopping online.

Method

In order to examine the relationship between brand awareness, trust, and the willingness to reveal private information, we conducted an online experiment using a 2x3 between-subjects factorial design (brand awareness of the website by brand awareness of the 3PSV).

Independent Variables
Brand Awareness of Website (manipulated, nominal)
Brand Awareness of 3PSV (manipulate, nominal)

Mediating Variable
Trust in Website (measured, interval)

Dependent Variable
Intent to reveal private information (measured, interval)
Actually revealing private information (measured, nominal)

Control Variables
Demographics: Gender, Age, Education, Nationality (nominal, ordinal, ratio)
Previous Experience & Attitudes: eCommerce, Fraud (nominal, ordinal ratio) 

Results

The results of this study indicate that three of our hypotheses (H1, H4, and H5) are supported and two hypothesis (H6 & H7) are partially supported. The results show that the trust of a website and the willingness to reveal private information is highly influenced by the brand awareness of the website, but not so much by the presence or brand awareness of the 3rd party security verification logo. Users’ overall attitudes toward online shopping and 3rd party security verification logo are also important in forming trust in a specific eCommerce website, however despite the participant’s stated importance of the presence of a 3PSV, it was significantly less important than brand awareness and trust in the website when. Moreover, the privacy paradox was supported by our results. Participants actually reveal more profile information than they said they would like to reveal.

Conclusions

While trust of a website is highly influenced by the familiarity heuristic of brand awareness, consumers’ attitudes or predisposition towards online shopping and the expertise heuristic that third-party security verification provides, also play a role on a theoretical level. Predisposition is shown to be tempered by age which showed that the older the consumer, the less inclined hey are to reveal private information. When familiarity and expertise are pitted against each other, however, our findings suggest that a choice occurs between the heuristics of familiarity and expertise, and that a representative heuristic prevails in favor of brand awareness in this case.

Ultimately, trust of the website itself overpowers or mediates the effect of the familiarity heuristic when it comes to influencing the overall willingness to reveal private information. As trust itself is heuristic decision rule, and since trust was only marginally measured in this study, practical implications would be speculative at best. A combination of factors could be informing the level of trust in the website.

For more details regarding the study contact

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar by e-mail at sss12@psu.edu or by telephone at (814) 865-2173

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Media Effects Research Lab at College of Communications, Penn State University