01/01/2010 - 01/01/2016Has been initialized
Internet, and more specifically User Generated Content, appears to be an important source of product information. Previous research (Talboom 2009) indicates that User Generated Content is mainly being used because it is perceived to be more reliable than information disseminated by brands. During the pre-internet era, inter-personal information was, to some extent, less easy to access. Members of a social system did not have full access to each other because of constraints concerning time and space (Rogers 1995). Therefore User Generated Content offers new ways to search information before a purchase decision is made; it has the opportunity to become a new important inter-personal information source available at lower search costs. However, some questions concerning the concept of trust need to be addressed. Trust in an online environment is often being studied from a sale-oriented point of view: ‘How can we lower feelings of risk and thus increase trust in order to enhance online sales?’ This in spite of the fact that a search-oriented study can be relevant as well: ‘How will consumers evaluate the information they found online?’ People are not inclined to ask advice to just anyone (Robertson 1971); physical and social closeness play an important role. When focusing on an online context, people do not have to be in each other’s presence to exchange information. Which conditions must be fulfilled in order to be perceived as a valuable source and to what extent is this still related to social proximity? When consumers ask for the advice of relatives and friends, they know how to judge their opinion; but how does this work when one is dealing with an online weak tie? How do consumers find their way through the abundance of information online? Furthermore, questions rise about the misuse and remake of online trust by marketers.
KEY WORDS: Trust, Credibility, User-Generated-Content, Consumer Behavior, Search, Inter-personal information, Consumer Information Search Online, Consumer Recommendations, Word-of-Mouth, Web 2.0, Pre-purchase Behavior and Literacy.