Alain Decrop (University of Namur), Antje Graul (Leeds University)
The Role of System Trust and Risk Perception in Consumers' Intention to Provide Goods on Peer-to-Peer Platforms
The emergence of the sharing economy has fuelled the development of collaborative consumption schemes worldwide (Sacks 2011). Collaborative consumption may be defined as "people coordinating the acquisition and distribution of a resource for a fee or other compensation" (Belk, 2014, 1597). Particularly regarding the peer-to-peer environment, in which online platforms bring private providers and users of goods together, the promise of non-ownership has attracted a plethora of consumers to engage in carsharing (e.g. Drivy), the rental of private holiday accommodations (e.g. AirBnB) or tool supply (e.g. Neighbourgoods) from their peers (Hamari, Sjöklint and Ukkonen 2016; Zervas, Proserpio and Byers 2014). While literature has started to examine consumers' motivation to use sharing services provided by a company (e.g. Bardhi and Eckhardt 2012), research investigating drivers and processes for consumers to participate as providers in consumer-to-consumer schemes remains scarce. Consequently, the present research elucidates what role platform characteristics play for motivating consumers to provide their belongings for sharing in collaborative consumption schemes - and which may hinder their motivation. The findings of two experimental studies contribute to existing literature by showing that peer-to-peer sharing scheme characteristics such as the level of reciprocity (generalized/ barter-balanced/ money-balanced) and market intermediary type (company/ volunteers) significantly impact upon consumers' intention to provide objects for sharing. The effects are explained drawing to cognitive and emotional processing theories. Both a cognitive (risk perception) and an affective route (system trust) are proposed to account for such an impact. Theoretical Background When providing private goods on P2P platforms, the provider's expected compensation plays a crucial role in order to facilitate the transaction. The authors draw on social exchange theory (Blau 1964) in order to examine reciprocity as a pivotal scheme characteristic that is hypothesized to trigger the provider's sharing intention. Scholars argue that social exchange occurs when both parties find themselves to rely on each other. Thus, the present research introduces a framework consisting of three types of reciprocity: generalized reciprocity (in which the giver does not expect any direct return from the receiver), barter-balanced reciprocity (defined as the access to another good within the scheme as return) and money-balanced (involving the payment of a monetary fee as return). The distinct effects of reciprocity type on consumers' intention to provide for sharing are examined. Next, the importance and implications of non-profit versus for-profit market intermediary types within P2P sharing schemes need to be taken into consideration. Albeit a review of current schemes suggests that in most cases, it is the role of a for-profit market intermediary to offer a suitable infrastructure to bring providers and users together, Bardhi and Eckhardt (2012) suggest that sharing schemes may fit different types of market intermediaries, from for-profit to non-profit. Thus, this research explores whether, when and why those forms of market intermediation have distinct effects on consumers' intention to provide items on P2P platforms. The authors provide process evidence for the suggested effects by drawing to affective and cognitive processing theories. Both trust and risk play significant roles in social exchange: "Since there is no way to assure an appropriate return for a favor, social exchange requires trusting others to discharge their obligations" (Blau 1964, 94). We therefore propose two distinct routes in order to explain the effects of reciprocity and market intermediary type on consumers' intention to provide possessions for sharing, i.e., the consumers' level of system trust (emotional/affective route) and the consumers' perceived level of risk (rational/cognitive route). While Finley (2012, 2) suggests that "trust is the enabling factor inherent within all sharing-sector activities", other studies support the idea that a high level of perceived risk may hinder consumers' intention to provide items (Bardhi and Eckhardt 2012; Gefen et al. 2002). The following major hypotheses emerge: H1: Consumers' intention to provide their private possessions for sharing is the highest in money-balanced schemes, followed by barter-balanced and the lowest in generalized schemes. The effect is expected to be mediated by perceived risk. H2: A non-profit (for-profit) market intermediary increases (decreases) consumers' intention to provide their private possessions. The effect is expected to be mediated by system trust. H3: Perceived risk negatively impacts upon consumers' intention to provide their private possessions. H4: System trust positively impacts upon consumers' intention to provide their private possessions. Method and Results Findings from two experiments (n=316; n=317) provide evidence that consumers are most eager to provide their personal possessions against a reciprocal compensation (study 1), whereby analyses involving mediation testing demonstrate that perceived risk functions as mediator of the explained effect (study 2). While market mediation is also used to show that schemes are more attractive to consumers when facilitated by a non-profit market intermediary (vs. for-profit intermediary) study 1), this finding emphasizes consumers' propensity to escape the market while sharing. Mediation analyses confirm a mechanism under which system trust mediates the latter effect (study 2). Contribution Investigating trust and risk perceived in peer-to-peer transactions for the first time quantitatively, this research combines the theoretical assumptions of social exchange with affective and cognitive processing theories. Thus, the results provide a unique framework that relates reciprocity forms and types of market intermediary to the consumers' intention to share their private possessions. In doing so, this research offers one of the first accounts to investigate the provider's perspective in P2P collaborative consumption schemes through rigorous theoretical conceptualizing enhanced by empirical data. Important implications and avenues for private users as well as managers of sharing platforms are drawn from these findings.