Trust and risk in consumer acceptance of e-services

Mou, Jian
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Electronic services (or e-services) are defined as any service whose delivery is based on Internet, IT and communications technology, and which incorporates a large self-service component. They offer consumers the promise of increased convenience, lower-cost of transacting, greater choice and accessibility by eliminating space and time constraints to their interactions with service providers. Benefits of e-services cannot however materialize without consumer acceptance. Unfortunately, uncertainty and fears of opportunism still characterize the online context and varying degrees of consumer acceptance and engagement in use of e-services has thus been observed. The extant literature considers consumer perceptions of risk and their trust beliefs amongst the most important psychological states influencing their online behavior. However, despite the number of empirical studies that have explored the effects of trust and risk perceptions on consumer acceptance of e-services, the field remains fragmented and the posited research models are contradictory. For example, the trust-risk relationship has been modeled differently in past studies and the causal relationship between trust and risk perceptions has not been clarified. In addition, research into the antecedents of trust has not been integrated to provide an answer as to which are the most significant antecedents. Furthermore, past research has paid more attention to initial trust or risk perceptions and has not adequately examined whether these perceptions change over time or how they come to influence later stage acceptance of e-services. To address these gaps in our understanding of trust and risk in consumer acceptance of e-services, this thesis adopted three research designs, namely meta-analytic approaches, cross-sectional surveys and longitudinal designs. First, a meta-analytic study1 was used to aggregate empirical findings from across prior studies in e-service. This allowed the nature of the relationship between trust, perceived risk, and acceptance of e-services to be synthesized and for competing nomological models of the trust-risk-acceptance relationship to be compared. 52 studies were examined and it was found that trust is most important to form consumer positive attitude for acceptance. By comparing competing models, it found that trust and risk are significantly related and trust may influence risk in consumer acceptance of e-services. 1 Presented at 34th International Conference on Information Systems (ICIS 2013), Milano, Italy. iv Moderator analysis within the meta-analysis was also carried out to determine if different types of consumer cultures (e.g., Western versus Eastern), different types of e-services (e.g., commercial versus non-commercial), or different objects of trust (e.g., trust in vendor versus trust in website technology) influence the relationships between trust, risk and acceptance of e-services. Furthermore, the antecedents of trust as suggested by past research were examined via a second meta-analysis of 59 prior studies2. The antecedents of trust were classified as vendor and institution-based antecedents, technological-based antecedents, knowledge-based antecedents, and consumer characteristics-based antecedents. Technological-based antecedents were found the most significant antecedents of trust. For all antecedents, studies classified as having been carried out in Eastern cultures reported on average stronger effect sizes than those carried out in Western cultures. In addition to the meta-analytical studies, this thesis also carried out cross-sectional and longitudinal investigations to study trust and risk in an understudied context of e-services, namely consumer acceptance of online health information services. The motivation to adopt this context is because previous studies of e-services were mostly focused on commercial (e.g., e-commerce, e-shopping and e-banking, etc) and mostly on non-commercial context such as e-government. However, e-health services are relatively under-explored. Moreover, the Web has become an important health information dissemination channel. People are increasingly searching for health information online and engaging in the self-management of their health. Trust and risk are considered important to the online health context, and it therefore served as an appropriate e-service context for empirical analysis. Two cross-sectional studies3,4 were carried out to explain user acceptance of online health information services. This cross-sectional work was underpinned by multiple theoretical perspectives namely Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA), Health Belief Model (HBM) and Extended Valence Framework (EVF). Findings showed that multiple dimensions of trust (trust in provider, trust in website and trust in institutional structures) have both direct and indirect effects, via perceived usefulness, on consumer acceptance. 2 Presented at 18th Pacific Asia Conference on Information Systems (PACIS 2014), Chengdu, China. 3 Forthcoming at 35th International Conference on Information Systems (ICIS 2014), Auckland, New Zealand. 4 Forthcoming at 25th Australasian Conference on Information Systems (ACIS 2014), Auckland, New Zealand. v One-dimensional risk was not found to have a significant influence on consumer acceptance. However, multi-dimensional risk (performance risk, psychological risk and time risk) did combine with health belief variables such as perceived susceptibility and severity to influence consumer acceptance. Because cross-sectional data is limited in its ability to address causal connections amongst phenomena, two longitudinal investigations were also carried out. These investigations were used to explain whether trust beliefs and risk perceptions change over time in consumer acceptance of e-services, how early stage trust and risk perceptions influence later stage acceptance and usage behaviors, and whether there is reciprocal causality between trust and risk perceptions. This work was underpinned by TRA and Expectation-Confirmation Theory (ECT), and employed both path modeling and cross-lagged structural equation modeling techniques. The results showed that trust, risk perceptions and perceived usefulness are important to the prediction of consumer acceptance of online health services at both the early and later usage phases5. Furthermore, trust in provider and trust in website have reciprocal relations and empirical data supported the influence of risk perceptions on trust. Through the meta-analytic design, cross-sectional approaches and longitudinal designs, this thesis contributes to research on e-services in a number of ways. First, meta-analytic approaches integrated the available evidence from prior studies, which resulted in the generation of a dataset which was larger in scope and scale than could feasibly be achieved in any single research study. This dataset could then be used to compare competing nomological models found in the literature. In so doing, results have improved our understanding of how trust and risk are related, how they combine to influence consumer acceptance, as well as identifying the most important antecedents of trust. Results provide a benchmark against which future studies can compare their effect sizes. Moreover, by examining the heterogeneity of effect sizes, the meta-analysis has also identified moderators that can account for observed inconsistencies in the effect sizes reported by prior studies. Together, the findings have extended our understanding of how trust and risk relate to e-service acceptance in different e-service contexts, across 5 Presented at 18th Pacific Asia Conference on Information Systems (PACIS 2014), Chengdu, China. vi different consumer cultures, and whether trust in the vendor or technology platform has relatively greater importance to consumers. Second, this thesis also integrated trust into HBM to examine online health information seeking as both a health behavior and online consumer behavior. Results help us better understand this specific case of e-service acceptance. Third, this study is also the first to develop and validate a dynamic trust and risk model in consumer acceptance of online health information services. The longitudinal design integrates trust into the theoretical framework of TRA and ECT to develop the dynamic research model. Tests of the model have made a key contribution to the development of a theory that explains the dynamic nature of e-service acceptance. Furthermore, the cross-lagged longitudinal design contributed to our understanding of the casual relationship between consumers’ trust and risk perceptions in the context of online health information services. Taken together this thesis illustrates how meta-analysis and structural equation modeling can be integrated together to approach the fragmented and contradictory nature of the field. Moreover, this thesis addresses the lack of longitudinal studies on acceptance, and presents a novel method, cross-lagged structural equation modeling, to examine controversial causal relationships within the field of Information Systems. This thesis also has important practical implications. It provides insights into the relative importance of trust and risk perceptions necessary to inform practitioners on risk reduction and trust-building mechanisms. The investigation into the antecedents of trust reveals especially important factors which are within the control of e-service providers. With this understanding, practitioners can be better positioned to establish their online service offerings. Website designers can also benefit from understanding the extent to which particular antecedents of trust (e.g., ease of use and system quality) are important for e-service acceptance. By studying the online health information services context, this thesis has also shed light on the general perceptions and attitudes of consumers towards this high-potential area of e-service.
Thesis (Ph.D. (Information Systems))--University of the Witwatersrand, Faculty of Commerce, Law & Management, School of Economic and Business Sciences, 2015