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Journal of Product & Brand Management

Factors influencing consumer perceptions of brand trust online

Hong‐Youl Ha,
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Hong‐Youl Ha, (2004) "Factors influencing consumer perceptions of brand trust online", Journal of Product & Brand
Management, Vol. 13 Issue: 5, pp.329-342,
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An executive summary for managers and
Factors influencing executive readers can be found at the end of
this article.
consumer perceptions of
brand trust online
Hong-Youl Ha
One of the major aims of building brand trust is to
achieve a sustainable competitive advantage and
thereby enhance a business performance.
Many researchers have conducted a general
consensus-that brand trust is established through
a combination of familiarity, security, privacy,
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word-of-mouth, advertising, and brand image

The author
(Chow and Holden, 1997; Delgodo-Ballester and
Hong-Youl Ha is a Doctoral Student based at Department of Munuera-Alemán, 2001; Garbarino and Johnson,
Marketing, Manchester School of Management, UMIST, UK. 1999; Hoffman et al., 1998; Wernerfelt, 1991).
These studies, however, have not explored
building brand trust on the Web. While it may be
Internet marketing, Brand image, Privacy argued that brand trust is an underlying dimension
of brand loyalty, the latter is composed of such a
Abstract vast number of components that it would be futile
Unlike the traditional bricks-and-mortar marketplace, the online to consider it only in general terms. Indeed, brand
environment includes several distinct factors that influence trust is extremely important for increasing
brand trust. As consumers become more savvy about the customers’ loyalty towards brands on the Web. For
Internet, the author contends they will insist on doing business example, an auction site such as may
with Web companies they trust. This study examines how brand have very reasonable pricing, but the potential
trust is affected by the following Web purchase-related factors: consumer may find the product performance
security, privacy, brand name, word-of-mouth, good online
questionable. As a result, a low brand trust may
experience, and quality of information. The author argues that
not all e-trust building programs guarantee success in building
counterbalance high brand satisfaction to reduce
brand trust. In addition to the mechanism depending on a the probability of purchase of a product or service
program, building e-brand trust requires a systematic on the Web. In contrast, a high level of brand trust
relationship between a consumer and a particular Web brand. may ultimately convert a satisfied customer into a
The findings show that brand trust is not built on one or two loyal one. Thus, brand trust and its individual
components but is established by the interrelationships between determinants constitute the specific objective of
complex components. By carefully investigating these variables this study.
in formulating marketing strategies, marketers can cultivate A second line of research closely related to brand
brand loyalty and gain a formidable competitive edge. trust on the Web is familiarity analysis- when
building the trusting brand relationship
Electronic access
(Chaudhuri and Holbrook, 2001; Garbarino and
The Emerald Research Register for this journal is Johnson, 1999; Hoffman et al., 1998; Tractinsky
available at et al., 1999; Urban et al., 2000). Brand familiarity is a continuous variable that reflects a consumer’s
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is level of direct and indirect experiences with a
available at product (Alba and Hutchinson, 1987). According to Kania (2001), familiarity with a company or
brand generates higher trust, unless a person has a
negative perception of a brand. In a joint research
study conducted by Cheskin Research and Sapient
(1999), responses indicated a strong correlation
between familiarity and trust. However, many
dot-com brands have not yet achieved the level of
familiarity necessary to achieve trust.
In contrast, some of that literature suggests that
Journal of Product & Brand Management
trust may not be so dependent on familiarity
Volume 13 · Number 5 · 2004 · pp. 329–342 (McKnight et al., 1998). However, we believe that
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited · ISSN 1061-0421 in the context of e-tailing, consumers’ positive
DOI 10.1108/10610420410554412 experiences directly affect brand familiarity.
Factors influencing consumer perceptions Journal of Product & Brand Management
Hong-Youl Ha Volume 13 · Number 5 · 2004 · 329–342

The high level of brand familiarity based on In this same sense, Ambler (1997) conceptualizes
consumer experience might strongly influence brand value as a function of the existing
brand trust on the Web (Smith and Wheeler, relationship between the consumer and the brand,
2002). trust being one of the most important ingredients
With only a few exceptions like Hoffman et al. in this relationship.
(1998) and Papadopoulou et al. (2001), since very In particular, trust is crucial because it
little research has been conducted on factors influences several factors essential to online
affecting brand trust associated particularly with transactions, including security and privacy.
e-commerce, literature on familiarity with Web is Without trust, development of e-commerce cannot
the basis of testable hypotheses that describe the reach its potential (Cheskin Research and Sapient,
relationship between brand trust and the factors 1999). Although brand trust has a long history of
affecting it. The major goal of this research is to being the focus on management literature, the
assist practitioners and researchers who are concept has only become a common topic in
interested in the strategic aspects of both brand consumer behavior literature in the 1990s. Despite
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trust and familiarity on the Internet. In particular, its recent growth in use and popularity, the
our research is important for practitioners and inherent uncertainty in the emerging electronic
academics because much of the work on trust has consumer environment brings the issue of brand
been theoretical rather than empirical and there has trust to the forefront of marketing research, along
even been empirical work on trust online with many interesting implications for practice and
(McKnight and Kacmar, 2002; Jarvenpaa et al., theory.
2000). Furthermore, factors that affect trust online In this study, the first factor to be investigated is
could be different from those that affect it in a bricks security. Wilson (1998) and Ratnasingham (1998)
and mortar context (Liang and Huang, 1998). who used e-trust models as a sociological example
(e.g. e-communities) to demonstrate that a “Web
of trust” is in fact no easier and less intrusive on
personal security than a “public key
Theoretical framework and hypotheses infrastructure” where key holders are identified
and authenticated by third-party certification
In the present study, we define brand trust as the authorities. The effect of security on brand trust
willingness of the average consumer to rely on the has been investigated by Hoffman et al. (1998),
ability of the brand to perform its stated function Keeney (1999), Reichheld and Schefter (2000),
(Chaudhuri and Holbrook, 2001). Both Doney Salisbury et al. (2001) Tan (1999). In particular,
and Cannon (1997) and Moorman et al. (1992) Tractinsky et al. (1999) argued that a core
also stress that the notion of trust is only relevant in capability between reputation and security is brand
situations of uncertainty. Specifically, e-trust
trust. According to Ha (2002), brand reputation
reduces the uncertainty in an environment in
affects perceived risk and we would expect security
which consumers feel vulnerable because they
decrease risk perceptions (Mayer et al., 1995).
know that they can rely on the trusted brand
On the other hand, Krishnamurthy (2001) also
(Chaudhuri and Holbrook, 2001).
found that consumers who experience positive
The development and maintenance of
security leads to improvements in the levels of
consumer brand trust on the Web is at the heart of
familiarity on the Web. Accordingly, security
companies’ marketing plans, especially in the face
should affect brand trust as well. The first
of highly competitive markets with increasing
hypothesis of this study is as follows:
unpredictability and decreasing product
H1. The lower the security, the higher the brand
differentiation (Fournier and Yao, 1997). At a
basic level, brand trust is simply the trust a
consumer has in that specific brand. Brand trust In addition to security, privacy must also be a key
recognizes that brand value can be created and factor affecting brand trust since it, affects brand
developed with management of some aspects that loyalty on the Web. Hoffman et al. (1998) showed
go beyond consumer’s satisfaction with functional that top online shopping concerns of Web
performance of the product and its attributes consumers relate to control over information
(Aaker, 1996; Lasser et al., 1995). The same idea is privacy and trust. Their studies also found that the
pointed out by Blackston (1995), Gurviez (1996), most important reasons non-buyers, who are
and Heilbrunn (1995) for whom the study of trust uninterested in online shopping, give for not
could offer an appropriate schema to conceptualise shopping online are not functional, but related to
and measure a more qualitative dimension of issues of control over personal information.
brand value. This dimension includes other Furthermore, individuals have serious and
characteristics and qualities of the brand that also legitimate concerns about the privacy of
have meaning and add value for the consumer. information they provide to favorable direct
Factors influencing consumer perceptions Journal of Product & Brand Management
Hong-Youl Ha Volume 13 · Number 5 · 2004 · 329–342

marketers (Hoffman et al., 1997; Phelps et al., on behavior than other marketer-controlled
2000). In addition, when Internet consumers are sources (e.g. advertising). WOM has been shown
concerned about their privacy, they are much more to influence awareness, expectations, perceptions,
likely to provide incomplete information to Web attitudes, behavioral intentions and behavior.
sites and notify Internet Service Providers In particular, a further determinant of brand trust
(Franzak et al., 2001; Kim and Hoy, 1999). is WOM communication. Many researchers
Furthermore, privacy on the Web means risk (Dolinsky, 1994; Fournier, 1998; Iglesias et al.,
perceptions towards exposing the consumer’s own 2001; Martin, 1996; Parasuraman et al., 1988;
information. In other words, negative Reichheld and Schefter, 2000; Tractinsky et al.,
consequences may arise from distribution of 1999; Ward and Lee, 2000) found that WOM
private information, and Web site protection communication affects brand trust. More recently,
would reduce the perception of such risk. researchers showed that building online
The hypothesis stating this is: communities is closely related to e-trust
H2. If a Web site protects individual’s private (McWilliam, 2000; Williams and Cothrel, 2000).
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information, the Web site is perceived as We assume that WOM among satisfied community
having higher levels of brand trust. members will improve e-trust on a particular Web
site. In this way, positive WOM communication
Another factor is the name of the Web site from helps consumers cultivate favorable brand trust on
which the product or the service is purchased or the e-commerce. The corresponding hypothesis
recognized. Keller (1998) states that brand name tested was:
is one of the factors facilitating the development of H4. The Web sites built by positive WOM are
brand awareness or familiarity. The effects of perceived as having higher levels of brand
brand name or store name regarding familiarity trust than marketing-controlled advertising.
were investigated by Bogart and Lehman (1973),
Fournier (1998), Moorman et al. (1993), Morrin Consumers tend to remember best the last
(1999), Muniz and O’guinn (2001), Woodside and experience (the “recency effect”): thus one positive
Wison (1985). In general, the more specialized experience may be sufficient to alter perceptions of
and reputable a brand is in selling or recognizing more than one preceding negative experience, and
the product or the service, the more highly will its vice versa. This suggests the important influence
brand trust be perceived. Similar finding were that experience can have on customer satisfaction
obtained by an earlier study on brand name and, the more satisfied the customer, the more
familiarity[1] (Hoyer and Brown, 1990) durable is the relationship (Buchanan and Gillies,
demonstrating that when inexperienced decision- 1990). Relationship depends on a consumer’s
makers are faced with a choice in which a known experience. Similarly, brand trust can be related to
brand competes with unknown brands, they are experience. In the model of “trusting behavior”,
considerably more likely to choose the familiar Mitchell et al. (1998) see experience as an
brand. Tractinsky et al. (1999) also have shown important variable as it plays a role in trust by
that consumer’s brand trust affects the store’s making it possible to compare the realities of the
perceived reputation. This finding means that the firm with preconceived expectations. Ganesan
consumer perceived the Web store’s reputation as (1994) goes further, and views experience as an
favorable brand name. This leads to the following antecedent of brand trust.
hypothesis: In the context of online retailing, customers
H3. Perceptions of favorable and reputable Web usually expect Web sites to offer them not just a
site as a brand on the Web are associated message, but a positive experience. Many
with higher levels of brand trust. researchers (Dholakia et al., 2000; Kenny and
Marshall, 2000; McWilliam, 2000; Reichheld and
Word of mouth (WOM) is commonly defined as Schefter, 2000; Shankar et al., 2000) have
informal communication about the characteristics investigated a good online experience associated
of a business or a product which occurs between with familiarity of the Web communities.
consumers (Westbrook, 1987). Most importantly, Particularly, extensive home-shopping experience
it allows consumers to exert both informational was found to have a positive effect on shoppers’
and normative influences on the product brand trust and buying intentions regardless of the
evaluations and purchase intentions of fellow strength of the brands involved (Balabanis and
consumers (Bone, 1995; Ward and Reingen, Vassileiou, 1999). In addition to Web community
1990). Consumers can acquire information for and shopping, a vivid, engaging, active and
buying specific products through WOM affective virtual experience- possibly including
communication called “cyberbuzz” on the chat, games, and events- might help customers
Internet (Herr et al., 1991). Research generally enjoy various impressive experiences relevant to
supports the claim that WOM is more influential brand trust[2] (Kania, 2001; Li et al., 2001). More
Factors influencing consumer perceptions Journal of Product & Brand Management
Hong-Youl Ha Volume 13 · Number 5 · 2004 · 329–342

specifically, van Dolen and Ruyter (2002) find that Methodology

consumers’ chat in a new e-service encounter
affect perceived enjoyment and customer Overview
satisfaction. It is reasonable to assume that such as In order to investigate these hypotheses, we
engaging, interactive Web site will likely enhance selected e-bookstores (e.g.,
the possibility of “flow”, which has been described Yes, a leading e-bookstore in South
as an enjoyable state of mind that results from a Korea). As book shopping is now very popular,
seamless online experience (Janda et al., 2002; and most university students and individuals have
Novak et al., 2000). Thus, four types of experience had the opportunity and experience of purchasing
methods were compared: community, chat, game, from such Web sites, respondents with the
and event. This allows us to arrive at the fifth appropriate background to be surveyed were not
hypothesis of this study: hard to find. Both sellers and buyers on
H5. Experiences that are enjoyed through e-bookstores are given specific feedback ratings.
specific Web sites are perceived to have the Feedback ratings must relate to specific titles and
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highest level of brand trust. be designated as positive, neutral or negative.

Furthermore, bookstores are a relevant site to test
Providing effective information does lead to for brand trust because they are broadly used by
improved awareness and brand perception (Aaker many users and because bookstores on the Web are
and Joachimsthaler, 2000; Ha, 2002; Keller, competing globally for loyal customers.
1998), particularly for individuals with high brand
trust (Duncan and Moriarty, 1998; Kania, 2001;
Smith and Wheeler, 2002; Tellis, 1988). Pretest
Krishnamurthy (2001) argues that consumers on We examined consumer perceptions of
the Web are greatly interested in the associated e-bookstores. We restricted ourselves to two
messages. Indeed, Ha (2002) has shown that bookstores because:
Internet users are very interested in customized (1) they are among most popular sites in the
information offered by Web sites. More e-marketplace; and
specifically, Meyvis and Janiszewski (2002) reveal (2) such restriction simplifies the respondent and
that irrelevant information weakens consumers’ analyst tasks.
belief in the product’s ability to deliver the benefit.
To raise efficiency and reliability of the response, a
Hence, whether perceived quality of information is
pre-test was carried out. Postgraduate
provided and, if it is provided, the quality of
students (n ¼ 16; male ¼ 11; mean age ¼ 27:5;
customized information for customers, also
female ¼ 5; mean age ¼ 25:8) in Manchester
influence the level of brand trust on the Web.
were shown a set of purchase situations with
The related hypothesis is:
respect to Web purchases. Their primary task was
H6. The perceived level of brand trust increases
to examine data items affecting brand trust
with the quality of information offered by
through relationship with Web retailer. As a result
the Web sites.
of this process, a total of 19 items were obtained.
Finally, on offline, brand trust leads to brand All of the variables considered were measured on a
loyalty or brand commitment because trust creates 5-point Likert scale (1 ¼ strongly disagree and
exchanges in relationships that are highly valued. 5 ¼ strongly agree or 1 ¼ very unimportant and
The concept of brand commitment is related to the 5 ¼ very important). The scaled 19 items were
loyalty of consumers towards a particular brand in immediately followed by questions asking how
a product class and is gaining increasing weight in much they perceived each of the 19 items.
consumer behavior (Martinand and Goodell,
1991). As with brand trust, brand commitment is
Data sample
an essential ingredient for successful long-term
The information necessary to carry out the
relationships (Dwyer et al., 1987; Morgan and
empirical study was collected in data sample
Hunt, 1994). According to recent research, brand
through e-mail to a number of the members of the
trust plays a key role as a variable that generates
Internet marketing research homepage during two
customers’ commitment (Delgodo-Ballester and
weeks in South Korea during 2002. A number of
Munuera-Alemán, 2001). On the Web, therefore,
book vouchers (paid £5) were offered as prizes to
brand trust might affect brand commitment of the
participants chosen through a raffle, to encourage
Web sites. This allows us to arrive at the final
participation and to increase response rate. A total
hypothesis of this study:
of 680 personal messages were sent randomly;
H7. The higher the brand trust on the Web, the
93 of the respondents (13.7 percent) resulted in
higher the brand commitment.
valid surveys. We collected additional data because
Figure 1 shows a structural model of this study. the first sample size was very small. To improve
Factors influencing consumer perceptions Journal of Product & Brand Management
Hong-Youl Ha Volume 13 · Number 5 · 2004 · 329–342

Figure 1 Model of formation of brand trust and commitment on the Web

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response rate, we gave a commission to an Internet non-members were. Therefore, to check for
professional research agency. Accordingly, 105 respondent bias, we took the following steps.
respondents were added. After elimination of 23 We obtained two random samples of 30
out of the original 128 returned questionnaires respondents each, for the two waves of the survey.
because of incomplete information, the final Then we compared the sample of 198 respondents
sample consisted of 198 respondents. There were with the first and second wave sample. These
91 (45.9 percent) men and 107 (54.1 percent) comparisons were made on the basis of
women in the sample. Their ages ranged from 19 demographics and the overall Web experience and
to 47, with a mean of 28.7 years ðSD ¼ 4:7Þ: Given trust scales used in the study. There were two
Anderson and Gerbing’s (1988) recommendation comparisons: the first between the member and
of a minimum sample size of 150 when testing a the initial consumption survey sample (198 vs 30)
structural model via AMOS or LISREL, a sample and the second between the member and later
size of 198 appears to be adequate. consumption survey sample (198 vs 30). Both
comparisons showed that the demographic profiles
of the members were similar (all ps . 0:19) and
Checks for respondent bias that the ratings on the overall Web experience and
A key concern with using a single data is that trust scales were statistically the same
customers who filled out the survey may be (all ps . 0:19). Thus, we can be reasonably
systematically different than the other assured that the data set used in our study is not
respondents. From a theory-testing perspective biased.
this is not a key concern. Although the absolute
level of variables might differ for Web members
and non-members (e.g. more delighted people Results
may be more responsive), there is no reason to
suspect that the hypothesized relationships would Construct measures affecting brand trust under
be different. Nevertheless, we are interested in Internet environments are characterized as
knowing if any potential biases exist in the sample. follows:
For example, Mittal et al. (1999) and Westbrook (1) security (Salisbury et al., 2001);
(1981) find that members were more critical in (2) privacy (Franzak et al., 2001; Nowak and
evaluating their satisfaction with restaurants than Phelps, 1997);
Factors influencing consumer perceptions Journal of Product & Brand Management
Hong-Youl Ha Volume 13 · Number 5 · 2004 · 329–342

(3) brand name (Morrin, 1999; Rio et al., 2001); Table II The result of factor analysis for dimension divisibility
(4) word of mouth (Ha, 2002; Martin, 1996);
Respondents n 5 198
(5) good online experience (Dholakia et al., 2000;
Measurement Itema Mean (SD) Variance explained
van Dolen and Ruyter, 2002; Johnson and
Mathews, 1997); and Exogenous constructs
(6) quality of information (Krishnamurthy, Security
2001). Safety on sanction 4.71 (0.52) 0.15
Guarantee 3.92 (0.55) 0.06
The reliability analysis of these scales yielded Privacy
favorable results. The constructs exhibited a high Personal data 3.92 (0.70) 0.16
degree of reliability in terms of coefficient alpha. Credit card information 4.08 (0.63) 0.05
Chronbach’s alpha of 0.6 is not a valid cut-off Brand name
(Nunnally, 1978). All of the values exceeded the Goodwill 3.72 (0.79) 0.15
recommended value of Cronbach’s alphas 0.6 Reputation 3.84 (0.66) 0.06
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(Malhotra, 1993). Table I presents the result of
Recommendation 3.71 (0.64) 0.15
reliability analysis (Appendix).
Reliance for information
Factor analysis was used to explain groups
provider 3.49 (0.69) 0.06
among ratio scales. We performed a series of Good online experience
separate confirmatory factor analyses on the Community 3.52 (0.89) 0.25
construct measures and related items using an Chat 3.31 (0.76) 0.06
assessment of item path coefficients, residual Game 3.43 (0.75) 0.06
terms, and the overall Cronbach’s alpha values for Event 3.07 (0.97) 0.03
the scales. Table II shows the result of factor Quality of information
analysis for varimax rotation. According to the Benefit 4.12 (0.72) 0.25
“break-in-the-roots” method explained by Interested item 3.36 (0.68) 0.06
Gorsuch (1974), factors that contribute to Attention 3.49 (0.73) 0.02
total-variance of more than 5 percent are included Endogenous construct
in post-analysis. Most items were satisfied by the Brand trust
result. The magnitude of the variance explained by Familiarity 3.85 (0.82) 0.18
all factors is large, averaging 0.15. Keppel (1991) Preference 3.71 (0.71) 0.05
identified effect sizes of 0.15 or greater as large. Note: aThe complete text of measurement item used in the measurement models is
provided in the Appendix
All items satisfied evaluative criteria.
The hypothesized structural model was tested
using AMOS 4.0 (Arbuckle, 1999). In Table III, Table III Correlation coefficients among the factors affecting
we present an overview of the correlation among brand trust. P , 0.01
the main factors: security, privacy, brand name, F2 F3 F4 F5 F6
WOM communication, good online experience,
and quality of information. Table III shows a Security (F 1) 0.18 0.39 0.28 0.47 0.17
strong relationship between the privacy and WOM Privacy (F 2) 0.14 0.82 0.36 0.35
Brand name (F 3) 0.31 0.25 0.37
communication ðr ¼ 0:82Þ: In addition, all of the
WOM (F 4) 0.49 0.52
main factors were found for the positive
Experience (F 5) 0.48
relationships. Information (F 6)
Next, we performed a path analysis relating
each of the dimensions affecting consumer
Table IV A model fit for examining the hypotheses
perceptions of brand trust on the Web. As viewed
in Table IV, the results obtained for this model Structural equation model
showed a good fit.
Chi-Square (x 2) 10.442
Degrees of freedom (df) 6
Table I Result of reliability analysis x 2/d.f. 1.740
Source Alpha CFIa 0.997
NFIa 0.986
Security Salisbury et al. (2) 0.62
IFIa 0.994
Privacy Franzak et al. (2) 0.65
RFIa 0.981
Brand Name Morrin (2) 0.67
TLIa 0.992
Word of Mouth Martin and Ha (3) 0.69
RMSEAb 0.087
Good online experience Dholakia et al. (4) 0.83
Quality of Information Ha (3) 0.82 Notes: aCFI,NFI,IFI,RFI, and TLI close to 1 indicate a good fit.
Brand Trust Delgado and Munuera (2) 0.76 The lower the RMSEA values, the better the model is considered

Factors influencing consumer perceptions Journal of Product & Brand Management
Hong-Youl Ha Volume 13 · Number 5 · 2004 · 329–342

Figure 2 shows the result of structural model for awareness because brand name is one of the factors
the hypotheses of the study. facilitating the development of brand awareness
H1. The lower the security, the higher the brand (Keller, 1998).
trust. H4. The Web sites built by positive WOM are
perceived to have higher levels of brand trust
H1 is supported by the data ( p , 0:001;
t ¼ 11:72). That is, the respondents tend to than marketer-controlled advertising.
associate higher security feelings with a higher level The data show that positive WOM communication
of brand trust. helps the Web consumers cultivate solid brand
H2. If a Web site protects individual’s private trust ( p , 0:001; t ¼ 7:28). This finding means
information, the Web site is perceived to that reliable WOM communication is an
have higher levels of brand trust. increasingly important source for Web users
The hypothesis is supported with p , 0:005 because all tangible products or intangible services
ðt ¼ 4:02Þ: It is obvious therefore that the on the Web sites may be confirmed by consumers.
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customers’ privacy policy of the specific Web sites Thus, H4 is supported as well.
is strongly and positively correlated with perceived H5. Experiences that are enjoyed through
levels of brand trust. specific Web sites are perceived as having
H3. Perceptions of favorable and reputable Web the highest level of brand trust.
site as a brand on the Internet are associated Exciting Web sites apparently provide the best
with higher levels of brand trust. experience through which to stimulate consumers’
Again, the data support the hypothesis interests as far as perceived brand trust is
( p , 0:001; t ¼ 8:83). Specific Web sites enjoy the concerned ( p , 0:001; t ¼ 7:08). Consumers who
highest level of brand trust. Specific Web sites are experienced delight in specific Web sites might
recognized more by consumers’ strong brand expect more such experiences, which might affect
awareness than by consumers’ lower brand brand trust of consumers. Thus, delightful

Figure 2 The result of affecting factors for brand trust and commitment on the Web

Factors influencing consumer perceptions Journal of Product & Brand Management
Hong-Youl Ha Volume 13 · Number 5 · 2004 · 329–342

experiences on the Web sites are found to have the and WOM. To build strong brands on the Web,
least credibility in terms of brand trust. therefore, the findings suggest that e-marketers
H6. The perceived level of brand trust increases must carry out effective offline advertising, as well
with the quality of information offered by as online alliance advertisements. To increase
the Web sites. brand awareness, for instance, and have increased their overall marketing
The results show that brand trust on the Web
budgets significantly and have shifted a majority of
bookstores is significantly affected by the quality of
the media mix to traditional offline media such as
information offered by the Web sites ( p , 0:001;
TV, radio, and outdoor advertising. More
t ¼ 8:94). In particular, the results also have found
that providing information associated directly with specifically, in terms of the main effect of
“the customer’s life” is closely related to build up familiarity, Kent and Allen (1994) suggest that
of brand trust. well-known brands have important advantages in
H7. The higher the brand trust on the Web, the marketplace advertising, because consumers
appear to better remember new product
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higher the brand commitment.

information for familiar brands. Another example
H7 is supported by the data (p , 0:001; t ¼ 9:85). is Web advertising through strategic alliance with a
High level of brand commitment means that number of partner sites. Although it pays a
dot-com companies are maintaining ongoing commission according to purchase, building brand
relationships with their customers for the purpose is an effective way, and it can acquire many new
of achieving brand trust and loyalty. customer through alliance sites (Hoffman and
Novak, 2000).
The fourth factor investigated was WOM
communication. Impact of WOM communication
Discussions and marketing implications exerts a strong effect on brand trust to customers
The purpose of this study was to examine through on e-commerce. As it spreads much more quickly
empirical research what factors are affecting on the Web than in the offline world, negative
consumer perceptions on brand trust on the Web. WOM communication generates e-complaining
As a pioneer study of its kind, this research has (Harrison-Walker, 2001) and damages brand trust
found that perceived brand trust is affected by a in each customer, thus marketing practitioners
number of Web site-related attributes. have a more difficult time managing
With respect to security[3] and privacy, we communications and damage control. Moreover,
suggest that traditional offline stores as well as their Web community is a good place for
online Web stores must address the issues of practitioners to spread positive cyberbuzz like
security and privacy. For example, the online wildfire, building strong brand (McWilliam,
audience expects Web sites to protect personal 2000), and increasing solid relationships with their
data, provide for secure payment, and maintain the customers. Therefore, we suggest that marketing
privacy of online communication (Franzak et al., practitioners monitor, manage, and build up
2001). Therefore, along with a secure connection potentially thousands of linked sites, as well as
for transmitting credit card information, users their own sites. For example, fosters
want a highly visible privacy policy that tells them the impression that the site is host to a thriving
precisely how the company will use their data. community of “real people” willing to share their
Because of the potential for abuse, as frequently opinions with others.
reported by the news media, consumers are on For good online experience, the data show that
high alert. To increase brand trust, first of all, impressive experience on the specific Web sites
marketers must guarantee the security of their significantly affects brand trust. In particular, the
Web sites and each individual’s privacy at the same community, one of four items, is a keystone of
time. In addition, The Industry Standard (1999) brand trust (Muniz and O’guinn, 2001;
reported that TRUSTe and BBB Online, called McWilliam, 2000). As consumer-goods
“Trusted Third Parties”[4] (TTPs), are the top companies create online communities on the Web
“security brands” that increase brand trust in for their brand and trust, they are building strong
Internet commerce transactions among those relationships with their customers and enabling
familiar with the brands. consumers to enjoy all of their contents. In the
It was found that the brand name of a Web store virtual environment, consumers are able to
is strongly and positively correlated with perceived experience psychological states because the
levels of brand trust. That is, most customers are medium creates a sense of presence that results in
aware that favorable brand provides comfort, augmented learning, altered behaviors, and a
familiarity, and trust for them offline or online. perceived sense of control (Hoffman and Novak,
The starting point of building e-trust is advertising 1996). Thus, we suggest that marketers conduct
Factors influencing consumer perceptions Journal of Product & Brand Management
Hong-Youl Ha Volume 13 · Number 5 · 2004 · 329–342

ongoing updates of their contents and manage For example,’s Web site provides the
their communities so that consumers are able to means for gardeners to talk with experts or with
enjoy experiences from those communities. Recent one another. This experience increase customer
research supports our suggestion that consumers’ satisfaction by enabling customers to make wiser
chat in a new e-service encounter affect perceived product choices, and their satisfaction, in turn,
enjoyment and customer satisfaction (van Dolen fosters loyalty to the brand.
and Ruyter, 2002). It is reasonable to assume that Finally, the major contribution of our study was
such a engaging, interactive Web site will likely to extend Urban and colleagues’ study (2000).
enhance the possibility of “flow”, which has been They point out that Web trust is built in a three-
described as an enjoyable state of mind that results stage cumulative process that establishes
from a seamless online experience (Janda et al., (1) trust in the Internet and the specific Web site;
2002; Novak et al., 2000). Thus impressed and (2) trust in the information displayed; and
experienced consumers may help companies (3) trust in delivery fulfillment and service.
generate positive WOM, brand trust, and
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They review current trust-building practices used

ultimately, brand loyalty. on the Web and propose the use of new, software-
In some studies, the finding is that increasing enabled advisors that engender trust by engaging
the resources allocated to message processing customers in a dialogue to discern their needs and
enhances the influence of the vivid information in provide unbiased recommendations on a range of
relation to nonvivid information (Keller and possible solutions. They tested their hypothesis by
Block, 1997; McGill and Anand, 1989). In other creating Truck Town, a Web site featuring
words, a vivid appeal is more persuasive than a software-enabled advisors that mimic the behavior
nonvivid message regardless of the level of resource of unbiased human experts. The advisors consult
allocation (Shedler and Manis, 1986). On the with customers on purchasing decisions, providing
Web, today’s users are seeking optimal information honest comparisons of competing products. More
related to them (Krishnamurthy, 2001): namely, than 75 percent of Truck Town’s visitors said that
“customization”. To provide customized they trusted these virtual advisors more than the
information, first of all, marketing practitioners dealer from whom they last purchased a vehicle.
must increase the ability of Web sites to adapt to According to the authors, Truck Town shows that
the personal interests and purchasing behavior of virtual advisors can be a cost-effective component
their customers. For example, offers in any Internet trust-building program. However,
customized information to each customer through not all e-trust building programs guarantee success
his or her own Web page and recommendations in building brand trust or e-trust. In addition to the
based on the customer’s interests and buying mechanism depending on a program, building
pattern. Therefore, our results suggest that e-brand trust requires a systematic relationship
marketing managers give a better information, not between a consumer and a particular Web brand.
more information, increasing customer values and Our findings showed that e-brand trust did not
building brand loyalty. We are also convinced that build one or two components but were established
a customer-oriented relationship of customization by the interrelationships of complex components.
will acquire new customers through WOM Literature on brand trust has focused primarily
communication, retain existing customers, pay-off on brand as cognitive beings, rather than the
bottom-line, and build customer loyalty. factors of consumer’s behavior and experience on
This study also shows that brand commitment is offline. In particular, brand trust on the Web is a
significantly affected by brand trust. In the critical component in the present-day consumer/
marketing context, consumers with higher levels of provider relationship and most likely will remain so
brand commitment are ultimately more positively long into the future.
influenced by a variety of factors affecting brand
trust than by fragmentary factors. According to
Dwyer et al. (1987), brand commitment is an
essential ingredient for successful long-term Limitations and future research
relationships. Thus, our findings suggest that
marketing managers must identify both repeat Although our study provides some insight into the
customers and first-time customers and turn way in which factors affecting consumer
existing customers into loyalty customers through perceptions on brand trust interact to influence
long-term relationships based on brand brand trust outcomes, it has certain limitations.
commitment. Managers must enhance customer First, the research focused on the customers of just
development and devise ways to foster loyalty one particular Web industry: bookstores. The
throughout the customer’s history with their findings need to be confirmed by other Web
company. The results also benefit the company. organizations. Second, the number of respondents
Factors influencing consumer perceptions Journal of Product & Brand Management
Hong-Youl Ha Volume 13 · Number 5 · 2004 · 329–342

is not high. A larger sample would have Ambler, T. (1997), “How much of brand equity is explained by
strengthened the results obtained. Finally, trust?”, Management Decision, Vol. 35 No. 4, pp. 283-92.
changing any of these study design factors may Anderson, J.C. and Gerbing, D.W. (1988), “Structural equation
materially affect the empirical results. We note in modeling in practice: a review and recommend two-step
approach”, Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 103, pp. 411-23.
particular that relative performance of consumers’
Arbuckle, J. (1999), AMOS 4.0 User’s Guide, Small Waters
brand trust has been observed to vary over time. Corporation, Chicago, IL.
Future studies should identify and analyze other Balabanis, G. and Vassileiou, S. (1999), “Some attitudinal
antecedent factors affecting brand trust such as predictors of home-shopping through the Internet”,
brand relationship or shared values with the brand Journal of Marketing management, Vol. 15, pp. 361-85.
image. Specifically, brand relationship on the Web Blackston, M. (1995), “The qualitative dimension of brand
could play an important role in a model of brand equity”, Journal of Advertising Research, Vol. 35, pp. RC-
trust because it can signal trust towards the brand 2-7.
among prospects and customers who are risk Bogart, L. and Lehman, C. (1973), “What makes a brand name
familiar?”, Journal of Marketing Research, Vol. 1,
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Internet is generating new technologies, a number Bone, P.F. (1995), “Word-of-mouth effects on short-term and
of users are likely to modify their interests and long-term product judgment”, Journal of Business
behaviors, and then researchers must consider the Research, Vol. 32, pp. 213-23.
changing of consumers’ brand trust over time. Buchanan, R.W.T. and Gillies, C.S. (1990), “Value managed
relationships: the key to customer retention and
profitability”, European Management Journal, Vol. 8,
Notes pp. 523-6.
Chaudhuri, A. and Holbrook, M.B. (2001), “The chain of effects
1 We understand that a construct of familiarity is often from brand trust and brand affect to brand performance:
confused. In this study, the construct involves some factors the role of brand loyalty”, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 65,
such as brand, WOM, and customer experience because it pp. 81-93.
is directly affected and formed by the factors. Cheskin Research and Studio Archetype / Sapient (1999), “The
2 An impressive experience on the Web site directly or eCommerce trust study”, January, pp. 1-33.
indirectly affects brand loyalty (Smith and Wheeler, 2002) Chow, S. and Holden, R. (1997), “Toward an understanding of
In marketing literature, brand trust is an antecedent of loyalty: the moderating role of trust”, Journal of
brand loyalty. Accordingly, we can assume that positive Management Issues, Vol. 9, pp. 275-98.
consumer’s Web experience may also influence brand Delgodo-Ballester, E. and Munuera-Alemán, J.L. (2001), “Brand
trust. For example, shoppers may rotate 3D product, trust in the context of consumer loyalty”, European
zoom-in and out for inspection, animate features and Journal of Marketing, Vol. 35, pp. 1238-58.
functions of the product, and even change the color or Dholakia, R.R., Zhao, M., Dholakia, N. and Fortin, D.R. (2000),
contextualization with other products in a different setting “Interactivity and revisits to Web sites: a theoretical
(Kania, 2001; Li et al., 2002). In the context of product framework”, RITIM working paper, available at: www.
design, for example, the 3D model can be adapted to
resemble a customer’s body shape and then dressed with van Dolen, W.M. and Ruyter, K.D. (2002), “Moderated group
clothing of interest to that customer (e.g. Good chat: an empirical assessment of a new e-service
experience is closely related to delighting customer and in encounter”, International Journal of Service Industry
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and Samler, 1994). Dolinsky, A.L. (1994), “A consumer complaint framework with
3 Research by Taylor Nelson Sofres, the market tracking
resulting strategies”, Journal of Services Marketing, Vol. 8,
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pp. 27-39.
choose not to shop online because they do not want to
Doney, M.P. and Cannon, J.P. (1997), “An examination of the
disclose their credit card details (The Times, August 10,
nature of trust in buyer-seller relationships”, Journal of
2002, p. 44).
4 Trusted Third Parties (TTPs) are one set of organizations Marketing, Vol. 61, pp. 35-51.
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logo on a firm’s Web site if that firm has demonstrated Build a Customer-Driven Organization, Chapman and Hall,
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Duncan, T. and Moriarty, S.E. (1998), “A communication-based
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Factors influencing consumer perceptions Journal of Product & Brand Management
Hong-Youl Ha Volume 13 · Number 5 · 2004 · 329–342

Appendix of many business, the consideration of the way in

which brands behave in a virtual or online setting
becomes more and more important. Marketers
Table AI Scale Items have two questions uppermost in their minds – do
Construct Measurement Item
online brands “behave” in the same way as brands
in the real world? And do the techniques and
Exogenous constructs methods for the development of brands in
Security The bookstore guarantees the safety traditional settings transfer directly to online
of credit card information activity?
The bookstore has a fire return policy For the current generation of marketers, the
Privacy Specially, I dislike exposure of my Internet and all its works remain a modern marvel,
data on the Web a thing of wonderment. The next generation will
The privacy of my credit card not see the Web this way – they will have grown up
information is very important on with it thereby seeing it as simply something to be
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the Web used. The development of online marketing is, at

Brand name The bookstore brand gives good
present, experimental. We try things out – some
value and service
work, some do not. And we wonder why this is.
The bookstore has a good reputation
Ha presents a broad and empirically-based assess
WOM I receive recommendation to buy
of this “why”.
books in the store through friends
or colleagues
The importance of brand trust
It is a bookstore that is trustworthy
I often speak my e-community
We are now familiar with many of the factors that
experiences to my friends influence brand performance (although I must
Good experience I often like to participate in admit to moments of confusion between “loyalty”,
community of the bookstore “trust”, “commitment” and “familiarity”) and
Chatting in the site is more recognise that they contribute to the “equity”
interesting than in other sites residing in our brand. And we know that this brand
The site supplies various games for equity represents a significant asset to be
customers protected, preserved and extended.
I expect special events in the site From the consumer’s perspective, the extent to
Quality of Information Information that is offered in this which a brand is “trusted” is very significant since
bookstore provides many benefits this allows us to make purchase-decisions more
for me easily. And marketers understand that the
I am interested in specific item development of trust derives from the
of providing information manipulation of a range of antecedent factors –
Information that is supplied in this awareness, prior experience, image, familiarity and
site often fascinates me so on. And, in the absence of indications to the
Endogenous constructs contrary, we assume that online brands have the
Brand trust I feel very comfortable whenever I same characteristics – after all it is consumers who
visit the site
respond to the brand and the Web does not change
The selection of purchases at this
the way in which their minds work!
bookstore is consistently high
Ha focuses on “trust” and assesses a series of
Brand Commitment I am a loyal patron of this bookstore
factors influencing the development of trust in an
Note: All are five-point scales ranging from 1 (“strongly disagree”) to 5 (“strongly online brand. What becomes clear from this work
is that while the essence of the brand remains
unchanged in the transition to the Web, the means
Executive summary of influencing the level of brand trust vary.
The nature of the Internet changes the flow of
This executive summary has been provided to allow information between the individual consumer, the
managers and executives a rapid appreciation of the brand owner and the market in general. Styles of
content of this article. Those with a particular interest communication acceptable off-line lose their
in the topic covered may then read the article in toto to appeal in the virtual world – consumers can
take advantage of the more comprehensive description complain more easily and, in the fevered online
of the research undertaken and its results to get the full world, can send the essence of the complaint to
benefit of the material present. thousands. Trading online exposes us to the raw
power of the consumer in a way we have not
Getting consumers to trust your online brand experienced in our traditional marketing channels.
As Web-based activity, e-commerce and online Consumer trust in our brand can be destroyed in a
retailing begin to dominate the forward strategies breath.
Factors influencing consumer perceptions Journal of Product & Brand Management
Hong-Youl Ha Volume 13 · Number 5 · 2004 · 329–342

Security and privacy – the twin demons of e-commerce off-line vastly exceeds the time online. The images
Almost every study of the Internet reveals very and messages absorbed in the real world have a
high levels of concern about security and privacy. more significant effect on attitudes towards brands
Reports on the latest virus sweeping through home than those gleaned or received online. Just because
computers or hackers that steal codes and credit you are a Web-based brand does not mean you
card details serve to undermine our confidence in should advertise in traditional media.
the Internet despite our recognition that the Web is It becomes more and more evident that, as the
an enormous boon to modern living. use of the Internet expands, it becomes a means of
While safety and security have always been accessing services as well as a source of
important, they take on a wider significance information. The successful development of these
online. Marketers have to recognise that when they online service brands requires us to develop a
are collecting personal data from consumers it is promotional mix that, while different from that we
essential to ensure that these data are as secure as might employ for a tradition distribution channel,
possible. In this context we should think carefully still uses the full range of media and advertising.
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about the balance between collecting the Finally, just as the development of mass
minimum of information needed to complete the customization off-line represents an important
transaction and the benefits derived from challenge to marketers and brand managers, the
collecting more so as to aid market understanding expectations of personalization and customization
and future sales. online are also growing. And, consumers
Alongside security concerns sit worries about understand that customizing the service online is
privacy. Again stories abound about the abuse of far more easily achieved. Importantly, the
privacy by online businesses. We worry about provision of personal space within a Web site
cookies and other Web-based tracking tools and, in allows for the impression of greater privacy and
many cases, we have little confidence in the security as well as presenting the concept of
commitment of Web businesses to respect our personal and individual service.
privacy. Ha’s research helps us to understand the ways in
Just as in real world direct marketing, businesses which we can begin to develop online brands and
need to understand these concerns and to take to take advantage of the online environment to
appropriate actions. The alternative will be more expand the brand equity of established off-line
draconian privacy regulations and laws that will brands. Importantly, Ha also confirms that the
restrain our ability to trade – online and off-line. essence of brand equity and the principles of brand
management remain unchanged online – it is the
Do not ignore the real world
antecedents of “trust” that change rather than the
There is a temptation when thinking about online
significance of trust to the consumer.
trading to forget that, at some stage, there is an
interface with the real world. Consumers do not (A précis of the article “Factors influencing consumer
spend all their time online, they work, play, watch perceptions of brand trust online”. Supplied by
TV and read magazines. For most people the time Marketing Consultants for Emerald.)

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