Digital tools, including AI, are changing consumer trust and purchasing decisions, research says.

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Colleen Harmling, a researcher at the Florida State University College of Business, cited photo filters, overly edited images and other distortions of user-generated content as barriers to consumer trust. In turn, they are potential barriers to the performance of products that consumers offer and discuss online.

Harmling, FSU’s Dr. Perseus E. Rockwood Associate Professor of Marketing and co-director of the Major in Marketing doctoral program, argues that consumers who use blog posts, online reviews, testimonials and Others rely on user-generated content. There is a need for digital platforms that minimize the risk of missing or misrepresented content.

“The availability of certain features, including photo filters or the ability to delete content after it’s posted, dramatically affects whether user-generated content leads to brand performance or firm performance,” Harmling said. affects.” “These features do not even need to be used to affect the performance of the product. The mere presence of such features in the digital space influences consumers’ trust in that content for their purchase decision.”

Harmling’s study with Rachel Hochstein, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Missouri Kansas City, and Taylor Perko, who served as an FSU research assistant while earning an MBA from the College of Business, appears in Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science.

The authors claim that their findings reinforce the notion that digital platforms “serve as guardians of trust in modern society.”

Harmling credits much of the study to Hochstein, who studied under him as a marketing doctoral student at FSU before landing her faculty post. Hochstein compiled a database of nearly 20 years of digital platform innovation, recording the timing of changes in user features such as photo filters across online platforms including Facebook, Amazon and Twitter, now called X. known as A study on the impact of consumer generated content on company performance.

Harmling called it “a very important study” that “I think has profound implications for how and what we as consumers trust, for how marketers engage with their consumers.” live and how to increase the credibility of the information being disseminated about the brand.”

“We are very proud of Colleen, Rachel, and Taylor’s work to develop strategies that build trust and address consumer concerns in a setting that’s truly engaging,” said Michael Brady, director of the Dr. Perseus E. Rockwood School of Marketing. away where it is most needed.” Bob Sasser Professor of Marketing in the FSU College of Business. “Their studies exemplify the cutting-edge research of our world-renowned faculty, who ask important questions and find achievable solutions for the benefit of students, consumers and industry.”

The results of the study showed how these characteristics influenced trust, distrust and purchase decisions.

“We found that trust can be violated if people believe their digitally rendered content doesn’t actually appear—that’s where photo filters come in,” Harmling said. — or if their observable instance is missing data.” “If we suspect missing data, we start asking questions about whether a consumer’s online experience with a product is reflective of the population.”

More information:
Rachel E. Hochstein et al., Toward a Theory of Consumer Digital Trust: Meta-Analytic Evidence of Its Role in the Effectiveness of User-Generated Content, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science (2023). DOI: 10.1007/s11747-023-00982-y

Journal Information:
Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science

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