Farhod P. Karimov
Leo Van Hove
This paper aims to provide an integrative review of the experiment-based literature on the antecedents of initial trust in a business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce setting. To that end, we present a framework that classifies trust-inducing website features according to three broad dimensions, namely visual design, social cue design and content design, because comparing studies with different empirical set-ups requires conceptual clarity. To synthesize the literature we use an advanced vote-count procedure combined with a sign test. We find that the literature provides sound empirical support for our general hypothesis that web design cues effectively enhance consumers’ initial trust towards unfamiliar online vendors. E-tailers should thus consider embedding human-like cues (i.e., facial photos, video streams) into their interfaces, as well as integrating assistive web applications (i.e., avatars, recommendation agents). Interestingly, we also find that internally provided e-assurance structures (such as privacy/security policies and vendor-specific guarantees) can be as effective as paid e-assurance mechanisms (such as third-party trust endorsements). Our overview also reveals that the effectiveness of certain trust-signalling features within the visual and social cue design dimensions is still under-researched. The support for the positive effect of such website atmospheric cues is therefore still weak.