Survey Findings: Transactional Trust in Social Commerce

I wrote last week about the initial findings of the survey on transactional trust in social commerce (eBay and other online auctions; craigslist and other classifieds; social networking, et al.) that I did for Rapleaf. Today we’re releasing the full findings:

Transactional Trust in Social Commerce
(PDF, 13 pages, 113K – Right-click and Save Link As or Save Target As to download)

The major conclusions from the study:

Transactional trust appears to be much more important to buyers than to sellers in a social commerce setting. The top four issues for buyers to determine trust all ranked higher in importance than the number one issue for sellers. The average of the top five issues was 18% more important to buyers than sellers. Sellers are also significantly less likely to research buyers prior to completing the transaction. And only 37% of sellers have ever decided not to do business with someone due to a lack of trust, versus 71% of buyers.

This seems to have a good basis in fact. Only 43% of sellers reported ever having any actual trouble with buyers, while 61% of buyers reported experiencing an actual problem with the seller.

The ways in which buyers and sellers determine trust is very similar, though. Ranking the nine factors considered for both buyers and sellers, not one single factor varied by more than two ranks between buyers and sellers (note: buyer rank excludes the two items not relevant to sellers):

Factors in determining trust
compared between buyers and sellers
Factor Buyer rank Seller rank
Posted ratings of the buyer 1 2
Reputation of the site or publication 2 3
Payment method you are using 3 1
Endorsements/testimonials 4 6
Intuition/gut-level reaction/prayer 5 4
E-mail or phone call with the buyer 6 5
Outside research of the buyer 7 8
Prior knowledge of the buyer 8 7
Personal appearance of the buyer 9 9

Payment – how the money is handled – is the highest priority for sellers. Recommended ways of improving payment trust included the use of PayPal, credit card or other secure payment method. For larger transactions in particular, many people wanted easier-to-use, more affordable escrow systems.

For buyers, relevant history – a track record, a reputation – is most important. Three of the top four issues for buyers are related to this (two related to the individual seller and one to the agent site handling the advertisement or transaction).

In the free-form responses as to what could best be done to improve transactional trust in social commerce, everything is centered on having a persistent, verifiable identity and history. While anonymity may feel safer for buyers and some sellers, it’s not conducive to building trust. Ideally, buyers and sellers both want to see:
– Verified identity
– Valid contact information – street address, phone, web site and e-mail
– Online social presence
– Feedback from others you’re done business with
– Ratings as a simple way to aggregate that feedback

If you’re not prepared to provide all that, you may not be prepared for social commerce in the coming years.