As the aim of this research is to develop a reliable as well as valid measure for the construct of eWOM trust, this section was striving for a literature-based definition and conceptualization of the construct. This thesis defines eWOM trust as a relatively stable trait-like attitudinal concept anchored in the consumer’s personality that predisposes individuals to rely on online customer reviews and recommendations which mirror prior consumption experiences, opinions, as well as claims of fellow shoppers. The proposed definition mirrors the notion of trust as a complex, higher-order construct with multiple underlying dimensions (see Figure 2). Here, it is assumed that the construct is associated with three conceptually distinct types of trust, namely (i) trusting beliefs, (ii) trusting attitudes, and (iii) trusting intentions. A typology of trust provides the theoretical basis that these trust types can be distinguished in cognitive, emotional, and behavioural elements of trust. The conceptualization of eWOM trust distinguishes five dimensions of trust (i.e., ability, integrity/honesty, benevolence, likeability, and willingness to rely on). It is assumed that the relative importance of these components depends on the kind of social relationship resulting in a dominance of cognitive components. The economic goal of making the right product decision is likely to be the dominant motive in using OCR, while hedonistic motives play a casual role. Finally, this thesis proposes that eWOM trust is conceptually different from similar constructs, such as review credibility and attitude. In the remaining part of this section, the research questions and the hypotheses guiding the scale development process are presented.
Figure 2: Preliminary Conceptualization of Generalized eWOM Trust