Social distance and consumer trust

Last registered on May 06, 2022

Pre-Trial

Trial Information

General Information

Title
Social distance and consumer trust
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0008692
Initial registration date
January 18, 2022

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
January 19, 2022, 4:53 PM EST

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.

Last updated
May 06, 2022, 4:17 AM EDT

Last updated is the most recent time when changes to the trial's registration were published.

Locations

Region

Primary Investigator

Affiliation
NYU Shanghai

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
NYU Shanghai

Additional Trial Information

Status
Completed
Start date
2022-01-26
End date
2022-03-28
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
Abstract
The present research aims to explore the role social distance plays in facilitating trust among customers of a major online retailer. In the context of online shopping, potential customers can not physically inspect the products they want to buy and they largely rely on the product reviews left by previous buyers for the first-hand insights on the product quality, suitability and decide whether the products are worth buying etc. However, product reviews, regardless how positive they are, will need to be trustworthy in the eyes of the potential buyers to have any effect given that 'fictitious product reviews' are now a wide-spread phenomenon in the competitive e-commerce business. In this setting, we explore whether a key social distance-reducing measure, that is showing the product reviewers' face photo, would enhance the trust between the potential buyer and the past buyer such that the positive reviews left by the past buyer would be more trustworthy and subsequently lead to more sales. The key research question is that, given the first 20 product reviews in the review section of a particular product are positive, would showing the review writers' face image enhance the trustworthiness of the positive reviews and encourage more potential customers to click the 'buy' button after being exposed to the reviews?
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Citation
Huang, Lidingrong and Ye Jin. 2022. "Social distance and consumer trust." AEA RCT Registry. May 06. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.8692
Experimental Details

Interventions

Intervention(s)
Our industry partner is a listed e-commerce firm in China and they have two categories of reviews. Category (1) when the product review submitter's face photo is present (as an icon on the left); and Category (2) when the review submitter's face is absent and only a default profile photo (i.e. the firm's animal mascot) is shown.

For a given experimental product, we will create two digital versions of its product detail page on the platform:

1. The control version in which the first 20 reviews the potential buyers see are a) positive but b) the original posters' faces are not shown.
2. The treated version in which the same set of positive reviews is used and the posters' faces are also revealed.

Note that potentially customers who enter the product page will only see one of the two versions listed above. For example, one potential customer may see the first version once on the product page, and the other only sees the second version. Randomisation is done on the individual level using the unique customer IDs. This procedure will randomly create two group of customers with only one of the groups being treated with the social-distance reducing measure.
Intervention Start Date
2022-01-26
Intervention End Date
2022-03-28

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
The subjects' decision to purchase the experimental product(s).
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Given a particular subject with an unique customer ID, the binary outcome variable will take the value 1 if she ends up buying the experimental product, and 0 otherwise (regardless of product quantity, here we place our emphasis only on the extensive margin).

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
1. The exact amount of the experimental product each subject orders.
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
A potential buyer could order multiple items of the same experimental product.

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
For a given experimental product, we will create two digital versions of its product page on the online retail platform:

1. The control version in which the first 20 reviews the potential buyers see are a) positive but b) the original posters' faces are not shown.
2. The treated version in which the same set of positive reviews is used and the posters' faces are also revealed.

Note that potentially customers who enter the product page will only see one of the two versions listed above. For example, one potential customer may see the first version once on the product page, and the other only sees the second version. Randomisation is done on the individual level using the unique customer IDs. This procedure will randomly create two group of customers with only one of the groups being treated with the social-distance reducing measure.

We will ensure that our sample does not contain the same subject multiple times (the same subject might place an order on the experimental product on multiple occasions during the same experimental period).

a) The experimental product should be available for sale during the entirety of the experimental period.
b) For sufficient generalisability, the experiment product should be appealing to a wide range of customers.

The baseline variables are: i) the subjects' total spending on the platform, ii) the subjects' previous seven-day spending prior to entering the randomisation process, iii) the subjects' total number of negative reviews posted on the products sold by the firm, iv) the number of different products bought by the subjects during the 14-day period prior to entering the randomisation process. Note that the randomisation process occurs when the potential buyer enters the experimental product's product page.

Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
A randomisation mechanism/algorithm will be developed to randomly channels potential buyers (upon clicking the experimental product) into two different versions of the product detail page. (Ex-post) Balance checks will be performed to ensure that our randomisation process is adequately done.
Randomization Unit
Individual customer level
Was the treatment clustered?
No

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
Randomisation occurs only at the individual level (i.e., not clustered).
Sample size: planned number of observations
2000s customers (the exact figure depends on the number of unique customers during the days of intervention).
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Control group: 1000s customers.
Treated group: 1000s customers.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
Supporting Documents and Materials

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IRB

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Analysis Plan

Analysis Plan Documents

Testing the effect of showing personalised profile photos alone

MD5: f650786b5f717b4bd155c52153997fb0

SHA1: 60fb105b5aed392dbfbb27d8a9bc828284a88af7

Uploaded At: May 06, 2022

Post-Trial

Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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Intervention

Is the intervention completed?
No
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?
No

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials