Unlocking Online Reputation

On the Effectiveness of Cross-Platform Signaling in the Sharing Economy

Abstract

With the ever-growing popularity of sharing economy platforms, complementors increasingly face the challenge to manage their reputation on different platforms. The paper reports the results from an experimental online survey to investigate how and under which conditions online reputation is effective to engender trust across platform boundaries. It shows that (1) cross-platform signaling is in fact a viable strategy to engender trust and that (2) its effectiveness crucially depends on source–target fit. Implications for three stakeholders are discussed. First, platform complementors may benefit from importing reputation, especially when they have just started on a new platform and have not earned on-site reputation yet. The results also show, however, that importing reputation (even if it is excellent) may be detrimental if there occurs a mismatch between source and target and that, hence, fit is of utmost importance. Second, regulatory authorities may consider reputation portability as a means to make platform boundaries more permeable and hence to tackle lock-in effects. Third, platform operators may employ cross-platform signaling as a competitive lever.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    In this regard, quality control mechanisms such as Uber’s policy to expel drivers with a rating below 4.6 stars or Airbnb’s background checks on new hosts provide a rationale for the effectiveness of trust transfer (Airbnb 2017; BusinessInsider 2015).

  2. 2.

    See Zippo’s attempt to market a women’s perfume (Austin 2013); Who would not want to smell like lighter fluid?!

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Correspondence to Timm Teubner.

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Accepted after two revisions by Dennis Kundisch.

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Teubner, T., Adam, M.T.P. & Hawlitschek, F. Unlocking Online Reputation. Bus Inf Syst Eng 62, 501–513 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12599-019-00620-4

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Keywords

  • Data portability
  • Digital platforms
  • Reputation
  • Sharing economy
  • Signaling theory
  • Trust