Customer Trust and Power of Virtual Communities


Organizations care for their customers and look forward to build a good relationship and win their trust. Businesses that succeed to win this challenge keep the existing customers for life, and these customers will in turn influence others.  This is the rule whether in real or virtual businesses.

Today, virtual communities especially on social media networks play a big role in shaping customer trust and spread the word about any business. So, online businesses that worry about their reputation and invest in building trust take the power of virtual communities in consideration, mainly on social media.

A recently published study has dealt with this issue and how the virtual communities influence trust of online shoppers.  The study is led by researchers from Faculty of Economics and Management of Tunis, Tunisia and published in Journal of Internet Social Networking & Virtual Communities.

Because of their impact on purchase decisions and customer trust, virtual communities have risen to become one of the marketing tools used by companies to spread the word of mouth about their products and services.

The above-mentioned study stated that “sellers can use the power of virtual communities to gain consumer trust.” In order to reach this objective and generate results “online retailers should improve the perceived utility of the virtual community; the administrators of a virtual community or commonly known as “community managers” should maximize the wealth of information in the virtual community based on consumer needs and characteristics of the products and services of e-tailers” as expressed in the study.

According to the same research, “virtual communities offer several advantages to e-tailers and opportunities for the interaction with members of virtual communities consumers in this regard…using high technology security, convenience and sociability, a virtual community can meet the requirements of consumers and may increase their trust.”

Researchers stated that “trust is more difficult to build and more critical for online businesses. Consumers are much more cautious about the transmission of personal information on an electronic network. Online transactions are more impersonal, anonymous and automated than offline transactions. This automation of business relationships is also accompanied by advanced design means hacking, data and potential for abuse.”

This impact of virtual communities especially in social media is also highlighted by another study that insisted on social presence as a factor that affect customer’s trust. Researchers explained that “trust in a virtual environment is characterized by uncertainty, vulnerability and dependence.”

Winning trust of online shoppers is hard due to lack of human contact like in physical business. So, social media can replace this contact to spread the word among communities and keep in touch with customers and interact with their questions and needs.

No matter what marketing and advertising efforts organizations can invest, but nothing would succeed if they don’t win customers trust. More and more, purchase decisions are based on feedback spread between communities rather than advertisement.

Businesses, physical or virtual, who aim at generating good results, can no longer ignore customer trust. The latter could be reached through multiple factors, mainly being so close to customers and listen to what they need.

Yet, winning customer’s trust can’t be built on low quality products or services. So, while trying to win customers trust, make sure that your offers are worth it.


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