The mediating effect of trust on consumer behaviour in social media marketing environments

5th January 2023

Authors: Mr Aloka Karunasingha (Cardiff School of Management, Cardiff Metropolitan University, Cardiff, UK) & Professor Nalin Abeysekera (Department of Marketing, Open University of Sri Lanka, Nawala, Sri Lanka)

Nalin Abeysekera photoAloka Karunasingha photo

The environment we are living in is demanding. People are always looking for short-term satisfaction over true 'happiness'.

A fairer society implies equal opportunities for all regardless of ethnicity, gender or country of origin. In this context, trust is key.

Considering trust at an individual level (to trust each other) and at a society/group level, i.e., 'social trust', how do social media marketing strategies use this concept of trust to influence consumers' online behaviour?

How does trust impact online purchasing?

Online shopping is a convenient way to make purchases without being physically present. It is also less expensive and time-saving. People can check prices and discounts, and shop from the comfort of their own computer or tablet at any time. Online retailers can benefit from a better understanding of online consumer behaviour in their efforts to market and sell items online. While there are numerous advantages to purchasing goods online, customers cannot physically try and test products prior to purchasing. Thus, the content of product information in online stores has a significant impact on consumer behaviour.

In the current context, discounted or advantageous prices for products may not be enough to attract customers. Online consumer behaviour is heavily influenced by trust and other related factors. More importantly, trust is far more valuable in an e-commerce setting than it is in a physical store. Gaining trust in social media marketing is more difficult for marketers due to the lack of a direct physical presence. The majority of issues that customers face in online purchasing are related to the trust factor (e.g. defective products, unmet expectations, etc.)

Social motivation, trust, and online purchase intentions 

Peer influence can be found in a variety of spending scenarios. Indeed, peer reviews help create a trusted environment for potential buyers who are then more likely to trust retailers on social media.

This is particularly true in the fashion industry where social motivation or peer influence has a beneficial impact on consumers’ online purchasing intentions.

Practical implications for the fashion industry

Stakeholders in the fashion industry may need to consider how to incorporate 'trust' in social media marketing to attract and retain customers. Harnessing the power of social media is key to achieving this goal.

With the rise of social media and technological improvements, people are connected at any time of the day and wherever they are in the world. We thus recommend fashion retailers, when using social media, to cater to specific consumers' motivations and values in order to earn their trust, and in turn, enhance the consumers' purchasing intention.

They should make judicious hiring decisions with a focus on social media skilled workforce, and devise strategies to enable personable interaction to boost their brand's trustworthiness.


Karunasingha, A. and Abeysekera, N. (2022), "The mediating effect of trust on consumer behavior in social media marketing environments", South Asian Journal of Marketing, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.

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