Trust on Peer-to-Peer Platforms in the Sharing Economy: A Case Study of Airbnb

Malene Stripp & Klara Brigitte Rosa Steinert

Student thesis: Master thesis


Peer-to-peer platforms in the sharing economy have become a growing and popular phenomenon that increasingly creates attention among society, economy, and academia. These platforms enable individuals to engage in sharing activities with other peers, and require online interaction, as well as face-to-face encounters with strangers. This creates an uncertain and risky environment and demonstrates why trust has become an increasingly vital component on peerto-peer platforms. This thesis uses Airbnb as a case to investigate the role of trust on peer-topeer accommodation platforms, as well as to provide a holistic overview of the targets of trust, constructs of trust, and trust-building measures. A survey with 250 respondents and a review analysis of 200 online reviews were conducted as part of the research in this thesis. In our findings, we identified four trust constructs (dispositional, online, institutional, and interpersonal trust) that proved to play an important role on the Airbnb platform. The survey revealed that people who have never used Airbnb have lower levels of dispositional and online trust compared to Airbnb peers. In addition, we found a very strong relationship between institutional and interpersonal trust for Airbnb peers. Significant trust-building measures include online reviews, identity verification, secure payment seals, quality of information on website/listing/profile, high quality communication, improved background checks, greater support, and accuracy of information. The review analysis identified a review bias and revealed variables which build and diminish trust in Airbnb and Airbnb peers, including i.e., service quality, safety and security, and product quality. The insights of this study led to several discussion points, whereby it became evident that (1) trust plays a major role in participation in the sharing economy by functioning as a prerequisite, (2) platforms in the sharing economy have the ability to function as a trust-building vehicle, (3) there is a spill-over effect of trust between institutional and interpersonal trust, (4) a review bias may devalue peer reviews as a trust-building measure, and (5) incorporating certain trustbuilding measures can result in separate trust-challenges, and carry over negative repercussions.

EducationsMSocSc in Service Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2021
Number of pages128
SupervisorsKim Normann Andersen