Establishing trust in the sharing economy: an analysis of organizational, systems and interpersonal level trust

Andrea Calabro, Tahir M. Nisar, Mariateresa Torchia, Hsiao Ting Tseng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Purpose: In this study, the authors examine how organizational-, systems- and interpersonal-level trust may be required for a smooth functioning of the firms in the sharing economy (SE). The research objective is to explore the trust-building mechanisms of Airbnb, a leading SE organization, and its aim to foster generalized trust. An investigation of the Airbnb's promotion of different trust-building mechanisms will allow to evaluate their effectiveness in how they can help overcome scepticism and distrust between the transacting parties. Consequently, the authors can develop a unique theoretical perspective on generalized trust in SE environments and better understand any trust-related barriers preventing SE transactions. Design/methodology/approach: The authors employ a case study approach to investigate the research questions with the aim to fully understand the abstract and complex nature of trust. They focus on Airbnb as the company enjoys a leading market position, being a sharing economy firm. Moreover, the personal nature of accommodation sharing, which is the business of Airbnb, increases users' trust requirements, and so the company must take active steps to promote trust between the transacting parties. The authors adopt thematic analysis to execute the data analysis of the study's findings, which are derived from emergent themes and directed by the research objectives and relevant literature. Findings: The results show that users of Airbnb are concerned about the danger of opportunistic hosts, although they are primarily motivated to use the company's services due to its economic benefits. Nevertheless, the success of Airbnb platform stems from the trust that the company has succeeded in establishing among its users, in particular interpersonal trust. Analysis reveals that generalized trust is fostered at an interpersonal level in the form of peer reviews, at an organizational level in terms of brand familiarity and at a systems level in regards to interface design. Originality/value: The authors advance the argument that confidence to transact in the social economy stems from a combination of three levels of trust, including organizational-, systems- and interpersonal-level trust. These findings contribute to the body of trust research in information technology and people literature from its unique investigative setting, whilst simultaneously strengthening the primarily speculative research on SE with in-depth empirical evidence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3023-3047
Number of pages25
JournalInformation Technology and People
Issue number7
StatePublished - 21 Nov 2023


  • Airbnb
  • Generalized trust
  • Interface design
  • Opportunistic behaviour
  • Peer reviews
  • Sharing economy


Dive into the research topics of 'Establishing trust in the sharing economy: an analysis of organizational, systems and interpersonal level trust'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this