Surmounting P2P Challenges (2/2): Trust and Security

Robin NICHOLS

7 min reading time

A man aiming a bow and arrow at an apple on a woman's head

How to foster trust and security in your P2P community

This article is the second part of a two-part guide on choosing notification, trust and security building systems for your peer-to-peer platform. We recommend reading part I first.

Part II: Trust and Security

Connecting people and creating trust are fundamental elements in building a reliable environment of collaboration and ultimately an online platform’s main reason for being.”

BlaBlaCar, Entering the Trust Age, pg. 24

As the FTC’s third success factor, building a safe environment into your peer-to-peer platform is vital.  As we saw in part I, certain notification systems, such as anonymous numbers, email identification, in-app chat or two-factor authentication via SMS, can help build secure environments.  The trust mechanisms you choose will depend on your business model and the kind of experiences you are building.  As BlaBlaCar explained in their 2016 Entering the Trust Age report,

“Different peer-to-peer marketplaces use varying mechanisms of creating digital trust to foster online exchanges. These mechanisms depend in part on the stakes involved in the exchanges. Craigslist favours a low-stakes and low trust strategy, while eBay and Etsy use ratings, but do limited moderation by themselves. At the other end of the spectrum, platforms such as BlaBlaCar and Airbnb, who offer high-stakes offline experiences, put a lot of thought and effort into creating the highest possible level of trust between their users, through ratings, moderation, verified IDs and insurance.”

The report ultimately outlined a 6-point vision that can serve as a model for other P2P entrepreneurs. These are their DREAMS pillars: declaring information, using rating systems, engagement from users through financial commitment, encouraging active members, creating moderated environments through third-party verification, and finally, identity verification through social network linking. (You can read more on their report here).

Screenshot of BlaBlaCar DREAMS pillars - trust and security

Image credit: https://www.blablacar.com/trust

To find out more, we asked our participants what their advice would be on creating trust and security in p2p platforms, as well as how they felt on whether it’s best to be ‘transparent’ or ‘anonymous’. Here are their answers:

Photo of Curren Bates from Spinlister - trust and security

Curren Bates, Director of Marketing at bike-rental platform Spinlister:

 

Q: What made you decide to use a mobile 2FA authentication, in addition to social network verification?

A: Trust is paramount in the sharing economy. Without it, there’s no possibility of scaling. Mobile 2-Factor Authentication is the standard for any P2P organization serious about verifying identities and building a trustworthy community on the front end. Would you feel comfortable lending out a $5,000 piece of equipment (bike, skis, etc.) to someone unwilling or unable to provide basic, secure cell-phone information? Neither would we.

Want to add Mobile 2-Factor Authentication to your P2P platform?

Check out our API

Q: What advice would you give sharing economy entrepreneurs for creating trust and security among their platform’s users? 

A: Trust starts with you, the entrepreneur. Demonstrate how you expect your community to interact with each other, every day, to the nth degree. It’s imperative that you maintain exemplary customer service, especially early on when things like user reviews and external backlinks are in short supply. Listen to what your community is asking for. Take cues from other successful, more established sharing economy participants. Remember that when it comes to brand loyalty and customer satisfaction, there’s no such thing as “too much trust.”


Photo of Patrick Nangle from Modo - trust and security

Patrick Nangle, CEO at car sharing co-op Modo:

 

Q: How do you ensure security for your platform’s users? (ex: by using a reputation rating system, anonymous phone numbers, providing insurance…)

A: Our members own the co-operative. The platform simply provides a means for them to use the vehicles and contribute to the cost of operations. We require our members to return the vehicle at the end of their trip on-time, clean and with the fuel tank not less than quarter full. That is a courtesy to the next user. Members failing to do so are subject to fines. We count on the next user to let us know if there was an infraction. The fines are meant to encourage better behaviour and are not designed to be profitable. The updated version of our app includes photo functionality to aid reporting. 

Q: Do you have an opinion on the anonymity vs transparency debate? i.e. Should buyers/sellers be kept totally anonymous, or should their “real” identities be transparent?

A: Given our member-owner structure, that’s not an issue for Modo. In a sharing, collaborative enterprise identity should not be an issue.

Q: What advice would you give sharing economy entrepreneurs for creating trust and security among their platform’s users?

A: Don’t claim to be part of the sharing economy if you’re not. You will lose trust very quickly if you’re not authentic. Decide if your platform will truly facilitate sharing or if it’s simply an exchange for buying and selling products and services.  There’s nothing wrong with creating a business that facilitates trade for a profit, just don’t call it sharing if that’s the case.


Photo of Esther Carrion from Mealby - trust and securityEsther Martos Carrión, Co-founder and Marketing Manager of Mealby and Sharing Economy PhD researcher:

Q: What measures would you advise building into a platform to build trust? 

A: Probably reputation systems are what works best within the sharing economy (at least for now). It is also very important to offer quality customer service, and to personally attend to each request; users feel better and trust the platform when they can talk to a real person. For that, Facebook chats and live chats integrated into the web are very useful.

Q: Do you have an opinion on the anonymity vs transparency debate? i.e. Should buyers/sellers be kept totally anonymous, or should their “real” identities be transparent? 

A: This is a constant debate, transparency or privacy? Personally, I think that societies are moving toward transparency. From my research I have learned that new generations are less concerned about keeping their privacy (which is an aspect that was quite important in previous generations).  People share their personal lives every day and they enjoy doing it.

We can also see how many sharing economy platforms (and others) are using social networks like Facebook to log in, so what I see is that platforms are mutually networking (Google, Facebook, Paypal, YouTube), and sharing their information. Reputation systems will be also be shared from platform to platform (see Traity). Payment systems are the next to join this wave.  To be honest, I don’t see privacy in a very near future. To answer your question, I think that buyers and sellers will keep their social network profile as their identity.

Adam Broadway photo from Marketplaceplatform.com - trust and security

Adam Broadway, founder of marketplaceplatform.com:

Q: What advice would you give sharing economy (marketplace) entrepreneurs for creating trust and security among their platform’s users?

A: Communication is the key to success in any relationship, whether online or in the real-world.

Provide more choice in the way your marketplace community members can communicate and don’t worry about them ‘taking the deal off the platform.’ The more conversations though IM, chat, email, text, phone, or video you provide, the more engagement you will have, which will lead to more growth and more conversion towards your end business goals.

Building on top of existing, respected platforms, rather than from a ground-up approach, will also mitigate security holes in your platform, as you leverage the learnings and best practice of others.


Key Takeaways

  • Provide a variety of (secure) ways for your users to communicate
  • The more ‘high risk’ your P2P business model is, the more trust mechanisms you need to put in place
  • While the transparency vs. anonymity questions is an open debate, providing trust mechanisms that make sense for your platform is essential, whether that means 2FA ID checks, login via social networks, anonymous numbers, reputation rating systems or insurance
  • Be transparent about what your platform does – if your business model isn’t truly about ‘sharing,’ don’t market yourself as such
  • Listen to your users and model your notification system around the channels they already use and the kinds of interactions you’re building