Building Trust in the Marketplace

Ideas, Insights and Strategies

August 29 and 30, 2023

Hosted by

Professor Sandy Jap, Emory University
Professor Kent Grayson, Northwestern University

Sponsored by

Emory University
Goizuetta Business School
1300 Clifton Rd, Atlanta, GA 30322
Hotel Accommodations:
Emory Conference Center Hotel
1615 Clifton Rd, Atlanta, GA 30329
(800) 933-6679
This conference will bring together academics who study trust and its impact in various disciplines, e.g. consumer behavior, entrepreneurship, etc., as well as executives who are managing trust challenges in today’s marketplace. Unlike most academic conferences, this event is uniquely designed to feature presentations that include a combination of researchers and business leaders from multiple retail channels, including direct selling, and will focus on making actionable connections between research and business practice.

For the researchers who attend, this event is an opportunity to exchange ideas and insights with like-minded researchers about a shared research interest. It is also an opportunity to hear about real-world trust challenges and evolving market practices, which will provide insights that spark new research ideas and opportunities.

The event is sponsored by the Direct Selling Educational Foundation. Direct selling is an approach to product distribution that depends heavily on trust for success. Executives from a variety of industries and backgrounds will attend and participate.


Tuesday, August 29


Registration Opens

12:00pm – 1:00pm

Working Lunch

Managing Trust in Your Market and in Your Organization

Conference Co-Chairs Professor Sandy Jap and Professor Kent Grayson, Northwestern University

In this session, Kent Grayson and Sandy Jap will provide insights about what business leaders can learn from academic research on how to manage employee and consumer trust in their brands.

1:00pm – 2:00pm

What Constitutes Harm in Voluntary Business Arrangements

Professor Anne Coughlan, Northwestern University

Uncertainties inherent in the entrepreneurial direct selling distributor opportunity suggest the possibility of ex post outcomes that fail to meet a distributor’s ex ante expectations. This research analyzes when and whether such divergences rise to the level of true economic harm to a distributor. True harm is defined as “Avoidable Economic Loss,” or AEL, and used to analyze an economic model of distributor participation that reveals the underlying conditions for true harm to occur.

The results suggest that trust in a DS distributorship economic opportunity may be best maintained not by trying to assure “gains” to all, but instead through persistent efforts to educate prospects and participants about the entrepreneurial nature of DS and its attendant uncertainties. Similarly, economic analysis of these entrepreneurial opportunities requires that the analyst clearly disclose the underpinnings of their analyses in order for the reader to have trust in their findings.

2:00pm – 2:30pm


2:30pm – 3:30pm

Self-Regulation: Revolution to Improve the Marketplace

Professor Linda Ferrell, Auburn University

Professor O.C. Ferrell, Auburn University

Professor Robert Peterson, The University of Texas

Peter Marinello, Direct Selling Self-Regulatory Council, BBB National Programs

Professor Kent Grayson, Northwestern University

In 2019, the BBB National Programs in consultation with the Direct Selling Association created the independently operated Direct Selling Self-Regulatory Council (DSSRC). The purpose of the DSSRC is to remove deceptive earnings and product claims from the entire direct selling marketplace. The DSSRC can quickly remove these claims from the marketplace, but there are always areas for improvement.

Executives from the DSSRC, academics and critics of the program will talk about program performance as well as recent research on the metrics, benefits and recommendations for improvement.

3:30pm – 4:30pm

Law Enforcement Views Perspectives of Direct Selling: Working Together to Protect Consumers

Kathleen Daffan, U.S. Federal Trade Commission

Federal and state law enforcement officials will discuss how they enforce relevant laws to distinguish between legitimate businesses and bad actors. Based on experience and enforcement actions, they will describe how they analyze and review the business practices of companies and independent salespeople to ensure that consumers are protected.

4:30pm – 4:45pm

Day One Wrap

Conference Co-Chair Professor Sandy Jap

5:00pm – 6:00pm


Wednesday, August 30

8:30am – 8:45am

Day Two Opening Remarks

Conference Co-Chairs Professor Sandy Jap and Professor Kent Grayson

8:45am – 9:30am

Building Trust in a Fake News World

Social media can have a significant impact on brand trust. Brands often build trust via social media, but trust can also be shattered by online activity. This panel features researchers who have studied how people navigate a social-media environment, where distrust can be high and where claims cannot easily be evaluated for truth or falsity. The conversation will also examine the factors that encourage people to share fake news, what inspires people to “cancel” brands online, and how firms can counter online disinformation.

9:30am – 10:15am


10:15am – 10:30pm


10:30am – 11:15am

Building Trust in Sales Relationships

Professor Michael Ahearne, University of Houston

What does it take for a salesperson to build a trusting relationship with a customer? This panel of senior sales practitioners will discuss the evolving role of trust in buyer/seller relationships. There will be a particular emphasis on the evolving expectations of customers as well as the changing strategies of sales organizations.

11:15am – 12:00pm

Building Trust Online

Professor Sandy Jap, Emory University

There is a lot of research on how trust is built between salespeople and their customers. But much of this presumes that their interactions are face-to-face and in person. What happens when salespeople only know their customers online? Strategies for building trust online including personal branding, Facebook groups, curiosity marketing and many sales practices will be explored.

12:00pm – 12:45pm


12:45pm – 1:45pm


Co-Chair Led Discussion on Future Research Priorities

1:45pm – 2:45pm

Crafting the Passion to Persist

Professor Victoria Crittenden, Babson College

Professor Charla F. Brown, Troy University

Professor Nicole Dilg Beachum, University of Alabama at Birmingham

Economic inequality and workforce re-skilling are topics of keen interest in today’s ever-changing economic environment. This panel led by Professor Vicky Crittenden will explore the potential for micro-entrepreneurs to increase their self-confidence while growing their direct selling businesses. This economic and societal empowerment occurs via the technological training and support provided by direct selling companies that see the value in extending resources beyond traditionally bounded relationships.

2:45pm – 3:45pm

Research Roundtable Ideation

3:45pm – 4:00pm

Research Ideas Collected

4:00pm – 4:30pm

Day Two Wrap and Closing Remarks

Conference Co-Chairs Professor Sandy Jap and Professor Kent Grayson


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