We are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the International Journal of Electronic Commerce as the first and the leading scholarly journal dedicated to fostering the research and practice of e-commerce (EC). In my introduction to the first issue of IJEC, I stressed the necessity to approach the field holistically, far beyond equating e-commerce to the sell-buy transactions or to e-retail. This integrated approach is the powerful means to study the massive digital transformation brought on by EC, with its interconnected business-to-business, consumer-oriented, and intra-organizational activities in maintaining and supporting relationships and transactions over telecommunications networks. The business processes of born-on-the Web firms and the ever-emerging new startups are organized for EC. Online shopping platforms of Alibaba and Tencent are gateways to myriad financial services and the firms’ data-based virtuous spiral has led in a short time to the activities in other service segments, from social media to entertainment. The established firms that aim to succeed in the new environment transform their processes to become strong competitors in EC. As Walmart has been moving massively into e-retail, its intra-organizational processes change to fit – hence the success. Thus, the emerging omni-service is deploying multi-channels. The holistic approach to our editorial mission allows us to study the complete picture and the potentiality of EC. It also allows us to assess the claims of anticompetitive behavior and other issues on the darker side. IJEC considers this field of study to be transdisciplinary, with multiple research methodologies contributing to its development.
This approach allows us to see five domains of EC, within the 5Cs hierarchical framework that has stayed valid in its general structure since its early articulation. These domains are commerce, collaboration, communication, connection and computation. The top layer, that of commerce proper, includes the strategies, capabilities, and business processes of the firms active in the domain within the electronic marketplaces and on the platforms; it also encompasses the supply webs and ecosystems in which these firms participate. The EC support for the collaboration among the distributed actors, be they governments, firms, groups and teams of various description, and individuals in their production or consumption roles includes such phenomena as social commerce and co-creation. The communication level concerns communicating people (and, increasingly, bots), with social media, knowledge sharing and promotion constituting a large swath of EC. These three top levels are the superstructure of EC, focusing on the humans and their institutions.
The superstructure levels are undergirded by the two levels of infrastructure: connection and computation. The connection level encompasses both the integrated and frequently open software utilities developed and maintained in the common development environments, and the emerging Internet of Things with increasingly servitized goods. The computation level that belongs to EC encompasses the utilities such as computing and storage clouds of various scope and control loci, and grids. The infrastructure is a proper area of study for technological disciplines, such as Computer Science.
With the explosive growth of EC, IJEC will continue its holistic approach, proven robust, at all levels of analysis, from the global to the individual. EC phenomena we study require that. As we consider social networks, we realize how multifaceted are their purposes and activities. Indeed, they combine on the same or overlapping platforms social media, social commerce, forum for individuals, and distribution channel for digital objects (from information through products to payments). The combination is potent in both serving the people and in the possibilities of market preemption. Fintech, Healthtech, Edutech, and the emerging other fields of EC entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship, and operations are just the shorthand for the digitization of economic and social functioning across the economies and polities. We hope and expect to contribute to the understanding of these as the role of EC in the economies and societies expands and transforms them.
Equally with stressing the need for a holistic study of EC, I have always stressed the need to appreciate that the field needs to privilege relationships over transactions, as in what we now know as social media and social commerce, as in the co-creation of value by consumers along with the producers, as in many other forms of digital collaboration at all levels of society. Collaboration means working with others to pursue an objective. On the Internet, collaboration may be direct or indirect, via the mediation of third parties or platforms. It occurs among firms within business ecosystems that deliver complex client support, on the social networks acting as business platforms, on the co-creation sites such as Wikipedia, and in teams acting as collaboratories.
The present milestone is the recognition of the fact that IJEC had the privilege to be there at the outset of the digitalization of the world economies through electronic commerce. We shall carry on as these developments contribute to the shaping of our world. My thanks go to our outstanding Editorial Board and to the IJEC referees, the primary guarantors of the quality of the International Journal of Electronic Commerce.