Editor’s Introduction 11(1)

Vladimir Zwass
International Journal of Electronic Commerce,
Volume 11, Number 1, Fall 2006, pp. 5.

Although the B2B segment continues to dominate e-commerce through its monetary volume, e-tail retains its pull-through power and high visibility. The direct access of the consumer to the Web will always dominate in our imagination. The first four papers in the present issue of the Journal research this e-commerce segment. Enduring relationships with the ever-expanding circles of customers are the holy grail sought by the firms in this space. The first paper, authored by Ling Xue, Gautam Ray, and Andrew B. Whinston, analyzes the effectiveness of strategic investment in technologies aiming at the creation and maintenance of consumers’ switching costs. The results of the analysis indicate that the incentives for firms to invest in the creation of such costs hinge-somewhat paradoxically-on the expected advantages in customer acquisition, rather than just on customer retention. Communication to customers of the benefits they may expect to accrue emerges as vital.

Price dispersion in e-tail has long given the lie to notions of a frictionless market. Zhiping Walter, Alok Gupta, and Bo-chiuan Su explain empirically some of the principal sources of this price variance. They use two fundamental theories to develop and test a model that explains how the pricing power of e-tailers is achieved for the appropriate product categories and with the salient service features. As a more sophisticated understanding of Web pricing develops, the advantages enjoyed by multi-channel retailers become more apparent. The work reported in this paper gives retailing firms more precise levers to control their spending on the Web, complements the preceding paper, and opens avenues for further progress in consumer-oriented e-commerce research.

Shopping engines are one of the myriad cybermediaries that have emerged on the Web, giving the lie to the disintermediation notions of old (i.e., of ten years ago). There are different ways to engage the consumer with the minimum effort yet in pursuit of search accuracy when accessing e-tail offerings via such an engine. Arnold Kamis describes an experiment to determine the best way to design such an engine with these objectives in mind. Starting with four different engine designs, he recommends the search approach that indeed serves best.

Software agents can go beyond shopping engines both in their objective of persuading (rather than aiming at unbiased selection) and in the breadth of the spectrum of design options. Shiu-li Huang, Fu-ren Lin, and Yufei Yuan use a laboratory experiment to determine successful persuasion and bargaining strategies in the dealings of agents with customers. Their research finds a need for agent design to adapt to the characteristics of the customer during a session and show the cognitively motivated persuasion techniques that best communicate value to potential customers. This paper and the three preceding ones, taken together, offer a more textured understanding of e-tailing options.

In the concluding paper of the issue, Nitin Aggarwal, Qizhi Dai, and Eric Walden deploy an event-study methodology to investigate the impact of adopting open versus proprietary standards on the market value of adopting companies. The study is performed in the context of XML technology. Open standards benefit the industry where adoption occurs, but do they benefit individual firms? The results of this investigation-to the detriment of the greater good and societal welfare-show that financial markets value proprietary standards, even if the term may sound like an oxymoron.

The Editorial Board of IJEC is evolving. I would like to thank the outgoing members, Martin Goslar, Tomás Isakowitz, and Katherine Lemon, for their contributions. We have all benefited from them. It is my pleasure and privilege to welcome the incoming members of the Editorial Board. They are Kumar Bhaskaran of IBM Research, Thorsten Hennig-Thurau of Bauhaus-University of Weimar (Germany), Ming-Hui Huang of the National Taiwan University, Praveen K. Kopalle of Dartmouth College, and Peter C. Verhoef of the University of Groningen (The Netherlands). Their service on our Editorial Board will be of great value.