Editorial Introduction 11(3)

Vladimir Zwass
International Journal of Electronic Commerce,
Volume 11, Number 3, Spring 2007, pp. 005.

Abstract: Business-to-business e-commerce is conducted within a web of relationships among companies contributing their capabilities, resources, and products. The dynamic interorganizational systems that emerge and evolve are the nexi of competitive as well as cooperative action. Therefore, the analysis of such networks–as opposed to or combined with the analysis of their individual constituent companies–is increasingly of the moment. The paper that opens the present issue of IJEC significantly advances the study of the competitive dynamics in such webs, or networks. Lei Chi, Clyde W. Holsapple, and Cidambi Srinivasan deploy the social network perspective and a variety of established theories of competition to develop a model that interrelates the competitive action within the network with its structure and use characteristics. The model can help practitioners to analyze globally the structure and some of the nature of corporate business relationships, and to map their future evolution. It is certain to see further elaboration and incremental validation, leading to the improved organization of business webs.

The ability to evaluate business Web sites from the consumer’s point of view is of obvious importance and has been targeted with several instruments. However, as is systematically argued by the authors of the next paper, Eleanor T. Loiacono, Richard T. Watson, and Dale L. Goodhue, all these efforts fall well short of the need to have a validated instrument for general use in consumer evaluation of Web sites. The paper presents WebQual, a comprehensive theory-based instrument, and details its extensive validation. With 36 items measuring 12 constructs affecting consumers’ intent to purchase and revisit, this is an important contribution to both research and practice in the field of e-commerce.

With some halting past and present, but certainly a fruitful future, the on-line delivery of expertise is a significant component of e-commerce. This is particularly so in some aspects of health care, notably when examination of a patient is not required and especially when physical access to a general practitioner or a specialist physician is constrained by one of myriad possible considerations. In this perspective, opportunities for multi-channel practice emerge. Zafer D. Ozdemir provides an economic analysis of dual-channel practice combining on-line and face-to-face healthcare delivery. The model furnishes a result that is notable (especially for physicians): Using the on-line channel can enable a practitioner to charge a higher price than for a face-to-face encounter. Although the range of expert advice that can be rendered without seeing the patient (client?) has natural and severe limitations, this outcome should be built upon.

In the next paper, Craig Standing and Chad Lin study how organizations evaluate their e-commerce investments. Using a theory-based multi-case study, the authors probe not simply the outcomes of the projects, but also the outcomes of the evaluations. They find that the formal evaluation of e-commerce projects, as it surfaces their benefits, is correlated with a higher level of satisfaction with the results of e-commerce initiatives. Evaluation is good for you!

Consumers frequently enter an e-tailer Web site through a comparison site, such as PriceScan. What next? Bo-chiuan Su formulates three plausible consumer strategies in the subsequent selection of a retailer, then reports on a set of experiments to determine how consumers actually select an e-tailer following a visit to a comparison site. Among other results, the great weight of product information and of perceived e-tailer credibility looms large. The findings are of clear importance in the conduct of e-tailing and in Web site design.