Editor’s Introduction 14(1)

Vladimir Zwass
International Journal of Electronic Commerce,
Volume 14, Number 1, Fall 2009, pp. 5.
Abstract: This issue of IJEC ranges widely over the scope of the Journal’s domain. The research presented in its papers investigates B2C, B2B, C2C, and also, peripherally, intraorganizational e-commerce. The first three papers, using various methodologies, analyze different aspects of e-tail, as consumer-oriented marketplaces continue to evolve new business models, strategies, and tactics. They are a formidable crucible from which new ways of creating, satisfying, and keeping the customer continue to emerge. As the migration from traditional sales channels to the Web continues (although at a pace slower than envisioned a decade ago), a variety of synergies is sought by firms that address these two channels. The comparative pricing in the two channels is an essential decision to be made. Robert J. Kauffman, Dongwon Lee, Jung Lee, and Byungjoon Yoo offer analytical models of alternative pricing strategies by hybrid sellers and empirical validation of the results. The authors determine that the choice of pricing strategy needs to be predicated on the proportion of the firm’s on-line business and offer managerial guidance on strategic pricing by hybrid e-tailers.

The power of the listing order has been gaining salience recently in the context of search-engine marketing. Kai Riemer and Christoph Lehrke study the effects of biased listing, defined as listing in an order other than what is dictated by such objective criteria as relevance to the query or the quality of the offering. The study is conducted in the context of an electronic marketplace for hotel lodgings. The authors obtained access to the booking data of a popular hotel-booking platform that lists hotels in the order of their contract size. This bias has pronounced effects on the business outcomes of the participating vendors, which the authors analyze with the aid of marketing theories. Their research is a vivid illustration of the power of intermediaries to insert themselves in two-sided marketplaces. It bears out the wisdom of the vendor segments that rejected butterfly-shaped marketplaces in Web 1.0. Far beyond that, the results are relevant to the debate on the power of the major search engines. The definition of ‘relevance to the query’ will certainly come up for a debate in various venues before long.

The Web offers an unequaled opportunity to know the customer–paradoxically so, since the potential customer (so far) is not seen. This opportunity is harnessed to offer Web site features intended to increase the conversion from a passive browser to an actual customer or, at least, a responder to the site’s enticements. An array of Web site functionalities lead to enhanced conversion rates–and others do not. It is exceedingly important to know the effective functionalities. Anteneh Ayanso and Reena Yoogalingam use cluster analysis on the data on the top-500 Web retailers to arrive at the sets of functionalities associated with higher conversion rates. These sets differ for on-line-only versus hybrid retailers. Notably, the effectiveness of extensive functionalities for pure e-tailers is limited. The findings have clear managerial implications and can lead to savings and the avoidance of dissipating the attention of potential customers. We need to be constantly alive to the fact that the functionalities of e-tailer Web sites evolve. For instance, e-tailers have recently found it advantageous to link their sites to those of social networks in order to garner the effects of word of mouth without potential customers leaving the e-tailer site. With steadily evolving functionality sets, this research methodology will be refined and fruitfully redeployed in the future.

The sharing of business processes among firms in supply chains has been recognized as one of the benefits of interorganizational e-commerce. There has not been a theory-based gauge on the value of that benefit. Hsin-Lu Chang and Michael J. Shaw take the resource-based view to parse these benefits into several value metrics. The authors place their research within the context of the RosettaNet standards-based process-sharing framework. The results show the high value of collaboration and, more important, offer corporate decision-makers specific value targets that can drive their firms to higher levels of performance.

The role of trust in the economy in general, and in e-commerce in particular, has recently been a focus of both popular writing and extensive research work. In the concluding paper, Jin Chen, Cheng Zhang, and Yunjie Xu address an important aspect of trust. The authors study C2C Web sites whose success depends on the interactions among the participants: The platforms are devoid of value unless it is created by the participants’ offerings, informational contributions, and interactions. The work shows that mutual trust among the participants is a source of loyalty to the platform provider. The authors further parse and investigate empirically the nature of this mutual trust.

The start of another IJEC volume gives me an occasion to thank our referees, who–together with the members of our Editorial Board–are the primary guarantors of the Journal’s quality. These are the names of the IJEC Reviewers.