Editor’s Introduction 15(4)
International Journal of Electronic Commerce,
Volume 15 Number 4, Summer 2011, pp. 5.
This issue of IJEC presents two topical sets of papers. The first set consists of three works that address a key aspect of co-creation, that is, the creation of marketable value by users/consumers. The authors investigate the factors leading to participation in online communities that potentially create this value. Two papers deal with the influence of Web site aesthetics.
Co-creation has become a major field of activity in the field of e-commerce, enabled as it is by the Internet/Web as a means of production, congregation, coordination of effort, product aggregation, and distribution of digital products . The aggregate value of this activity to national economies is beginning to be assessed. Co-creation has also been developing into an important domain of e-commerce research. All three works about co-creation that you will read here focus on what influences user/consumer participation in virtual communities and—in one of the papers—in community-based projects. In the first of these, Alexander Benlian and Thomas Hess study the influence of information technology (IT) features on participation in such communities. Based on signaling theory, the authors develop and test a comprehensive model that leads from perceived IT features to users’ trust and consequent participation. Thus, this study empirically explicates the influence of one of the important individual factors of users’ participation in online communities.
In the next paper, Haichao Zheng, Dahui Li, and Wenhua Hou focus on sponsored co-creation. Specifically, these authors investigate the influences and motivations leading to participation in crowdsourcing contests. The subjects were members registered with a contest platform whose design tasks were relatively simple in terms of structural complexity. The contest tasks were characterized as to several other attributes as antecedents to motivators. The notable extrinsic motivator was determined to be seeking recognition (as opposed to monetary reward). However, as discovered before in various contexts, the intrinsic motivators have proven to dominate the extrinsic ones.
Online communities of consumption have come to play an important role in the creation—and in the appropriation—of value by producers. HsiuJu Rebecca Yen, Sheila Hsuan-Yu Hsu, and Chun-Yao Huang empirically investigate the motivators of community participation. These authors study the motivators of community members in their two roles, the in-role of fulfilling basic obligations and the extra-role of contributing to the well-being of the community (as an employee would). This work helps us better understand what drives people to volunteer their time and effort in co-creation endeavors. We also need to note, to draw on the title of the paper, that consumers may not be willing to soldier on on a voluntary basis in perpetuity. As the volume and value of these endeavors are being assessed, a restructuring of the reward system is likely to follow.
In the first of the papers investigating Web site aesthetics, Soussan Djamasbi, Marisa Siegel, Jeanine Skorinko, and Tom Tullis empirically compare and contrast the preferences of the two now mature generations, the baby boomers and the Generation Yers. Using eye tracking, the authors are able to gain fine-grained understanding of what these user cohorts want in Web site design. It appears that both prefer images to text. However, the Yers want even less text and have a stronger sense of immediacy, forming negative impressions of unappealing pages more readily, with obvious consequences for their message. The important conclusions are also those as to commonalities: the aesthetics are an important part of usability, and an arrangement of Web pages into well-structured visual hierarchies may be the key to success.
Shun Cai and Yunjie (Calvin) Xu take the influence of aesthetics further. They study empirically the impact of Web site aesthetics on the value perceived by consumers. The authors distinguish classical aesthetics, the orderliness and clarity of design (whose effects were studied in the preceding work), from expressive aesthetics, the creativity and richness of design. In a methodologically interesting laboratory experiment, the authors are able to establish the positive effect of aesthetics on perceived shopping value. Furthermore, they are able to relate the role of expressive aesthetics to positive effects when shopping for hedonic products (say, flowers). This study and that by Djamasbi and her colleagues are highly generative in opening avenues to more fine-grained research into the role of aesthetics in e-commerce.
1. Zwass, V. Co-creation: Toward a taxonomy and an integrated research perspective. International Journal of Electronic Commerce, 15, 1 (fall 2010), 11–48.