Editor’s Introduction 21(2)

Vladimir Zwass, Editor
International Journal of Electronic Commerce,
Volume 21, Number 2, 2016-17, pp. 149-150.

The issue of privacy has moved into the center of the business models, operations, and societal impacts of e-commerce, be it by invasion or by safeguarding, be it by commoditizing or by compartmentalizing. The concerns go deep into the fabric of our societies that are shaped by the affordances of Facebook, Weibo, Twitter, and other social media platforms that thrive on user-generated data. They will go deeper, and the interplay of market forces and evolving social norms will keep dynamically changing what can be done with information technology to provide what our societies will accommodate. The authors of the first paper in this IJEC issue show empirically that reducing privacy concerns in online communities leads to more vibrant and cohesive communities. To assess the impact of reduced privacy concerns in online communities, Yu Pan, Yan Wan, Jing Fan, Bailing Liu, and Norm Archer conduct two empirical studies based on the impression management theory on the group level. They find differential effects of the promotive impression management, by which the community group maintains an attractive environment of interaction, and the protective impression management aiming to reduce the perceived risks of disclosure by group members. Along with the contribution to theory, the research results allow the authors to make granular recommendations to the organizers of online communities.

The globalization of consumer-oriented e-commerce appeared to be an easy given in the early 1990s when the death of distance was heralded by all and sundry. Of course, international distance has not died. It has been kept alive by the trust deficit, by the friction of cross-border traffic, by the latency of the delivery of physical products, by currency differentials, and by a great variety of other impediments long known in the international trade. However, these are challenges rather than immutable obstacles. In the next paper of the issue, Thai Young Kim, Rommert Dekker, and Christiaan Heij show how the perceived distance effects can be reduced with express delivery in the B2C realm. The authors show empirically that e-consumers exhibit willingness-to-pay, acceptance, and loyalty when presented with this opportunity. Going beyond this outcome, the authors offer a theoretically grounded methodology for the study of cross-border e-commerce.

The authors of the next paper, Xiayu Chen, Qian Huang, and Robert M. Davison, study empirically the antecedents of the economic and social satisfaction of buyers in C2C platforms, such as TaoBao where the data were collected. The attention paid in the model to the social satisfaction, such as the buyer’s sense of the seller’s integrity and of the attention to the buyer’s needs, as well as the role of the relational capital that is foregrounded in the model, are a notable deepening of our understanding of the prerequisites to the long-term success in consumer-oriented e-commerce. This research shows the need to give closer attention to the non-economic factors in the further work on this commerce segment.

The effects of electronic word-of-mouth (eWOM) and consumer co-creation of value are extensively researched, as user-generated content contributes to the value provided by the e-commerce enterprises, while lowering the cost of delivering this value. Two concluding papers of the issue address this weighty component of e-commerce. In the first, Elisabetta Raguseo and Claudio Vitari study – in the context of the hotel industry – the effects of a brand on the impact that eWOM has on the firm’s financial performance. To cite the conclusions of the authors, “managers of branded chain hotels should know that they might find it difficult to leverage eWOM…, as their economic advantages derive from the brand instead of eWOM.” As you will see when reading the paper, the situation is different for the non-branded hotels. This line of research will be, no doubt, extended to other settings in the future.

Product ratings, a key part of the eWOM, are prone to extreme responses that subtract from the helpfulness of the ratings. In this outcome, the design of the rating scales has much to answer for, as shown by Dimitrios Tsekouras in the concluding paper of the issue. The author shows how better labeling of the scales can reduce extreme responses. The results are robust and helpful. This work provides a long-needed complement to the studies of consumer-generated ratings that focus on the contributor self-selection as a source of bias. Moreover, the appropriate design of the rating scales is a more readily controllable factor in producing more reliable ratings.