Editor’s Introduction 22(3)

Vladimir Zwass, Editor
International Journal of Electronic Commerce,
Volume 22, Number 3, 2018, pp. 323-324.

The first two articles in this issue of the International Journal of Electronic Commerce address empirically two increasingly important aspects of online advertising. With the growing use of human-like avatars in ads, Bashar S. Gammoh, Fernando R. Jiménez, and Rand Wergin investigate consumer attitudes evoked by such ads, to interesting results. Basing themselves in the mental schema theory the authors hypothesize, and have their suppositions confirmed, that avatars may evoke negative attitudes toward the ads in large categories of consumers. More specifically, higher degrees of the “humanness” of some of the avatars cause a feeling of incongruence and underlie the negative feeling of the consumers less knowledgeable in the product category being promoted. Based on their empirics, the researchers offer several helpful suggestions to the advertisers.

Narrow targeting of consumers with contextual display ads has become commonplace. A newer phenomenon is the contextual competitive targeting (CCT) of the competitor’s prospective customers. Indeed, Google AdSense offers a platform for doing just that. What about the effectiveness of CCT? This is the subject of the study by Yiping (Amy) Song, Chee Wei (David) Phang, Shuai Yang, and Xueming Luo, conducted as two field quasi-experiments in the context of Google’s platform, with a follow-up laboratory survey to interpret the reasons for the experiments’ findings. The study includes an investigation of the effectiveness of competitive promotional incentives—which, somewhat counterintuitively, may turn out to lower the conversion rates. The work offers fine-grained advice to advertisers who aim to poach, and contributes to our understanding of competitive advertising.

Online service is, in many ways, the major source of profits, be they from the services themselves, from augmented products, or from loyalty engendered by the exemplary treatment of customers. Two subsequent articles deal with the issues of e-service. Jörg Heinze and Christian Matt show how mobile commerce can benefit from what they call comprehensive technological service (CTS). Dealing specifically with the sale of complex products (e.g., insurance), the authors propose a combination of technology-mediated service with technology-generated service, to arrive at CTS. The significant human assistance involved in CTS (we are on a smartphone, after all) leads to the advantages of the approach, as the authors demonstrate in their lab experiment. The analysis of the risk reduction perceived by the customers is one of the article’s contributions to the theory of consumer behavior.

We know that a service failure handled well often produces a loyal customer. In that context, Sanchayan Sengupta, Daniel Ray, Olivier Trendel, and Yves Van Vaerenbergh empirically study the effects of apology for service failures in online and offline contexts, and in Eastern and Western cultures. The authors’ survey-based empirics show significant cultural differences with respect to the customers’ response to the apology when rendered by the apologizing personnel of high versus low status, and publicly versus in private. There are many ways to say you are sorry, some much more effective than others.

With the proliferation of inexpensive information technology, video has become a mass medium of online communication and a massively consumed format of online content. Prominent video websites are aiming to combine the advantages of this rich medium with those of social media by offering bullet screens that overlay the real-time comments of the viewers onto the screen. Known as DanMu in Chinese and Danmaku in Japanese, bullet screens are already highly popular in Asia, and are rapidly becoming widespread there. Their use is intended to impart to the somewhat isolating experience of video watching the feeling of sociability accompanying the use of social network or gaming platforms. The authors of the concluding article, Jiaming Fang, Lei Chen, Chao Wen, and Victor R. Prybutok, study empirically how the viewers’ perception of social presence on these sites affects their loyalty to the platforms. Toward that end, the researchers develop and validate a comprehensive model that shows how social presence leads to immersion that, in turn, conditions loyal viewing and, perhaps, participation in commenting. The model is important in view of the new combinations of rich media (e.g., virtual reality) and social media that are certain to emerge in the near future. We have here another example of the power of co-creation.