Editor’s Introduction 23(3)

Vladimir Zwass
International Journal of Electronic Commerce,
Volume 23, Number 3, 2019, pp. 295-296.

The two papers that open this issue of International Journal of Electronic Commerce explore complementary aspects of social commerce. In social commerce, two key faces of the Internet—the marketplace and the social medium—combine to bring out the power of electronic marketplaces. To an extent, most e-commerce is social, as the user-generated content of electronic word-of-mouth affects the decisions of market actors. In its definition, the social commerce proper is the use of social networks and social media in the conduct of e-commerce.

In the first of the papers, Xi Hu, Xiayu Chen, and Robert M. Davison empirically investigate the role of peer influence in impulse buying online. Basing themselves largely in social influence theory, the authors develop a model that along with informational influence encompasses the less obvious normative influence, and they pursue these two factors to their antecedents. Notably, these antecedents include social support factors, along with the more commonly explored trustworthiness and expertise of the source. Also notably, the model’s validation is performed with the actual data obtained from a major social network. The results demonstrate the power of social influence in overcoming a deliberative approach that might otherwise be adapted by a balking consumer. Aside from its contribution to theory, the work has clear practical implications.

The authors of the next paper—Xiaolin Lin, Xuequn Wang, and Nick Hajli—present and validate an encompassing model of trust in social commerce. While several trust models have been published, the novelty of the approach taken by the authors is in the role of social support in affecting several trust aspects, leading on to consumer satisfaction and declared purchasing behavior. Numerous implications for the e-commerce practice follow. The survey-based validation is worthy of being followed up and enhanced by the empirics in situ on social platforms.

Concerns about online user privacy keep mounting. Norms are changing with respect to the exploitation of individuals’ traces left on the Internet for commercial and proprietary purposes. Legislation that will circumscribe such usage has been enacted. It behooves our scholarly field to explore effective alternatives. One such exploration is presented here by Shawndra Hill, Adrian Benton, and Umberto Panniello. While set largely in the context of television shows and brands, the method has a demonstrated broad application to general brand building. The authors propose a method of group-level prediction of consumer behavior based on the user-generated content, with the objective of creating a brand profile with respect to the audience demographics, interests, and social relationships. The method has an additional major advantage in overcoming the sparsity limitations of the individual-level data. It also does not require building the ontology of the domain. An extensive validation is presented. We note the complementarity of this approach to another privacy-preserving group-level method published here [1].

Two subsequent papers present formal economic models of different pricing aspects in e-commerce. The first, by Yijiang Liu and Shengli Li, compares two alternative ways of promotional pricing of cloud services, by now the fundamental method of infrastructural provisioning. Should the service providers offer coupons or free trials? The authors explore the comparative advisability of several variations of these promotions in the context of the usage-based pricing and the network effects of the cloud. Their analysis allows researchers to offer granular advice to the cloud-service providers and to contribute to the body of the Internet-pricing knowledge.

The effectiveness of a freemium pricing model relies on the premium features of the product priced at a premium (or, in general, priced at all). Conspicuous consumption, present on the web as elsewhere, consists in status seeking by acquiring products of rarity and high price. Skillful pricing of virtual goods with conspicuous features, with vanishing marginal costs, relies on attracting a large consumer base and yet exerting as high as possible a price from those seeking exclusivity. An example is an online game market, where the premium buyer is paying for a VIP badge lucky number rather than or along with advanced game features. Wei Geng and Zuguang Chen model a stylized marketplace for these goods and arrive at the pricing suggestions for those who offer the goods. They also contribute to our knowledge of Veblen goods, sought after by a limited (not quite financially) segment of our societies.


Kagan, S., and Bekkerman, R. Predicting purchase behavior of website audiences. International Journal of Electronic Commerce, 22, 4 (2018), 510539.