Editor’s Introduction 24(4)

Vladimir Zwass
International Journal of Electronic Commerce,
Volume 24, Number 4, 2020, pp. 419-420.

The health of online reviews is highly important to e-commerce, and extensive research has been done to date on their helpfulness, soundness, and effectiveness. At their best, online reviews tell us not only about their subject but also about the expertise available for value co-creation by consumers and about the better angels of our nature as their writers extend their help to people they do not know. At their worst, the reviews aim to deceive in behalf of a brand they describe or of its competitor. Much research has been done to understand this form of the electronic word-of-mouth. The barrier to novel contributions has risen significantly. Two articles that open this issue of International Journal of Electronic Commerce have stepped over this threshold. The first of them, by Marcello M. Mariani and Matteo Borghi, relates the helpfulness of reviews to the financial performance of firms in a service industry, specifically the hotel industry. The innovation of this outcomes-oriented work consists in addressing a service industry and in the nuanced analysis of the review aspects that influence this performance of the reviewed brands. The second article compares and contrasts the mobile and nonmobile reviews. Its authors—Jong Min Kim, Jeongsoo Han, and Mina Jun—focus on the cognitive effort and cost of review posting on a mobile device as the determinants of the relative extremity of the mobile reviews. With the mobile environment expanding rapidly, we need to clearly understand the differences analyzed here and be able to normalize across the two different categories of platforms. Taken together, the two contributions expand our field of vision in the analysis of online reviews.

Cryptocurrencies have entered the pragmatic arena of e-commerce almost a decade ago, much as the work in which they are grounded had been conducted during the preceding decades. The emblematic Bitcoin system generates digital objects of considerable value, if we look at their often vertiginous price. The objects are intended to and serve as currency, with some of the traditional aspects of currencies significantly curtailed. There is no individual or collective sovereign authority behind this and other common cryptocurrencies and their value derives to a large degree from the worldview of the people who use them. What do we mean by “value”? Who is indeed “we”? What is the typology of “we”? These are the questions addressed here by Stephen C. Wingreen, Donncha Kavanagh, Paul Jones Ennis, and Gianluca Miscione, who use concourse theory over the survey empirics to surface five types of value systems within the Bitcoin community. Notably, the value systems do not point to the wide expansion of the use of bitcoins to challenge the traditional currencies. As the central banks of several nations and of the supranational aggregates are working to develop their own digital currencies, the insights generated here are certain to help, largely by contrast.

Product presentations online influence sales. In the next article, Daniel Brylla and Gianfranco Walsh empirically study one of the aspects of this statement. Which are better for the seller: isolated product depictions or products depicted within a scene, with a spatial background? The findings challenge the established practice of depicting products in isolation. Presenting products against an appropriate spatial background is found to be more effective with respect to several measures. The research is based on the scene-perception theory that has established spatial backgrounds as facilitators of visual processing and enhancers of aesthetic experience. The work contributes both to this theory and—very clearly—to the e-commerce practice.

Electronic shelf labels (ESL) may become an important component of cross-channel integration, in particular by facilitating dynamic pricing, if desired. They certainly reduce menu costs and allow the display of various product attributes at a reasonable cost, but do consumers like them? In the concluding article, Joe Boden, Eric Maier, and Florian Dost empirically study the financial effects of ESL within an experimental treatment store, as compared with a control store. As is the opening artilcle in the issue, this article is an outcome-oriented work, using the financial performance as the litmus test. The conclusions of the authors, and their contribution to theory and practice, have encouraging elements. The revenue in product categories where ESL were introduced did grow, but did so at the expense of other product categories. Notably, dynamic pricing—generally unloved by consumers—was not introduced in the experiments; however, this might have been in the back of the shoppers’ mind. The authors offer several granular conclusions that will serve the retail industry interested in the omnichannel and will lay the foundation for further research.