Editor’s Introduction 25(1)

Vladimir Zwass
International Journal of Electronic Commerce,
Volume 25, Number 1, 2021, pp. 1-2.

We are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the International Journal of Electronic Commerce (IJEC) as the first and the leading scholarly journal dedicated to fostering the research and practice of e-commerce (EC). In my introduction to the first issue of IJEC , I stressed the necessity to approach the field holistically, far beyond equating EC to the sell–buy transactions or to e-retail [ 1 ]. This integrated approach is the powerful means to study the massive digital transformation brought on by EC, with its interconnected business-to-business, consumer-oriented, and intraorganizational activities in maintaining and supporting relationships and transactions over telecommunications networks. The business processes of born-on-the-web firms and the ever-emerging new startups are organized for EC. Ant Group has become a gigantic provider of multifaceted financial services, and its data-based virtuous spiral has led in a short time from mobile payment processing to general Fintech, and now to the activities in other service segments. The established firms that aim to succeed in the new environment transform their processes to become strong competitors in EC. As Walmart moves massively into e-retail, its intraorganizational processes change to fit—hence the success. The holistic approach allows us to study the complete picture and the potentiality of EC. It also allows us to assess the claims of anticompetitive behavior and other issues on the darker side. IJEC considers this field of study to be transdisciplinary, with multiple research methodologies contributing to its development.

This approach allows us to see five domains of EC, within the 5Cs hierarchical framework that has stayed valid in its general structure since its early articulation [ 2 ]. These domains are commerce, collaboration, communication, connection, and computation. The top layer—that of commerce proper—includes the strategies, capabilities, and business processes of the firms active in the domain within the electronic marketplaces and on the platforms; it also encompasses the supply webs and ecosystems in which these firms participate. The EC support for the collaboration among the distributed actors—be they governments, firms, groups and teams of various description, and individuals in their production or consumption roles—includes such phenomena as social commerce and co-creation. The communication level concerns communicating people (and, increasingly, bots), with social media, knowledge sharing, and promotion constituting a large swath of EC. These three top levels are the superstructure of EC, focusing on the humans and their institutions.

The superstructure levels are undergirded by the two levels of infrastructure: connection and computation. The connection level encompasses (a) the integrated and frequently open software utilities developed and maintained in the common development environments and (b) the emerging Internet of Things with increasingly servitized goods. The computation level that belongs to EC encompasses the utilities such as computing and storage clouds of various scope and control loci, and grids. The infrastructure is a proper area of study for technological disciplines, such as computer science.

With the explosive growth of EC, IJEC will continue its holistic approach, proven robust, at all levels of analysis, from the global to the individual. EC phenomena we study require that. As we consider social networks, we realize how multifaceted are their purposes and activities. Indeed, they combine on the same or overlapping platforms social media, social commerce, forum for individuals, and distribution channel for digital objects (from information through products to payments). The combination is potent in serving the people and in the possibilities of market preemption. Fintech, Healthtech, Edutech, and the emerging other fields of EC entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship, and operations are just the shorthand for the digitization of economic and social functioning across the economies and polities. We hope and expect to contribute to the understanding of these as the role of EC in the economies and societies expands and transforms them.

I have always stressed both the need for a holistic study of EC and the need to appreciate that the field needs to privilege relationships over transaction—as in what we now know as social media and social commerce, as in the co-creation of value by consumers along with the producers, as in many other forms of digital collaboration at all levels of society. Collaboration means working with others to pursue an objective. On the internet, collaboration may be direct or indirect, via the mediation of third parties or platforms. It occurs among firms within business ecosystems that deliver complex client support, on the social networks acting as business platforms, on the co-creation sites such as Wikipedia, and in teams acting as collaboratories.

This special issue on collaboration begins with the introduction by its guest editors, Robert M. Fuller, Souren Paul, and Lina Zhou, who introduce the four papers they present to you. The works they have steered through the review process reflect to a large degree the breadth of our approach to EC. Indeed, the special issue shows how the meaning of the collaboration itself has been transformed within the realm of EC.

The final paper of this IJEC issue contributes to our understanding of e-retail with a study of the effects of discounting. Xiaosong Dong, Wei Liu, and Xing Zhao ask whether discounts lead to a greater purchase volume. It had been established in the prior research focusing on offline sales that the relationship between the discount rate and sales is U-shaped: Sales fall with the small discounts (as the consumers expect higher ones and resist what they might even perceive as a slight) and then rise with the greater ones. This so-called low-discount boomerang effect is investigated by the present researchers with the use of the data from a mobile payment platform. The presence of the effect online is found, along with the nuanced findings that determine the length of the negative effect zone and the price levels affected by the boomerang. Significant implications for marketers follow, as do the ideas for future research in consumer sales.

This anniversary is an excellent occasion to thank our Editorial Board and our referees, the primary guarantors of the quality of the papers we publish. The International Journal of Electronic Commerce owes its leading position to the intellect, expertise, and dedication of these scholars.


Zwass, V. Electronic commerce: Structures and issues . International Journal of Electronic Commerce, 1 , 1 ( 1996 ), 3–23. https://www.ijec-web.org/v1n1/p003full.html (accessed on October 29, 2020).

Zwass, V. Electronic commerce and organizational innovation: Aspects and opportunities . International Journal of Electronic Commerce, 7 , 3 ( 2003 ), 7–37. http://www.jpedia.org/ijecnew/zwass-20031.pdf (accessed on October 29, 2020).