Editor’s Introduction 25(4)

Vladimir Zwass
International Journal of Electronic Commerce,
Volume 25, Number 4, 2021, pp. 391-393.

The advent of the Internet into mass global use has empowered individuals in their roles as citizens, consumers, or just being themselves more fully. People´s access to information exceeds the capabilities of the heads of state or industry captains of just a few decades ago. The ability to be social, albeit virtually, or to influence others via social media, exceed anything possible then. The transactional affordances within the broad realm of e-commerce have grown exponentially and are growing apace. Moreover, all these capabilities are becoming fully integrated on platforms commonly available throughout the world. The new habitus, norms, laws, and regulations are in statu nascendi. Our research explores the multisided outcomes and consequences of this transformation. One of the consequent phenomena is co-creation, defined as “the participation of consumers along with producers in the creation of value in the marketplace” ([3], p. 13). Access to open-source resources further enhances the ability of individuals to act as creators, designers, makers, citizen scientists, or ideators. To use just one very recent example, AlphaFold, a neural-network based system for predicting protein structure and thus its function, has been placed last month in the public domain by DeepMind (a Google company) [1]. This can enable qualified individuals to contribute to corporate efforts at a high intellectual level. Corporate access to such individuals vastly benefits the organizations that enable themselves to take advantage of it. The two principal categories of co-creation identified in [3] are the autonomous co-creation by individuals and communities, where the initiative and the agency rests with them, and company-sponsored co-creation, where the persons act at the behest of producers.

When done properly, sponsored co-creation can vastly expand a firm’s organizational knowledge, contribute to its organizational learning, and enhance the flexibility of its human resource management. Among the great variety of broadly understood co-creation activities, company-sponsored online co-creation brainstorming (COCB) conducted on a firm’s site, is a frequent format of harnessing collective intelligence of outsiders on behalf of the corporate activities [2]. A range of motivators can serve to enhance the quantity and quality of contributions. Distinction is drawn between intrinsic and extrinsic motivators, an important difference, although fuzzy at times (think of an individual’s learning by doing or acquiring a reputation by contributing).

There exists a body of scholarship asserting the crowding out of the intrinsic motivation to co-create when extrinsic motivators, such as remunerations, are enacted by the sponsoring company. In the opening paper of the issue, Siddharth Baswani, Anthony M. Townsend, and Andy Luse study the impact of financial incentives on the participation intention in COCB, in a format of ongoing crowdsourcing sites sponsored by a company. The researchers deploy LEGO Ideas, a well-chosen exemplar, as their research site. They find that focused financial incentives, based on performance, are the best means to boost the intention to participate. The findings are more nuanced, as the authors determine empirically that performance-contingent financial rewards mitigate the negative effects of such incentives on intrinsic motivation asserted by some of the prior research. The results are important in the development of sponsored co-creation sites and could generate further research into the relationship between the quality of contributions in the presence of such rewards, which may be hypothesized to be high, related as it is to the IT-innovativeness of the individuals engaged by such rewards.

A prominent component of crowdsourcing is crowdfunding that can enable startups otherwise bereft of an access to funds to draw on the multiplicity of the often modest investments of individuals. A feature of crowdfunding platforms is the target of the crowdfunding campaign, which serves as the threshold that has to be reached for a given campaign to succeed. In the next paper, Yang Xu, Wen Song, Gong-bing Bi, and Qiang Zhou explore the threshold effect, that is, the existence and the ramifications of a steep increase in the number of crowdfunders when a campaign’s target is about to be reached. The work builds on the analogy to bidders’ behavior in auctions with the declared time limit when that limit approaches. The identified effects on participation and financial outcomes are pronounced. The results help us understand the mechanisms driving an important financing method enabled by the Internet and should help to refine both the platform and the campaign designs.

Integration of online and offline channels is progressing apace, with the established retailers that wish to remain relevant expanding their online activities and a number of successful e-retailers venturing into storefronts. The integration of online-offline channels is a key to success. Chris Lazaris, Panagiotis Sarantopoulos, Adam Vrechopoulos, and Georgios Doukidis present a study of the effects of an increased channel integration on customer satisfaction and their intention to remain loyal to the focus retailer. Notably, the researchers analyze empirically the outcomes of multiple levels of such integration, thus contributing to theory development. The results are unambiguous and granular, and afford the ability to provide guidance to the sellers.

As the authors of the next paper rightly point out, e-commerce research has largely focused on the behavior of buyers, to a large degree ignoring the conduct of sellers in their entry to the online marketplaces and in the exit of many of them. The authors of the next paper, Yiwen Chen, Li Chen, Shaoming Zou, and Haozhong Hou, step in to fill this gap with their study of the entrepreneurial persistence of e-sellers. As the paper’s title immediately discloses, starting an e-retail business is relatively easy owing to the low entry barriers, while staying in the marketplace is not. The authors identify, parse, and operationalize the entrepreneurial persistence as key differentiator between those who stay in the marketplace and those who leave. The paper contributes to our understanding of entrepreneurship as well as of the supply side of the marketplace. It is by far not always that the large competitors can be rightly blamed for the failure of small e-sellers.

Group buying has failed in some settings and in some configurations, and has been successful in others. Notably, this form of online offering has been highly successful in China. Group buying deserves a close research look. Here, Shuxing Sun, Bin Zhang, and Yiting Huang present a game-theoretic comparative analysis of supply chain structures in this retail variety. The authors compare two settings. In one of them, both e-retailers offer individual as well as group buying, in the second one, we have a competition between an exclusively traditional retailer and exclusively group seller. The optimal supply-chain structures under the conditions of this formal study are identified, and the effects on the manufacturers and consumers are determined. The pragmatic advice on pricing and group threshold will help in the design of group-buying mechanism.

Now, we need to pay attention to the more transcendent matters. The scholarly community of the IS discipline mourns the passing of Ting-Peng Liang, a well- known researcher and a long-time member of the Editorial Board of the International Journal of Electronic Commerce. A prominent scholar, quietly inspiring leader, successful entrepreneur, thoughtful and modest individual, gracious meeting host, T.P. was a significant presence in our lives. Over several decades, he has done much for the global development of IS and e-commerce scholarship as an organizer, mentor, and author of generative works. His research interests and contributions ranged widely, including social commerce, decision support, knowledge management, strategic deployment of information technologies, data analytics, and intelligent systems. The passing of T.P. Liang is a great loss.


  1. AlphaFold, Initial release July 16, 2021, https://github.com/deepmind/alphafold (Accessed 8/6/21).

2. Chen, L., Marsden, J.R., and Zhang Z., Theory and analysis of company-sponsored value co-creation. Journal of Management Information Systems, 29, 2 (Fall 2012), 141–172.

3. Zwass, V., Co-creation: Toward a taxonomy and an integrated research perspective, International Journal of Electronic Commerce, 15, 1 (Fall 2010), 11–48, p011full.pdf (ijec-web.org)