Editor’s Introduction 26(2)

Vladimir Zwass
International Journal of Electronic Commerce,
Volume 26, Number 2, 2022, pp. 147-148.

Two articles that open this 26th volume of the International Journal of Electronic Commerce (IJEC) investigate the operation of the sharing economy, a transformational segment of e-commerce. This peer-to-peer, or generally person-to-person (P2P in either denomination), mode of exchange is a large and expanding segment of economy that activates individual initiative and a multiplicity of resources only partially utilized before becoming shared. Among the shared resources the providers offer to the consumers are time, skills and expertise, real estate, goods, and money. The modes of trade include monetary exchange (most frequently), barter, or gifts, with both goods and services being provided and aggregated as demanded. Over the two decades of the development of shared economy, online platforms connecting providers to consumers, and often to multiple third parties (such as validators or payment processors), have emerged as powerful market makers and suppliers of trust, reputation, and value-added services. Platforms have become a new form of intermediaries, in many cases disintermediating or complementing traditional organizations. Their influence on the global economies is yet to be fully felt.

In a step toward understanding the pricing in P2P marketplaces, Ling Ding, Juan Feng, Xiuwu Liao, and Lu Yang offer a broad-based formal analysis of the influence of a sharing market on the producers of durable goods, manufacturers of cars that can be rented on a platform in the present study. The authors model the effects of a sharing platform and its marketplace on the profits of the goods producer and on the economic welfare of their consumers. The model incorporates the platform’s commission and other transaction costs of sharing. Among the findings, we see that the existence of the sharing market can lead to a higher selling price of the good while beneficial impacts on consumer’s well-being might not be seen. These results offer pricing guidance to the shared goods manufacturers and platform offerors, and are certain to be built upon in the future.

In the next article of the issue, Fuzhen Liu, Kee-hung Lai, Jiang Wu, and Xin (Robert) Luo investigate the role of the electronic word-of-mouth (eWOM) in the accommodations-sharing markets. Considering the strong information asymmetry in these markets, eWOM plays a crucial role in transacting and pricing. With the obvious security risks of lodging with strangers come the relationship and communitarian benefits of cultural and social embedding. Grounding themselves in the signaling and trust-transfer theories, the authors deploy machine leaning and economic analysis, using the data from a major platform. As the researchers discover, platform-based eWOM plays a more significant role in the customers’ decision making than do the listing-based reviews. Their results allow the authors to offer granular recommendations to all the stakeholders in the accommodation-sharing markets. Taken together with the preceding article, we have a significant contribution to platform-based mechanism design.

Online brand communities are important to brand development, reputation, and flourishing. They are also potential sites of cyber-victimization, such as bullying. Here, Nuttakon Ounvorawong, Jan Breitsohl, Ben Lowe, and Des Laffey explore empirically how the effects of this phenomenon from the dark side of e-commerce depend on the reaction of the community. As we know from other settings, bystanders can remain silently standing by (pretending that nothing happened) or can intervene in the incident, in some cases even aggravating it by reinforcement. The authors study how these bystander reactions affect such individual outcomes as the victim’s eWOM intentions, and such community outcomes as brand satisfaction and the intentions to follow. Notably, “pretending” is hurtful. By differentiating between the mild and severe bullying attacks and various forms of bystander reaction, the authors offer granular results to be used by the facilitators of brand communities. Aside from damage to the attacked individuals, cyber-victimization is bad for business.

Online shopping entails a variety of risks, well researched in the literature. Here, Tzu-Ling Huang, Chun-Han Chen, Gen-Yih Liao, T. C. E. Cheng, and Ching-I Teng propose a novel construct that would allow commercial websites to assess their risk-reduction posture through a metric of vendor-specific perceived effectiveness of e-commerce institutional mechanisms (VS-PEEIM). This is the vendor-specific version of the previously studied PEEIM. The proposed construct takes in, for example, the security certifications and the rankings of the focus website. The authors postulate that this construct can be a mediator between the website quality and customer loyalty. Via survey research, they establish how VS-PEEIM differentially mediates the effects of service, system, and information quality on consumer loyalty.

Online selling platforms, such as Amazon, increasingly act as e-malls, connecting third-party sellers with buyers. Such platforms offer to the sellers either fixed-fee contracts or proportional-fee contracts. Under fixed-fee contracts, platforms charge the product offeror a fixed rent. Under proportional-fee contracts, sellers pay a percentage of the sale price Since the platform owner often has an estimate of the potential market size for the product, based on the data accumulated by the platform, this information asymmetry may lead to a more informed choice of the contract by the platform owner. The owner may choose to signal this information to the seller and the seller may have it influence the product price. In formal modeling, Jun Wang, Qian Zhang, and Pengwen Hou arrive at their recommendations regarding the contract and pricing strategies under symmetric and asymmetric information. The concluding work further expands our understanding of platform-based design of economic mechanisms investigated in the opening articles and in several articles we have published in IJEC over the recent years.

As we enter the new volume, it is my distinct privilege to welcome to our editorial board its new members who have attained distinction in our field and have served the journal for years as referees: Christy M. K. Cheung of Hong Kong Baptist University; Juan (Jane) Feng of Tsinghua University, China; Johann Füller of Innsbruck University, Austria; and Constance Porter of Rice University, United States. It is with sadness that we note once again the passing of a long-time member of our board, Ting-Peng Liang. We also thank the outgoing Board members, Alexander Benlian and Stefan Klein, for their many years of service to IJEC.