Editor’s Introduction 27(1)

Vladimir Zwass
International Journal of Electronic Commerce,
Volume 27, Number 1, 2022, pp. 1-2.

The collaboration between the human agency and algorithms takes various forms and is a subject of intensive research and development, leading largely toward the increasing replacement of the human decision making by algorithmic control. To what effect? Obviously, the question can be answered only in a more or less specific context, as contingencies abound. The authors of the opening article of this IJEC issue address the problem in the context of online advertising platforms. Such platforms are represented here by Google Ads, where the algorithmic decision making in ad allocation and pricing is progressively on the increase. In their survey-based research, the authors, Joni Salminen, Bernard J. Jansen, and Mekhail Mustak, find that this substitution is actually welcomed by the advertisers using the platform. The authors are able to identify three meaningful categories of human advertisers in their relationship with the platform automation. This categorization can be further generalized beyond the present setting, as the speed of decision making inexorably drives platforms toward the algorithmic approach.

Big data analytics (BDA) have become common in addressing business problems at all levels of decision-making. Do they actually create value for the focal firms? The question is addressed empirically by Yuan Liu, Yuzhu Zheng, June Wei, and Yang Yang in the next work. The authors dichotomize BDA into two categories: Inside-out BDA focus on the internal organizational entities (e.g., products and processes), while the outside-in BDA bring in the data on the external entities (such as customers and suppliers). The authors base themselves theoretically in the knowledge-based view of the firm and perform a granular analysis of performance effects of the two different types of BDA on the firms with various levels of performance. This allows them to offer significantly novel results to the controversial question of the value-added of BDA.

Online brand communities are an important means of co-creation of value by customers, binding the participants more tightly to a brand. Clearly, the more engaged customers (posters) play a greater role than the passive ones (known as lurkers). Yet the value of lurker participation is often unduly neglected. In their empirical research based a rich theoretical foundation, Sahar Mousavi and Stuart Roper show the differential value added by each type of community participants to the brand. The general message here is: Do not forget the lurkers! Based on their research, the authors offer actionable recommendations to the brands on the management of the relationships with the two types of value-generating participants of online brand communities.

Two concluding articles present the results of formal modeling of online–offline supply chains under asymmetric information, characteristic of such ecosystems. Jianghua Wu, Yan Zong, and Xin Liu develop a model of cooperative advertising in a dual-channel supply chain consisting of a manufacturer that can sell directly online and of a retailer. The manufacturer has an incentive to contribute to the retailer’s advertising costs, as the effects spill over to the overall brand sales. In addition, the model takes in the effects of information sharing with manufacturers by retailers, who are motivated to do so, at least in part. We remember that internalizing the manufacturer–retailer information sharing is at the core of success of brands such as Zara, retailed by the manufacturers themselves. The authors show the synergistic effects of cooperative advertising and information sharing in such a dual-channel supply arrangement.

Complementing the preceding work, the authors of the final article of the issue, Haiyue Zhang, Xumei Zhang, Bin Dan, and Ronghua Sui, study the partnership between the manufacturers selling directly online and offline retailers acting as showrooms, under conditions of falling demand. The modeling brings results and advice for the product competition versus cooperation between the two supply-chain participants under information asymmetry between the two. This and the preceding work, taken together, contribute significantly to our knowledge of the ever more frequent online–offline supply-chain management.