ECRA co-editors introduction for volume 9, issue 3, May, June 2010

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Journal Article

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Our lives have all been fundamentally changed by the recently emerged technological innovations associated with mobile and nomadic computing. As we write this Editors’ Introduction, we realize that our simple electronic mail-based correspondence on the editorial issues with this journal are as likely to be sent by digital wireless phone as it is from a desktop or a wireless laptop PC. Suddenly information that was searchable via the Internet from our PCs is now searchable on the small devices that we hold in our hands. We increasingly rely on these as we go about our work and our lives, using them to interact with our colleagues and families, libraries and stores, and a range of social networking services that make us feel like we are connected to the increasingly flat world around us. Although such services and the products that deliver them can still be quite expensive, many things that we can now do that were costly before (e.g., texting, location-based search, and geo-positioning) have become increasingly economical.The theme of the special issue, “Nomadic and Mobile Computing,” addresses some of the important issues in this new marketspace. We all wonder: What form will the emerging business services take that are made possible by mobile computing? What can we expect to see in the coming five years in terms of new business models and exciting new mobile services that are likely to again transform the lives of consumers (similar to basic cell telephony and in-phone digital cameras)? What will the next generation infrastructure for mobility look like? Think, for example, of the transformed infrastructure for digital music, in light of Apple’s iTunes, and the spectrum of MP3 player capabilities that are now embedded in cell phones. Beyond that, we have video advertisements, TV shows, book-related video shorts and longer video movies that have all become accessible to us. All of these recent innovations in products and services that are delivered to the consumer using mobile means of distribution require technology and process innovations that will make new forms of digital support effective and economical.We offer our thanks to Kemal Altinkemer, who took the lead on bringing together the special issue articles on nomadic computing. He gave the authors’ work genuine care and strong support in its development, and was highly successful in attracting interesting work and knowledgeable authors. Kemal is also a member of this journal’s Editorial Board, where he has been making other welcome contributions. We will continue to seek his counsel and guidance on issues related to mobility, ubiquitous computing and telecommunications, as well as management science, stochastic modeling and operations research-based approaches to research in electronic commerce.This issue also includes three Regular Research Articles that were developed in parallel with the Special Issue. The topics of these articles cluster in the general area of Marketing and Electronic Commerce, a continuing theme for this journal. This area continues to be a critical one for this journal, with many authors making submissions of research that studies issues of product and services search, digital pricing approaches, Internet-based selling mechanism design, marketing to unique segments of consumers on the Internet, new approaches to payment systems to support Internet-based selling, and more. The articles that we describe next are a sample of these submissions.The first regular article is by Carlos Serrano-Cinca, Yolanda Fuertes-Callén and Begoña Gutiérrez-Nieto, and is entitled “Internet Positioning and Performance of E-Tailers: An Empirical Analysis.” The business problems associated with Internet positioning and site visibility are important ones for many different kinds of firms that are engaged in Internet-based selling. The authors study this problem from the point of view of metrics that are used to gauge the flow of consumers to websites and the financial performance of the firms that sell via such websites. The authors observe that the visibility of a firm’s website in other settings, including search engines, e-shopping malls and e-tailing portals, and in news services and consumer blogs is critical for success with selling.The authors conducted empirical analysis of 138 electronic stores in the United States, and focused on the constructs of visibility, popularity and reputation for the e-tailer sites. They also examined a set of five financial variables, including sales, profit, website visitors per store employee, profit per store employee and sales growth from period to period. The sample firms are from the 2005 Internet Retailer Top 400 Guide, which includes pure Internet as well as Fortune 500 dual-channel sellers. The analysis methods that the authors use are innovative. They consist of the application of principal components analysis, using a tool called Pro-Fit. The authors report that their sample of e-tailers seems to position themselves as either search engine-based, which a reader might expect, and people-based, where the emphasis is on the Internet surfing activities of human users, and the manner in which an e-tailer’s positioning may attract such users. The authors confirm prior results that Internet-based sellers compete on the basis of cost leadership and product differentiation, however, they were not able to find a relationship between a firm’s positioning on the Internet and the extent of its sales growth over time.The second article, by Robert J. Kauffman, Hsiangchu Lai and Chao-Tsung Ho, examines some key issues that relate to group-buying and sales discounting on the Internet. The work is entitled “Incentive Mechanisms, Fairness and Participation in Group-Buying Auctions,” and is experimental in nature. The authors used an innovative experimental research test bed that has been built over the past several years by Hsiangchu Lai of National Sun Yat-sen University and her Ph.D. and Master’s degree students in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. The test bed is called Negogo (www.negogo.com), and is accessible publicly on the Internet, and is a signature activity of NSYSU’s College of Management. Group-buying auctions on the Internet have been developed to permit sellers and individual consumers to organize interested consumers to express sufficient demand such that it is in the interest of the seller to offer price breaks and discounts, depending on the number of people who are willing to buy a product. The literature to date has treated the phenomenon of online group-buying as an exemplar of how network effects can be manipulated to achieve success with mechanism designs for Internet-based selling.The authors examined the issue of “start-up inertia” associated with group-buying auctions online. They created an experimental setting that illustrates the “wait-and-see” dynamics of consumer participation, and what kinds of incentives are needed for an Internet-based seller to attract enough consumers who are willing to make group-buying orders so that the group-buying auction will succeed. Success in this context means that the auction will finish, and establish a “final price” at which consumers can acquire the sale items they are interested in. The authors studied three different participation incentives that are sequence, time and quantity-based, for group-buying auctions involving bakery cookies. Their results suggest that consumers are sensitive to the issues of fairness for final sales item prices, adjusted for any additional price discount incentives they are able to obtain. They also reported that group-buying auction order arrival sequence-based incentives are not very much welcomed by consumers; these give them concerns about a potential lack of procedural fairness with the mechanism design. They also found that consumers who believe that the auction mechanism is fair are more likely to be willing to make purchases and be satisfied with the final group-buying auction prices for the items that are sold.The final article of this issue is by Carmen Camarero Izquierdo, Rebeca San José Cabezudo and Sonia San Martín Gutiérrez. Their contribution is “Product and Channel-Related Risk and Involvement in Online Contexts.” Online purchasing is fraught with multiple risks for the consumers who use this channel. As a result, developing strong customer loyalty and intimate relationships with their customers is a costly and difficult business problem for electronic retailers to solve. In their research, the authors focus on three key risk constructs that are salient from the point of view of consumers on the Internet: social, channel and transaction risks. They also explore the characteristics of different kinds of consumers to see the effects that occur with respect to their level of “channel involvement” and their willingness to make purchases.They state a number of primary hypotheses for their work. Several of the most memorable are as follows: (1) The Online Channel Involvement Hypothesis states that involvement toward the online channel has a favorable influence on involvement toward online products and services offered through the same channel. (2) Another key hypothesis is the Channel Risk Effects Hypothesis, which argues that risk in the online channel influences the consumer‘s perception of the social risk (related to how others perceive the appropriateness of your shopping behavior) and the transaction risk involved. The other hypotheses relate to a blend of the issues identified in the first two hypotheses, as well as the consumer’s involvement with the Internet channel, purchase frequency and propensity to innovation. Their research design involved analyzing a sample of more than 500 Spanish consumers, and comparing it with a consumer Internet usage profile from the Spanish Association of Electronic Commerce. The authors found that social risk and channel involvement are closely related, as are consumer perceptions of the other risk dimensions. They pointed out a number of actionable recommendations to Internet retailers on how to think about the role that individual personality traits may play in conditioning consumers’ willingness to become involved in the Internet channel and their willingness to make purchase transactions.We look forward to receiving additional papers on the nomadic and mobile computing theme, as well as on the topics represented by the regular articles presented in this issue of Electronic Commerce Research and Applications.


Computer Sciences

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Information Systems and Management


Electronic Commerce Research and Applications





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