Consumer-to-consumer (C2C) electronic commerce (ecommerce) is increasing as a means for individuals to buy and sell products (eMarketer, 2007). The majority of research surrounding C2C e-commerce deals with online auctions (Lin, Li, Janamanchi, & Huang, 2006; Melnik & Alm, 2002) or aspects of online auctions such as the reputation systems (Standifird, 2001). However, C2C e-commerce is being conducted in many different venues in addition to online auctions, such as third party listing services and virtual communities (Jones & Leonard, 2006). Consumers can be quite resourceful when identifying one another to buy/sell their products even when a formal structure to conduct such transactions is not provided. However, when C2C e-commerce is conducted outside a formalized venue such as online auctions and third party listing services, the lines of accountability can be blurred. It makes one wonder why a consumer would choose to participate in C2C e-commerce in venues not designed to facilitate this kind of exchange. One such unstructured venue is a virtual community. This article will discuss the possible reasons why consumers are feeling more comfortable transacting with one another in this particular venue.
Andrews (2002) defines community as not a physical place but as relationships where social interaction occurs among people who mutually benefit. A virtual community, or an online community, uses technology to form the communication between the people; it offers a space “for people to meet, network, share, and organize” (Churchill, Girgensohn, Nelson, & Lee, 2004, p. 39).
Armstrong and Hagel (1996) describe virtual communities as meeting four consumer need types: transaction, interest, fantasy, and relationship. A community of transaction is traditionally organized by a vendor. The company would allow the buying and selling of products/services in the community environment. However, the transaction community could be established by a multitude of buyers and sellers organizing together to facilitate a transaction type. A community of interest allows people of a particular interest or topic to interact. It also offers more interpersonal communication than a transaction community. One example is the “The Castle” that focuses on Disneyland interests (Lutters & Ackerman, 2003). A community of fantasy allows people to create new personalities or stories. In this type of community, real identities do not matter. A community of relationship allows people with the same life experiences to interact, for example, those suffering from cancer or an addiction (Josefsson, 2005). Of course, these virtual communities are not mutually exclusive; therefore, a transaction could occur in any of the realms.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Consumer-to-Consumer (C2C) Electronic Commerce (E-commerce): The buying and selling of goods and services electronically by consumers.
Rite of Conflict Reduction: Events designed to bring peace to a community.
Rite of Enhancement: Recognizing the efforts of some member in a community and publicly praising that member.
Rite of Integration: An event used to “rekindle” connections among members of a community.
Rite of Passage: When some event changes the status of a member(s) in a community.
Rite of Renewal: Events meant to regenerate or refocus communities.
Virtual Community (or Online Community): The use of technology for people to communicate regarding a common interest.
Community: Relationships that exist between people with a common interest.
Rite of Degradation: An event in which someone is removed from some position in the community back to level with the other members or even completely removed from the community.