Adoption of Social Media by Online Retailers: Assessment of Current Practices and Future Directions

Adoption of Social Media by Online Retailers: Assessment of Current Practices and Future Directions

Farhod P. Karimov (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium) and Malaika Brengman (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium)
Copyright: © 2011 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/jeei.2011010103
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Abstract

In the online environment, the absence of social presence may prevent consumers from purchasing online, while it can enhance their trust, loyalty and enjoyment toward the e-retailer. Thus, today many online retailers try to create social presence by adopting media-rich technologies. In this paper, the authors assess to what degree social media cues are currently adopted by thriving web-vendors and on that basis speculate about future developments. To this purpose, 210 top B2C e-commerce websites have been content analyzed to identify how they differ in the deployment of diverse social media cues. While a wide range of social media cues are adopted by a majority of top e-retailers, a number of more advanced social media features like avatars, recommendation agents, and video-streams are in their infancy where adoption is concerned. The paper demonstrates that the utilization of social media features differs according to the monetary and symbolic value of products sold by the e-commerce vendors.
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The Importance Of Social-Media Cues For E-Retailers

In the offline retailing world, direct contact with a salesperson provides the customer with important cues for the establishment of trust (i.e., eye contact and gestures) which enhance the relationship and intentions to buy (Steinbrück et al., 2002). In contrast, the Internet lacks these kinds of human aspects, limiting the potential of purely virtual businesses (Anderson et al., 2010). To enhance this capacity, e-commerce companies must deploy mechanisms which enable two-way interactions between customers and e-retailers. This involves embedding social-media cues (i.e., cues based on human characteristics) into website interfaces via different communication media (Wang & Emurians, 2005). Today, new media tools like weblogs, instant messaging platforms, video conferencing, and online social-networks are reengineering the way people interact and are unleashing the potential of businesses worldwide (Hawn, 2009; Reding, 2010). Face-to-face communication is being replaced by synchronous and asynchronous communication such as e-mail, texting, blogging, podcasting, instant messaging and mobile devices (Badawy, 2009). The integration of such social-media cues into retail websites will increase the perception of employee presence and improve consumers’ online experiences (Wang et al., 2007). ‘Virtual advisors’, one particular form of website social-presence, may for instance facilitate customers to make a decision to purchase the right product (Dash & Saji, 2007).

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