A Model for Usability in E-Commerce Services: Theoretical Concept and Empirical Evidence

A Model for Usability in E-Commerce Services: Theoretical Concept and Empirical Evidence

Udo Konradt (University of Kiel, Germany), Friedemann W. Nerdinger (University of Rostock, Germany) and Thomas Ellwart (University of Trier, Germany)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9787-4.ch167
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Introduction

B2C (Business-to-Consumer) e-commerce, which involves the marketing and distribution of products and services to consumers via the Internet, has advantages both for retailers and consumers. Among others, consumers are able to shop at any time, do not have expenses for driving to shops, and goods are directly delivered to their homes. It is therefore not surprising that market and consumer studies indicate that US online retail sales accounted for almost 9% of the $3.2 trillion total retail market in 2013 and will continue to grow at a compound annual growth rate of nearly 10% through 2018. (Forrester Research, 2014).

An important factor in the B2C e-commerce success is the usability of the shopping interface, which refers to a website`s ability to be used to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction in a specified context of use (ISO 9241-11; Venkatesh & Agarwal, 2006). Theory and research suggest that usability is critical for the adoption or rejection of e-commerce applications in several fields of application (e.g., Pavlou & Fygenson, 2006; Song & Zahedi, 2005). Despite the significance of usability in product oriented B2C e-commerce (Koufaris, Kambil, & La Barbera, 2002; Pavlou & Fygenson, 2006; Song & Zahedi, 2005) as well as in B2B (Business-to-Business) e-commerce, which make use of Internet and web technologies for interorganizational business transactions (e.g., Konradt, Lueckel, & Ellwart, 2012), effects have rarely been demonstrated for online suppliers of services. E-commerce of services refers to the purchase and sales of services via electronic channels, such as the Internet. Even though the difference between services and products or goods is not always clear-cut and distinctive, services are intangible and production and consumption of services cannot be separated (de Jong & Vermeulen, 2003). Because of these characteristics, services are considered to be high in so-called credence qualities, which consumers find difficult to evaluate. Hence, they must rely on the supplier to be served properly. Physical goods, in contrast, are high in search qualities and experience qualities. That is, customers are able to assess the quality of products before a final purchase and make valid experience-based evaluations afterwards. This kind of evaluation is not possible in e-commerce of services, and consumers have to collect other cues for information that promise service quality, for example, the usability of the e-commerce website for services. Research by Konradt, Held, Christophersen, and Nerdinger (2012; see also Christophersen & Konradt, 2011; Konradt & Christophersen, 2013) indicates that website usability is much more predictive of the intention to use in respect to commercial services than products. An explanation of this effect might be that a website’s usability provides cues for the competence and trustworthiness of the supplier, and thus mediates the relation between trust and intention to use or buy of the service.

Thus, we aim to highlight the major importance (or implications, significance?) of website usability for online suppliers of services, suggest a theoretical model of usability in e-commerce services, and provide empirical evidence supporting the validity and predictive value of the model. Despite manifold theoretical and empirical research on e-commerce success (e.g., Song & Zahedi, 2005; Venkatesh & Agarwal, 2006), a closer look reveals several shortcomings with regard to its application for service oriented e-commerce. First, previous theory and research avoids examining the impact of usability within a nomological network of e-commerce (generally or in services). A nomological network refers to a system of theoretical links between the focal construct and other constructs (Cronbach & Meehl, 1955). Given the variety of factors that influence online consumers’ behavior (e.g., Venkatesh & Agarwal, 2006), the integration of multiple variables and their relations into a nomological network would reduce the risk of overestimating single variables’ effects, broaden the theoretical understanding by preventing a too simplistic view, and finally advance the development of more extensive theories.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Formative and Reflective Measurement Models: Refers to the relation between latent constructs and manifest indicators (i.e., items) in Structural Equation Models. In reflective measurement models, the causal path runs from the latent variable to the indicators, whereas in formative models the indicators are combinations that form the composite latent variable.

User Satisfaction: User satisfaction refers to the user's comfort and acceptability of a computer application during the consumption of the content and the interaction with the system.

E-Commerce Services: E-commerce of services refers to the purchase and sales of services via electronic channels, such as the Internet.

Usability: Refers to the ability of an artifact (e.g., device, program, website) to be used to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction in a specified context of use.

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