The Functionality of Online Shopping Site within the Customer Service Life Cycle: A Literature Review

The Functionality of Online Shopping Site within the Customer Service Life Cycle: A Literature Review

Hakan Celik (Bilecik Seyh Edebali University, Turkey)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9787-4.ch055

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Online retailing is beyond infancy. With wide spread Internet penetration and upward trends toward reliance on online purchases, it has become a highly viable alternative for and complement to traditional retailing. Retailers expect to increase efficiencies, effectiveness, and competitiveness through their online presences or extensions. The world witnessed profound transformations of brick-and-mortar retailers into click-and-mortar or purely virtual retailers during the last two decades. However, exacerbated by the rise of online retailing, the growth in the number of market entries from domestic and international retailers has made the almost saturated virtual markets even more competitive and vibrant. Thus, converting store traffic into paying customers and keeping them engaged in purchasing have emerged as challenges for online retailers because of low switching costs, reduced information asymmetry, and easy comparison of alternatives. Retailers have rigorously focused their attention to creating and maintaining effective websites for customer acquisition and retention. While they have invested a substantial amount of money in website functionality to yield greater return, they have also been plagued with ineffective investment problems stemming from extensive improvement efforts of all website functionalities with little attention paid to their roles in the proposition of online competence and value creation.

It is more difficult to gain a competitive advantage through innovative web functions as retailers become more mature and competitive in polishing their websites with advanced futures. The wide spread imitation of these futures among competitors also makes functionality innovations short lived and costly. Merely deploying new functionalities that do not target specific customer needs is not enough to differentiate online stores from their competitors. For example; Ayanso and Yoogalingam (2009) identified four cluster profiles for online retailers based on additional functionality offerings on their websites and concluded that the retailers in the excessive cluster were no more successful than were those in the basic cluster in converting browsers into buyers. On the other hand, some customers might even experience future fatigue when they need to break the codes of new and cool capabilities embedded into store interfaces (Thompson et al., 2005). The obvious need to develop psychometrically and methodically sound metrics to gauge consumers’ perceptions of functional elements on shopping site has attracted the attention of both practitioners and scholars over the years. However, despite the emerging interest in identifying a comprehensive set of website functions through such metrics, only limited and fragmented understanding exists of which functional elements of online shopping sites are important to satisfy the changing needs of online shoppers throughout the course of their relations with online vendors. Therefore, the purpose of this chapter is to build a review on previous studies to evaluate the relative importance of website functionalities to facilitate a gratifying shopping experience using the CSLC framework. A total of 79 site functions were identified and presented according to their relations with the CSLC stages. The implications for prospective research are discussed based on the conducted review at the end of the section.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Customer Service Life Cycle (CSLC): The utilization of information technology to serve the customers based on the four distinct stages of their relationships with the firm.

Web Site Functionality: The implementation of specific site futures to fulfill the service needs of customers during their entire relationships with the firm.

Online Retailing: A process that allows the customers to search, select and purchase the products, services and information remotely over the Internet.

Engel-Kollat-Blackwell (EKB) Model: A comprehensive model that depicts the consumer behavior as decision process comprised of five different stages: need recognition, information search, alternative evaluation, purchase decision and outcome.

Customer Value: An evaluation of product / service attributes, attribute performances and consequences emerging from their utilization by the customer in terms of their contributions to his/her achievement of desired goals in use situations.

Service quality: A function of the difference between consumer expectations of service performance and their perceptions of the service actually received from the firm.

Web Site: A virtual location on the World Wide Web, including several interconnected pages and data files that are managed by an individual, company or organization.

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