an empirical investigation of antecedents of b2b websites

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  • AN EMPIRICAL INVESTIGATION OF

    ANTECEDENTS OF B2B WEBSITES

    EFFECTIVENESS

    G o u t a m C h a k r a b o r t yV i s h a l L a l a

    D a v i d W a r r e n

    f

    A B S T R A C TThe purpose of this study was to identify the factors that influencecustomers perceptions of the effectiveness of business-to-businessWebsites and to test empirically the significance of these factors.Based on a review of academic and trade press literature, weidentified eight factors that are thought to influence business-to-business Website effectiveness. Following standard scaledevelopment procedures, we developed valid and reliable scales formeasuring each of these eight factors. A Web survey-based fieldstudy was conducted in which 540 business customers of a powertool company gave their opinions about one of eight constructionindustry Websites with which they were most familiar. Wesimultaneously tested the significance of these eight factors in

    2002 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. and

    Direct Marketing Educational Foundation, Inc.

    f

    JOURNAL OF INTERACTIVE MARKETING

    VOLUME 16 / NUMBER 4 / AUTUMN 2002

    Published online in Wiley InterScience (www.interscience.wiley.com).

    DOI: 10.1002/dir.10044

    51

    GOUTAM CHAKRABORTY is anAssociate Professor of Marketing atOklahoma State University,Stillwater, Oklahoma.

    VISHAL LALA is a doctoralstudent in marketing at OklahomaState University, Stillwater,Oklahoma.

    DAVID WARREN is an MBAstudent at Oklahoma StateUniversity, Tulsa, Oklahoma.

    This research was conducted withsupport from a large power-toolcompany in the Midwest regionthat wishes to remain anonymous.An earlier version of this articlewon the conference-wide bestpaper award at the DMEFs 13thAnnual Educators Conference. Theauthors acknowledge helpfulcomments and suggestions fromthe editor and an anonymousreviewer of JIM, two anonymousreviewers of the DMEFs 13thAnnual Educators Conference,Loren Zeller, and Tracy Suter.

  • explaining the effectiveness of Websites. Ourresults suggest that of the eight factorsconsidered, informativeness, organization,transaction-related interactivity, andpersonalization are significant predictors ofWebsite effectiveness. We found no directrelationship between the other factors (non-transaction-related interactivity, privacy/security,accessibility, and entertainment) and Websiteeffectiveness.

    The growth of and the hype associated withInternet commerce in both business-to-business(herein referred to as B2B) and business-to-consumer (herein referred to as B2C) domainshave been discussed extensively in both aca-demic and trade press literature (Day, 1998;Lohse, Bellman, & Johnson, 2000; Peppers &Rogers, 2001; Peterson, Balasubramanian, &Bronnenberg, 1997; Porter, 2001; Seybold,2001). Although commerce may be conductedon the Internet in a multitude of ways, one ofthe commonly used methods for generatingcommerce involves selling goods and servicesthrough a companys Website. While some re-searchers have expressed concerns about com-moditization of undifferentiated products onthe Internet (Alba et al., 1997; Bakos, 1997;Lynch & Ariely, 2000), others have found thatWebsites play important roles in overcomingcommoditization and introducing price hetero-geneity (Brynjolfsson & Smith, 2000). Beyondcommerce, a companys Website is also used forcommunicating, entertaining, and interactingwith customers, prospects, and other stakehold-ers. Thus, one of the important issues for man-agers is to be able to understand, measure, andtrack the different factors that influence theeffectiveness of their Websites.

    Normative prescriptions abound in the pop-ular press literature for what makes a Websiteeffective. Some of these prescriptions are basedon sound communication principles, while oth-ers are common-sense approaches to Websitedesign (Nielsen, 2000). While we are aware that

    many consulting companies have conductedextensive empirical research on Website effec-tiveness, the results from such studies are, un-fortunately, not available in the public domain.Published studies in academic literature haveattempted the following: determination of fac-tors that affect consumers evaluation of a Web-site (Chen & Wells, 1999; Eighmey, 1997), im-portance of specific features such as interactivityin a Website (Ghose & Dou, 1998; Olson &Widing, 2002), personalization agents (Ansari,Essegaier, & Kohli, 2000; Iacobucci, Arabie, &Bodapati, 2000), privacy and security issues(Milne & Boza, 1999; Phelps, DSouza, &Nowak, 2001; Yoon, 2002), importance of delayin accessing of Websites (Dellaert & Kahn, 1999;Weinberg, 2000), and importance of Websitebackground (Stevenson, Bruner, & Kumar,2000). Unfortunately, most published academicstudies are somewhat limited by their use ofB2C Websites, student/faculty samples, andsmall sample sizes.

    Although B2C Websites have received morethan their fair share of media and researchattention, a recent study by the U.S. Depart-ment of Commerce claimed that B2B Websitesoutperformed B2C Websites in terms of com-merce by more than three times in the year2000 (www.ecommerce.gov). Recognition ofthe operational efficiencies and effectivenessthat emerges from utilizing the Internet is driv-ing an increasingly large number of B2B mar-keters to switch to the Internet for conductingtransactions (Sharma, 2002). Furthermore, theimpact of the Internet in international market-ing is expected to be much greater for B2B thanfor B2C (Samiee, 1998). In general, forecastersagree that the gap between B2B and B2C com-merce will only widen over the next three to fiveyears (Forrester Research, The Gartner Group,and The Boston Consulting Group).

    Given the consensus about the importance ofB2B e-commerce, it is surprising that little aca-demic research has empirically demonstratedwhat factors lead to the success of B2B Websites.This gap in knowledge is critical because thefindings from B2C Website research may nottranslate well to B2B Websites due to differ-ences between the two types of sites. For exam-

    J O U R N A L O F I N T E R A C T I V E M A R K E T I N G

    JOURNAL OF INTERACTIVE MARKETING VOLUME 16 / NUMBER 4 / AUTUMN 2002

    52

  • ple, Sawhney and Kaplan (1999) as well as Pep-pers and Rogers (2001) argued that most B2Bsituations differ markedly from B2C situationswith respect to transaction volume, averagetransaction amount, number of customers, thenature of relationship between buyer and seller,logistics, and fulfillment issues associated withtransactions, etc.

    The objective of our research is to addressthe voids in the knowledge as described above.Specifically, we want to develop a reliable andvalid scale for measuring and understandingthe factors that lead to effective B2B Websites.In the next section, we first briefly review priorresearch about predictors of Website effective-ness. Based on this review, we develop opera-tional definitions of constructs that influenceWebsite effectiveness and propose hypothesesby relating these constructs to Website effective-ness. This is followed by a discussion of thedesign of our survey instrument and method ofdata collection. The results from a survey usinga large sample of B2B customers in the con-struction industry are discussed in the next sec-tion. Finally, we discuss the implications of ourresearch, consider its limitations, and identifyfuture research directions.

    CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK ANDHYPOTHESES DEVELOPMENTWe view a B2B Website as an interface betweena company and its prospects, customers, andother stakeholders. This differs from B2C Web-sites in that the prospects and customers areother businesses rather than consumers. Ourgoal is to understand the effects of prospectsand customers perceptions about different di-mensions of a companys Website on its effec-tiveness. In considering the perceptions of pros-pects and customers of a B2B Website, we focusmore on broader perceptual constructs (such asorganization, personalization) than very spe-cific Website design features (such as exactcolor combinations, font size). Consequently,our literature review ignores academic and pop-ular press literature that has focused on veryspecific Website design features. Instead, we

    build our conceptual model by drawing uponacademic and popular press literature that pro-poses relationships among broader perceptualconstructs as shown in Figure 1. Each of theeight perceptual constructs in Figure 1 has beenidentified by prior researchers (Table 1 pro-vides a summary of prior research) as anteced-ents that influence Website effectiveness as dis-cussed next.

    Antecedents of Website Effectiveness

    Personalization. Personalization in the con-text of a Website involves treating each visitor asan individual, recognizing visitors when theyrevisit a site, and serving up information basedon his/her explicit or implicit preferences(Peppers & Rogers, 1999). In general, person-alization helps screen out unwanted informa-tion or product options, reduces user effort by

    F I G U R E 1Antecedents of Website Effectiveness

    A N T E C E D E N T S O F B 2 B W E B S I T E S E F F E C T I V E N E S S

    JOURNAL OF INTERACTIVE MARKETING VOLUME 16 / NUMBER 4 / AUTUMN 2002

    53

  • eliminating the need to provide personal infor-mation or preferences, improves the accuracyof searches, and speeds up the completion oftransactions. Two related sets of issues are rep-resented in this construct (Redmond, 2002;Wind & Rangaswamy, 2001). The first set ofissues relates to the idea that personalized Web-sites attempt to treat a visitor not as a faceless

    statistic but as an individual by recognizingwhen a visitor returns to a site, often by address-ing a person by name. This is usually achievedby the use of a registration tool (user ID andpassword) in conjunction wit

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