Electronic business (e-Business) continues to benefit from the growth in the number of consumers on the Internet, which is currently estimated to be 750 + million globally, a 10% increase from 2006 ("Worldwide internet audience," 2007). The number of consumers on the Internet in America in contrast is estimated to be 150 + million, 20% of the 750 + million ("Worldwide internet audience," 2007). From a 2006 global information technology index of 122 countries of the World Economic Forum, countries in Europe are considered to be applying the benefits of information and communication technology (ICT) and of the Web at competitively high levels (Scott, 2007). Though America improved to be first from sixth in the index since 2006 (O'Connor, 2007), the bulk of the countries in the highest tenth of the index is European (Scott). Emerging is an ecosystem of innovation in Europe ("World's most innovative countries," 2007). Enabling benefits of e-Business and technology is the connectivity of the Web, as displayed in Figure 1, from a study of the European Commission on countries in the European Union.
Networked readiness is enabling a foundation for competitiveness in business-to-consumer (B2C) and customer relationship management (CRM) in countries of the European Union. Finland, France, Germany, Poland, and the United Kingdom exceed other European Union countries in indicators of B2C of the European Commission, as displayed in Figure 2.
Countries in the European Union having high networked readiness furnish benefits for consumers and firms to flourish in a B2C global economy (Carlin, 2007). Estimates indicate increased competitiveness in B2C, in electronic customer relationship management (e-CRM) interaction with customers on the Web, and in ICT by firms in the European Union in 2007-2011 ("Information communication technology," 2007).
This growth is contributing to creative design of Web sites that differentiate experiences for consumers in the European Union to buy on the Web, which is evidence of technology as a continued enabler in differentiation (Fitzsimmons & Fitzsimmons, 1997). Experiences have to be perceived to be fully functional, engaging, and compelling in order to convert consumers into customers (Pullman & Gross, 2004). Such experiences form a foundation for one-to-one relationship marketing and service on the Web that impact the intention of customers to continue to buy on the differentiated sites (Chen, Chen, & Kazman, 2007, pp. 2-3).
Innovation in the design of buying experiences and relationships and in the integration of technology may give an edge in competitiveness to especially apparel dress model European Union Web sites, if the design and integration on the sites furnish discernable differential for the customers, which is the focus of this study.
Firms in Europe and in America continue to differentiate apparel Web sites by enhancing dress models of their products with media richness (Lawler & Joseph, 2006; Lawler, Vandepeutte, & Joseph, 2007). Literature distinguishes richness as an enabling factor in a mediated environment that affects consumer decisions to buy the products (Bezjian-Avery & Calder, 1998; Coyle & Thorson, 2001; Klein, 2003) and be loyal to the sites (Gharbi & Soltani, 2007). Richness is defined as multimedia representations of products for enhancing not only the pleasure of shopping but also the process of shopping on these sites and stimulating the senses of shoppers (Bezjian-Avery & Calder, 1998; Coyle & Thorson, 2001; Klein, 2003). Richness is evident in consumer customized 3D dynamic imaging of products on models (Olson, 2007) and in graphical representations of shoppers (Wolfendale, 2007), improved with multimedia technology. Such models and representations evolved from impersonal default 2D mannequins (Greenemeier, 2005) on apparel Web sites. …