Academic journal article Journal of Electronic Commerce Research

The Evolution of E-Commerce Research: A Stakeholder Perspective

Academic journal article Journal of Electronic Commerce Research

The Evolution of E-Commerce Research: A Stakeholder Perspective

Article excerpt


The rapid rise of e-Commerce as a legitimate market has brought a corresponding increase in the number of academic papers on the subject. Stakeholder theory suggests that, as an emerging research discipline, e-Commerce research is likely to focus primarily on specific stakeholders and ignore others. This paper surveys seven of the top nine e-Commerce journals to test this proposition. We demonstrate that academic e-Commerce researchers concentrate their attentions on two stakeholder groups, specifically customers and the internal organization (i.e., managers and employees) of the Net-Enhanced Organization (NEO). Other stakeholders such as suppliers, indirect stakeholders, investors, and regulators receive disproportionately less research interest. However, as e-Commerce matures, these neglected themes, topics, industries, and stakeholders will require increasing attention. We thus explore some of the research questions relevant to these neglected stakeholders, and argue that IS and e-Commerce researchers should investigate these emergent issues before researchers in other disciplines do so.

Keywords: Stakeholder theory; Net-enhanced organizations, Regulators, Investors, Suppliers

1. Introduction

One perennial criticism of e-Commerce research (indeed all "explanatory" IS research) is that it lags behind practice [Jennex 2001, Khazanchi and Munkvold 2001]. Information Systems (IS) academics sometimes avoid studying problems that are of pressing concern to Net-Enhanced Organizations (NEOs) [Straub 2004] and fail to address problems that are of immediate concern [Gray 2001]. This paper attempts to deviate from this trend by applying stakeholder theory to identify legitimate academic problems that will be of concern, at some future point, to e-Commerce practitioners. Our specific objectives in this study are to:

1. Use stakeholder theory to suggest ways of reorganizing e-Commerce research,

2. Survey existing literature to identify stakeholders that e-Commerce research has typically addressed,

3. Identify stakeholders inadequately addressed to date by e-Commerce research and propose relevant research topics with respect to these stakeholders, and

4. Prepare e-Commerce researchers for addressing future problems of e-Commerce practitioners.

The work contributes to e-Commerce research by advocating the study of emergent problems relevant to both theory [Benbasat and Zmud 2003, DeSanctis 2003, Ives et al. 2004, Robey 2003] and practice [Gray 2001, Jennex 2001, Khazanchi and Munkvold 2001]. Specifically, we provide evidence that little scientific work in electronic commerce has investigated the role of suppliers, investors, regulators, and indirect stakeholders such as the media and researchers on NEOs, and demonstrate that these stakeholders are pointedly within the purview of e-Commerce research. We present some emerging or recurrent issues concerning these stakeholders that have not been satisfactorily addressed to illustrate why research is needed. We make no claims that this potential research is necessarily the most important or relevant work that researchers could pursue. Instead, we highlight these areas to show the enormity of the problem thus far neglected.

The paper proceeds as follows. Section 2 elaborates on stakeholder theory, which we use to structure the e-Commerce literature. Section 3 demonstrates that only two e-Commerce stakeholders have been investigated to date. Section 4 discusses previously unidentified stakeholders and tries to prove that e-Commerce research on these stakeholders is both worthwhile and relevant to Information Systems. Section 5 draws conclusions from the prior discussions.

2. Related Research

Stakeholder theory posits that organizational strategies are driven towards satisfying the conflicting goals of organizational stakeholders [Hatch 1997]. In stakeholder theory, a stakeholder is a group or individual affected by the achievement of organizational goals, who can cause difficulties for the organization if its own needs are not satisfied [Freeman 1984]. …

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