V O L . 4 8 N O. 1
Joel E. Collier and Carol C. Bienstock
How Do Customers Judge Quality in an E-tailer?
Please note that gray areas reflect artwork that has been intentionally removed. The substantive content of the article appears as originally published.
REPRINT NUMBER 48109
PDFs ■ Reprints ■ Permission to Copy ■ Back Issues
Electronic copies of MIT Sloan Management Review articles as well as traditional reprints and back issues can be purchased on our Web site: www.sloanreview.mit.edu or you may order through our Business Service Center (9 a.m.-5 p.m. ET) at the phone numbers listed below. To reproduce or transmit one or more MIT Sloan Management Review articles by electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying or archiving in any information storage or retrieval system) requires written permission. To request permission, use our Web site (www.sloanreview.mit.edu), call or e-mail: Toll-free in U.S. and Canada: 877-727-7170 International: 617-253-7170 e-mail: email@example.com To request a free copy of our article catalog, please contact: MIT Sloan Management Review 77 Massachusetts Ave., E60-100 Cambridge, MA 02139-4307 Toll-free in U.S. and Canada: 877-727-7170 International: 617-253-7170 Fax: 617-258-9739 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
How Do Customers Judge
Quality in an E-tailer?
Online retailers must distinguish themselves in three aspects of a transaction: customer interaction with the Web site, delivery of the product and ability to address problems when they occur. Joel E. Collier and Carol C. Bienstock
onsumers’ ability to go online to search for and purchase products has dramatically changed the way organizations are managing customer relationships. E-commerce has effectively minimized two of the biggest hurdles to providing a quality experience in a retailing environment. First, it has minimized “heterogeneity” by providing a far more consistent experience to every customer. Unlike a service employee, a Web site never arrives late to work, and it is never in a bad mood or inattentive. A Web site never forgets to sell related products or keep records of previous purchases along with customers’ purchase preferences. (Though e-commerce has reduced some of the heterogeneity in retail experiences, it has not eradicated it. Web sites can lose server connections and experience technical problems that can have a negative impact on customers.) E-commerce has also reduced “perishability” in the retail experience by allowing shopping and product purchases 24 hours a day, seven days a week. With so many customers who consider themselves to be “time starved,”1 online organizations are now allowing the customer to decide when a transaction will occur. E-commerce clearly has some advantages over brick-and-mortar retailing, but how does one online retailer distinguish itself from another? Early research in e-commerce projected that online retailing would spiral into a never-ending price war, while recent researchers have discovered that customers are more likely to pay higher prices to online retailers of high quality that they trust.2 We must ask, How do customers evaluate quality with online retailing? What are the specific aspects of an online transaction that customers value and use to distinguish one Web site from another? We explored these issues by surveying customers who had recently engaged in an online retail transaction to determine how they evaluate the quality of their experiences with online retailers. The results demonstrated that customers’ perceptions of quality and satisfaction with online purchases depend upon three things: interaction with the Web site, delivery of the product and how prepared retailers are to address problems
Joel E. Collier is an assistant professor at Mississippi State University’s College of Business and Industry in the Department of Marketing, Quantitative Analysis and Business Law. Carol C. Bienstock is an assistant...