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  • 1. ARTICLE IN PRESS International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 196–211 www.elsevier.com/locate/ijinfomgt Website practices: A comparison between the top 1000 companies in the US and Taiwan Chechen Liaoa, Pui-Lai Tob,Ã, Meng-Lin Shiha a Department of Information Management, National Chung Cheng University, Ming-Hsiung, Chia-Yi 62117, Taiwan b Department of Management Information Systems, National Chiayi University, Chia-Yi 60074, Taiwan Abstract In the global Web environment, understanding the practices of Web adoption in various countries is becoming increasingly important. This study compares the similarities and differences of Web sites across two different countries: the US and Taiwan. The similarities and differences in terms of Web adoption, Web comprehensiveness, and electronic commerce comprehensiveness are presented. The study also investigates whether revenue and industry types play crucial roles in determining the adoption and implementation of Web technology. Data was collected through thorough content analysis of Web sites in the top 1000 companies of the two countries. The results indicate that Web technology has become well integrated into almost all types of industries in the US. US companies are leading in the use of Web technology to conduct business. However, some Taiwanese companies are still at the premature stage of Web adoption: especially those companies in traditional industries or companies in the lower revenue category. Detailed findings are presented. r 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. Keywords: World Wide Web; Web site design; Content analysis; Cross-country comparison; E-commerce; E-business 1. Introduction Over the past decade, the explosive growth of the World Wide Web (the Web), coupled with the rapid expansion of public access to these media, has bolstered the practice of doing business on-line and attracted a great deal of attention from entrepreneurs, executives, and investors. Caught up in the general fervor, many firms have joined the scurrying herd to create their own Web sites for developing a brand reputation, for transacting with and servicing customers, or just simply for public relations purposes. According to the descriptions of Palmer (2002), the Web was expected to increase to 200 million sites by 2005. The number of actual Web pages will increase even more, with existing Web sites continuing to add pages. Given this forecast, the investigation of the phenomenon in the context of the Web is undoubtedly an interesting topic for research. So far, information systems (IS) researchers have conducted many studies attempting to provide information regarding different aspects of the Web and its trends towards the commercial arena. Berthon, Pitt, ÃCorresponding author. Tel.:+886 5 274 3111x3854; fax:+886 5 274 1757. E-mail addresses: ccliao@mis.ccu.edu.tw (C. Liao), plto@mail.ncyu.edu.tw (P.-L. To), mlshih@mis.ccu.edu.tw (M.-L. Shih). 0268-4012/$ - see front matter r 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.ijinfomgt.2006.02.007
  • 2. ARTICLE IN PRESS C. Liao et al. / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 196–211 197 and Watson (1996) thought that the Web, with the aspect of two-way communication, is more than adequate for promoting a company’s products, services and image. Hoffman and Novak (1996) identified the Web as an interactive media and made several suggestions for commercial Web usage. Hoffman and Novak (2000) viewed the Web as the best platform to attract more visitors and reach more new customers. Previous studies agreed on the idea of doing business on-line and made some suggestions about commercial Web site design. As the Web has become an essential part of the contemporary organization, successful Web site strategy has been acknowledged to be increasingly important to organizations. Liu and Arnett (2000) explored the factors associated with Web site success in the context of electronic commerce. The study extended the basic IS success principles into the Web environment and identified that some key characteristics such as information quality, service quality, system use, playfulness, and system design quality that would be critical to the site’s success. Zhang and von Dran (2001) identified which quality factors determined Web site success. The research concluded that certain quality factors such as navigation and information accuracy were regarded as highly important to user expectations. Palmer (2002) suggested that Web site success is significantly associated with some constructs including download delay, navigation, content, interactivity, and responsiveness. While previous studies investigated the critical success factors for Web design, most of the findings were derived from the perceptions of Web users or designers. Such an approach presented the strengths of subjective expertise opinions but easily exposed its weakness of lacking objective factual data. Investigating the online features of successful companies complemented prior studies. A content analysis of Web site features of successful companies became an interesting topic. Liu, Arnett, Capella, and Beatty (1997) surveyed the Web sites of Fortune 500 companies and provided valuable insight into the future trends of Web site usage. The study identified the ways in which large US firms have responded to the new Web technology and how they have used their Web sites to conduct business. Palmer and Griffith (1998a) developed a model of Web site design of marketing functions that guides firms to a competitive position. The model was further verified by analyzing the contents of the Web sites of 250 major US companies. The results indicated that the top ranking companies in the US used Web technology to interact effectively with their customers. Cheung and Huang (2002) examined the commercial usage of the Web in major Singapore companies. The investigation provided a comprehensive picture of commercial Web presence in Singapore. Previous studies focused on analyzing the Web site status of major companies within a single country. However, the phenomenon in one country may not be very much alike the phenomenon in another country. The emergence of globalization and information technology has enhanced the need for understanding Web usage in different national environments (e.g., Huizingh, 2000; Sakaguchi, Palvia, & Janz, 2001; Rau & Liang, 2003; Robbins & Stylianou, 2003; Singh, Kumar, & Baack, 2005). It is imperative to comprehend whether the research findings in one country could be generalized across different country settings. In order to respond to the global business challenge, the purpose of this study is to compare and contrast Web adoption and diffusion in top ranking companies across two different countries, namely, Taiwan (a newly industrialized country) and the United States (an advanced country). This study extends beyond previous studies by devoting most effort on Web globalization, and by investigating whether the experiences of Web design in an advanced country can serve as guidance for a newly industrialized country. Our research questions were: (1) What percentages of top 1000 companies in Taiwan and US respectively have established Web sites? Are the two countries different from each other? (2) What Web features have been established on those Web sites? Are the two countries different from each other? (3) Does revenue of companies relate to the presence of the Web site? Are the two countries different from each other? (4) Does revenue of companies relate to the comprehensiveness of the Web features? Are the two countries different from each other? (5) Does revenue of companies relate to the comprehensiveness of the electronic commerce features? Are the two countries different from each other? (6) Do industry types relate to the comprehensiveness of the Web features? Are the two countries different from each other?
  • 3. ARTICLE IN PRESS C. Liao et al. / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 196–211 198 (7) Do industry types relate to the comprehensiveness of the electronic commerce features? Are the two countries different from each other? 2. Research method 2.1. Search strategy To understand the Web practices across different countries, a thorough content analysis was conducted to examine the Web features of the leading companies in the US and Taiwan. Content analysis is a common method for investigating the written documents such as Web pages (Babbie, 2001), and has been extensively used in marketing, advertising, and IS literature. A dual content analysis was conducted for major companies in Taiwan and the United States, all of which were the top 1000 ranking companies in terms of business revenue. The rankings of companies were derived from Common Wealth magazine (CW-Magazine, 2003) and Fortune magazine (Fortune, 2003) because both sources are well established in both Taiwan and the United States. For easily locating and examining Web sites, two well-known search engines, Yahoo and Google, were used. Web content and summary information were collected during the period between October 2003 and March 2004. Two researchers were assigned to scrutinize whether a particular Web site contained certain kinds of Web features. Discordant opinions arose when one researcher recognized a certain Web feature existed in a site while the other was unaware of it. The researchers agreed on the Web site features for 83% of the investigated companies. A second-round searching process was conducted for investigating the 17% of companies in disagreement. The discrepancy was diminished after the second-round review process. Only 4% of the investigated companies needed to be further examined due to the differing interpretations of the statements of the Web features. A third researcher was assigned to investigate the Web features in dispute during the third round of the review process. A final judgment was made and the searching process was accomplished after this final step. The authors believe that the results should be valid and reliable given that this rigorous checking procedure was verified by previous studies (Liu et al., 1997; Cheung and Huang, 2002). 2.2. The Web features The Web features represent Web functions provided to service Web visitors. Prior literature has presented a wide variety of perspectives on these features. Palmer and Griffith (1998a) addressed a set of technical and marketing features which are required of a Web site to compete in the emerging marketing arena. Huizingh (2000), and Robbins and Stylianou (2003) identified requisite features offered in a Web site for commercial purposes. The authors revealed that the contents and the way the contents are presented are both important to the Web site design. Other studies also discussed what contents and features should be included in the Web site for providing e-commerce activities (e.g., Liu et al., 1997; Cheung & Huang, 2002). After reviewing the suggestions of previous researchers and surveying some famous commercial Web sites, a comprehensive list of Web features was made. The list was presented to three Web surfers and three Web designers for seeking out second opinions of Web features. The consolidated list that included commercial activities of pre-sales, sales and post-sales was finalized. Thirty items of Web features are listed and described in Table 1. 2.3. Revenues and industry types Revenues are viewed as an important internal organizational variable for Web adoption in that they relate to the capability and the willingness of a firm to adopt a new technology. Industry types are also considered a critical external environmental variable as they reflect the competitiveness and threats a company may face. Industry competitiveness is among the key factors to influence technological innovation. Revenues of the 1000 investigated companies in Taiwan and the US were collected from CW-Magazine (2003) and Fortune (2003),
  • 4. ARTICLE IN PRESS C. Liao et al. / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 196–211 199 Table 1 Statements of the Web features Features Statements 1. Company history Brief description in company’s evolution 2. Organization and operation Brief description in company’s structure and operation 3. Company capabilities Brief description in company’s core competence 4. Enterprise environment Brief description in company’s competitive environment 5. Enterprise challenges Brief description in company’s future challenges 6. Products/Services information Introduction to company’s main products/services 7. Price information List of the price for products/services 8. News of new Products/Services The news releases for new products/services 9. Updated news Regular updated news other than products/services 10. Industry information Announcement of industry information 11. What’s cool/hot Announcement of hot topics 12. Search capability The assistance for users to locate available interesting pages within company’s site 13. Employment opportunities Announcement of available opportunities for certain positions 14. Interactive feedback Requesting users to respond their opinions about company’s Web site 15. Customer service/support The pre-sale and post-sale services/supports, e.g., answering customers’ questions or providing necessary help 16. Web site direction Index or directory of company’s Web pages 17. Company address and phone List of company’s address and phone number 18. Company location Description or illustration of company location 19. Financial information Detailed description of company’s financial performance 20. Links to other sites The function of connection with other Web sites 21. Online transaction and service The capabilities of online ordering and online inquiring about shipping state and personal transaction records 22. Online quotation The function of online quotation 23. Online payment The function of online payment, e.g., credit card, electronic cash, or electronic check 24. Guest book Requesting customers to sign in by providing their names and addresses 25. FAQ Questions and answers for the frequently asked questions 26. CEO message Brief introduction to company’s CEO 27. Entertainment Games, music, jokes, chatting room, etc. 28. Security The capabilities of Web site with security, e.g., requesting users to enter password, IP authentication, or SSL function 29. Use of frames Organizing Web site with frame structure 30. Use of cookies Using cookie files to collect users’ profiles for customization respectively. The companies in both countries are classified into 20 different industry types derived from Fortune Magazine (see Table 2). 3. Results and discussion 3.1. The presence of the Web sites Fig. 1 shows that over three quarters of the top 1000 companies in Taiwan have maintained their Web sites (797 companies). Compared with the data collected in 1998 by To and Liao (2000), Web presence has grown by nearly twofold. The results indicate that an overwhelming adoption of the Web has been witnessed over the past a couple of years and is expected to increase continually and make steady progress in Taiwan. Ninety- eight percent of the top 1000 companies (980 companies) have established their own Web sites in the United States. The evidence suggests that Web presence is much greater now than when examined in 1996 by Liu et al. (1997). Such a finding reflects the fact that Web technology has become well integrated into almost all American corporations. It has become a necessity to compete among competitors and to sustain a competitive position. Fig. 2 lists the percentage of Web sites within each industry. Within all industries in the US, more than 94% of companies have web sites. These figures exhibit the fact that the Web is necessary in almost all types of
  • 5. ARTICLE IN PRESS C. Liao et al. / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 196–211 200 Table 2 Descriptions of the industry types Industry types Descriptions 1. Aerospace Aerospace, airlines 2. Construction Building materials and glass, engineering, construction 3. Chemical Chemicals 4. Finance Commercial banks, diversified financials, saving institutions 5. Electronics Computer and data services, computer peripherals and software, networking and office equipment, semiconductors and scientific components, telecommunications 6. Entertainment Entertainment, hotel, casino, resort, food services 7. Cosmetics Cosmetics, soap, household and personal products 8. Medical Health care, medical product and equipments, pharmaceuticals 9. Energy Energy, mining, crude-oil production, petroleum refining, pipelines, gas and electric utilities 10. Food Food production, beverages, agricultural products, tobacco 11. Forestry Forest and paper products 12. Retailing Food and drug stores, general merchandisers, specialty retailers, wholesalers 13. Electrical and Mechanical Electrical and mechanical equipment, industrial and farm equipment, motor vehicles and parts 14. Insurance Life and health insurance 15. Metals Metals, steels 16. Transportation Transportation, trucking, truck leasing, railroads, mail, package and freight delivery 17. Plastics Plastics, rubbers 18. Textiles Textiles, apparel, fiber 19. Advertising Advertising, marketing 20. Others Diversified outsourcing services, publishing, temporary help, real estate, securities, yetc. With web site Without web site Percentage with web site 980 100.0% 1000 98.0% Percentage with web site 797 Numbers of companies 80.0% 800 79.7% 60.0% 600 40.0% 400 203 20.0% 200 20 0.0% 0 Taiwan Country U.S. Fig. 1. Web site presence of top 1000 companies in US and Taiwan. industries. The industries in Taiwan, however, show a different stage of adopting Web technology. The finance, electronics, cosmetics, transportation, insurance, aerospace and medical industries have a high percentage of companies (more than 88%) with web sites. An explanation of this finding is that companies in the information-intensive industries are at the leading stage of information technology usage. They usually apply web technology in more creative and innovative ways (Palmer & Griffith, 1998a,b). On the other hand, in industries such as metals, textiles, food, forestry and others, less than 60% of the companies have web sites. Some companies in traditional manufacturing sectors have little intention of adopting Web technologies. This finding is consistent with Palmer and Griffith’s contention that traditional industries would be less likely to adopt Web technology (Palmer & Griffith, 1998a,b). Fig. 3 shows that the US industrial sectors in general enjoy a higher degree of Web acceptance than Taiwanese industries do. Significant differences of Web presence were found between the US and Taiwan in traditional industries, such as food, forestry, metals and textiles. These wide discrepancies imply that the
  • 6. Fo r es 0.0% 20.0% 40.0% 60.0% 80.0% 100.0% tr y (8 O ) Ot 61 94 th he rs .5% .1% er s (4 (1 0) Fo 6) 36.3% 61 95 o Fo d Te o .5% .0% d xti (2 Fo (1 Te les r 0) 9) 33.5% es xti 62 96 Fo les tr y .5% .0% r es M (3 (4 M try 1) 33.5% 8) et a et 63 96 Co Fo als T ls .3% .7% o ns d (4 (2 tru C ext 32.8% 6) il on 9) 63 96 cti M st es on .9% .8% ru et Ad (5 (3 als 30.8% ve 7) Ad ctio n 0) r 72 96 ve tis En .2% .9% te ing r ti r Ch 25.0% si (6 n ta (6 C em ) in 3) 75 97 m M El he g ica ec m .0% .1% en ed t l( 25.0% tri ic Re (3 33 ica ca ta al ) l 3) l& 75 97 ilin El M Pl g Ch ec .0% .2% as 22.1% ec em (7 tr i tic (3 ha s ca 0) ica 5) l nic 77 97 l & Ret Co al .8% .7% 20.0% M ailin ns (5 (1 ec Pl tru 2) as 30 ha g 80 97 U.S. ) cti tic En s ni 19.9% on .0% .8% te Re ca l (1 ta (8 rta il 6) 7) En En inm 83 98 i ng 14.4% te Ot er en .9% .0% he Industry type rta gy t(1 (1 rs in 1) m 00 En 84 98 ) 12.3% er en .6% .3% t gy En Taiwan (5 Fi er (6 Fi ) na 7) gy na 12.2% 85 98 nc El nc El El e e .7% .3% ec ec ec ARTICLE IN PRESS (9 (5 tro tri tro ca 7) 8) 11.8% ni C nic 88 99 l& In s cs os .2% .2% M su (2 Tr ra (1 Co ec an me 17 10.6% nc ) sm 29 10 ha e sp tic 88 ) Tr 0.0 et ni c an or s .6% % El ta ics al sp (2 ec (9 tio 10.0% or ) 2) tro n ta 10 90 In tio Ae ni c 0.0 su Fig. 2. Presence of Web sites by industry type in US and Taiwan. n .0% s % In ro ra (2 (7 su sp 9.1% Ae nc ra 0) 9) 10 ac n 90 e ro e Fi 0.0 ce .9% % sp na 0.9% Ae (3 (1 ac nc e e ro C. Liao et al. / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 196–211 8) 0) 10 97 M sp Co 0.0 .4% Fig. 3. Percentage differences of Web presence by industry type between US and Taiwan. ac % ed sm e 0.0% ic (2 M (8 et al ) 2) 10 10 ics ed 0.0 0.0 Tr ica % % -3.1% an l(1 (9 sp ) 2) 10 10 or ta Pl 0.0 0.0 as % % tio n tic (4 0.0% s ) 10.0% 20.0% 30.0% 40.0% -10.0% Ad ve 0.0% 20.0% 40.0% 60.0% 80.0% rti 100.0% sin g lower percentage of Web adoption in Taiwan across almost all industries implies that newly industrialized promotions of national health insurance as well as the emerging growth and integration of the medical countries might be at different levels of Web usage compared to those of advanced countries, such as the United States. Only the medical industry in Taiwan presents a higher percentage of Web presence. The traditional industries in the US might be in a more mature stage of Web adoption than those in Taiwan. The 201
  • 7. ARTICLE IN PRESS C. Liao et al. / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 196–211 202 industry might be the reasons for medical organizations in Taiwan joining the scurrying herd to create their own Web sites. 3.2. The distributions of the Web features Fig. 4 reflects the distributions of the Web features in the US and Taiwan, respectively. Obviously, providing company overview information such as company address and phone number (99.1% in US, 90.3% in Taiwan), company history (98.0%, 90.2%), organization and operation (95.1%, 72.4%), company capabilities (95.6%, 73.0%), and updated news (93.1%, 63.5%) are the functions considered to be a basic requirement of most sites. Other features regarding company overview information, such as enterprise environment (55.8% in US, 49.6% in Taiwan), enterprise challenges (33.2%, 18.9%), CEO message (63.7%, 17.1%), and industry information (65.2%, 51.1%), account for a relatively low percentage of Web features in both countries. Perhaps entrepreneurs avoid providing information of environmental threats and organizational competition to people who might be their customers in the future. The companies in both countries have a high percentage of introducing main products or services (99.5% in US, 94.2% in Taiwan) and announcing news of new products or services (89.1%, 66.4%), but a low percentage of listing product price (27.0%, 27.9%). Publicizing products and their news on the new media might attract more potential customers, but advertising product price firmly drove these companies to engage in intense price wars. The phenomenon confirms the prediction that the electronic marketplace is a better platform for emphasizing product differentiation rather than providing detailed pricing information (Bakos, 1991). Only a small percentage of companies in both countries have the features of online transactions and services (50.1% in US, 25.5% in Taiwan), online quotation (28.3%, 14.4%), and online payment (29.2%, 9.9%). Also, the Web pages in the two countries maintain a limited coverage of security features (52.7%, 18.2%) and FAQ (51.8%, 30.7%) as well. These statistics may be explained by the fact that most of the current home pages are being used for promoting companies’ image, for enhancing public relations, for attracting potential customers, but not for direct selling which requires online features to do business. Generating revenue directly from the Web is not the major concern for most top ranking companies. Fig. 4. Web features of top 1000 companies in US and Taiwan.
  • 8. ARTICLE IN PRESS C. Liao et al. / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 196–211 203 Fig. 5. Percentage differences in Web features between US and Taiwan. Fig. 5 shows that the companies in the US generally offer a broader coverage of Web features than those in Taiwan. Only two features show an exception. Close percentages in terms of use of frames (69.8% in US, 72.3% in Taiwan) and price information (27.0%, 27.9%), were found. American companies have a much higher percentage of Web features in the use of cookies (59.2% difference), interactive feedback (46.9%), guest book (35.7%), and customer service and support (30.6%). The provision of these features has become the foundation for improved customer relationships. These significant differences indicate that the companies in the US view customer information as far more important to the prosperity and survival of the company than companies in Taiwan. Also, the companies in Taiwan have a much lower percentage of Web features in search capability (60.6% differences) and Web site direction (38.4%). While providing help for browsers is viewed as a necessity in American companies, the companies in Taiwan might not share the same vision. Zeng and Reinartz (2003) indicated that search capabilities and other functions for providing help and direction for browsers are critical for Web sites on their way to profitability. In the future, the demand for search capabilities on the Web in newly industrialized countries such as Taiwan is likely to rise. 3.3. The relation of business revenues to Web presence The study divides the top 1000 companies into three categories based on revenues in both countries to investigate the relationship between business revenue and Web presence. One third of the companies were categorized into each group. As illustrated in Fig. 6, the percentage of Web presence is substantially high in America regardless of revenue level. On the other hand, the percentage data of Taiwan reveals that companies with higher revenue are more likely to use a Web site as a way to conduct business. Such findings are confirmed by the chi-square test. The p-value of the chi-square test (p-value o0.001) clearly supports the existence of a relationship between the business revenue and the presence of a Web site in Taiwan. No relationship was found between business revenue and Web presence in America (p-value ¼ 0.206). Compared to the analysis conducted by Liu et al. (1997), which proved an association between revenue and Web presence within US companies, Web presence was substantially high at all revenue levels in the US. This may be explained by the extent of the recent popularity of Web technology in the US. The results also suggest that companies in the lowest revenue category are less likely to adopt Web technology in Taiwan. It implies that even the top 1000 companies in Taiwan are still undergoing major transformations in Web adoption.
  • 9. ARTICLE IN PRESS C. Liao et al. / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 196–211 204 Taiwan U.S. 99.1% 97.3% 97.6% 100.0% 89.8% Percentage with Web site 79.0% 70.4% 80.0% 60.0% 40.0% 20.0% 0.0% High Middle Low Revenue level Fig. 6. Percentage of Web sites by revenue in US and Taiwan. U.S. Taiwan 30.0 24.3 25.0 Points of Web features 20.0 19.0 20.0 14.7 15.0 12.4 10.0 6.4 5.0 0.0 High Middle Low Comprehensive level Fig. 7. The relative comprehensiveness of Web features among sites in US and Taiwan. 3.4. The comprehensiveness of Web features and its relation with revenue The study regards comprehensiveness as the extent to which a site attempts to be exhaustive or inclusive in deploying Web features for measurement. An exhaustive Web site provides a variety of contents and features that can satisfy visitors’ different levels of needs. A Web site with limited features might discourage visitors from exploring the Web site. To evaluate the comprehensiveness of the Web features, one point is assigned to each Web feature listed in Table 1. The total points of each Web site were counted after the features were found in the corresponding Web site. Since no previous rules could be applied, it seemed reasonable that high scores of Web features represented high levels of Web comprehensiveness. Fig. 7 shows the relative comprehensiveness of Web features among sites in the two countries. The companies are divided into three categories based on the comprehensive level of their Web features. Again, one third of the companies are categorized into each group. It appears that the companies in the US have higher points than those in Taiwan among all levels. Specifically, between the US and Taiwan, 5.3, (24.3À19.0), 7.6 (20.0À12.4), and 8.3 (14.7À6.4) point differences were found for the high, middle, and low levels of comprehensiveness, respectively. The discrepancy increased at the lower level of Web comprehen- siveness implying that some companies in Taiwan are still at the premature stage of Web adoption. Overall, the average company in the US has around two thirds of the Web features (19.7 out of 30) while the average company in Taiwan has less than half of the features (12.6 out of 30).
  • 10. ARTICLE IN PRESS C. Liao et al. / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 196–211 205 U.S. Taiwan 30.0 22.9 25.0 Points of Web features 19.4 20.0 16.7 15.4 15.0 11.9 10.5 10.0 5.0 0.0 High Middle Low Revenue level Fig. 8. Comprehensiveness of Web features by revenue in US and Taiwan. The high level of comprehensiveness indicates that some companies are leading in the use of innovative technology to conduct business. The low level of comprehensiveness, however, indicates that some companies only provide basic features such as introducing the company or having a company overview. Those companies did not view the Web as an important medium to communicate with potential customers. It is possible that these companies were forced to use the Web because of Web popularity in a competitive environment. This study was also interested in exploring the relationship between revenue and the comprehensiveness of Web features. Fig. 8 depicts the comprehensiveness of Web features in each revenue level. It seems that companies with a high level of revenue tend to provide a variety of Web functions. The Pearson correlation was used to examine the strength of the association between business revenue and the comprehensiveness of the Web site. Significant positive correlations are found in both countries (0.347 correlation coefficient in the US and 0.293 correlation coefficient in Taiwan at the 0.01 significance level). The results suggest that companies with superior business revenue are more likely to design sophisticated Web sites for servicing their customers in both countries. 3.5. The comprehensiveness of the e-commerce features and its relation with revenue According to the descriptions of Cronin (1995), the companies that are interested in selling directly on the Web should provide support for marketing and customer services. Those companies should provide electronic commerce (E-C) features that satisfy online customers. These features are products/services information, price information, news of new products/services, customer service/support, online transactions and services, online quotations, online payment, and FAQ. Again, to measure the comprehensiveness of E-C features, one point is assigned to each feature mentioned above. The total points of each Web site is calculated when the E-C features are present in the corresponding Web site. High scores of E-C features represent high levels of E-C comprehensiveness. The average company in the US has 4.7 E-C features while the average company in Taiwan has only 3.3. It appears that the companies in the US have a higher level of comprehensiveness of EC than those of Taiwan. Fig. 9 depicts the relative comprehensiveness of E-C features among sites in the two countries. Three categories of companies are divided in terms of the comprehensive level of E-C features. Only 1.1 differences are shown between the US and Taiwan in the high level group. However, in the low level group, E-C adoption in the US more than doubled that in Taiwan (2.8 in the US vs. 1.2 in Taiwan). These figures imply that companies in Taiwan have a wider discrepancy than those of the US in terms of E-C adoption. Fig. 10 illustrates the comprehensiveness of E-C features in each revenue level. Companies with high levels of revenue tend to provide a variety of electronic commerce functions. Pearson correlation analysis was again used to examine the association between the two variables. The correlation coefficients were 0.247 in the US and 0.261 in Taiwan (at the 0.01 significance level), and both present a significant positive relationship. The
  • 11. ARTICLE IN PRESS C. Liao et al. / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 196–211 206 U.S. Taiwan 8.0 6.8 7.0 Points of E-C features 5.7 6.0 4.4 5.0 4.0 3.0 2.8 3.0 2.0 1.2 1.0 0.0 High Middle Low Comprehensive level Fig. 9. The relative comprehensiveness of E-C features among sites in US and Taiwan. U.S. Taiwan 8.0 7.0 Points of E-C features 6.0 5.5 4.5 5.0 4.1 4.0 4.0 3.1 2.7 3.0 2.0 1.0 0.0 High Middle Low Revenue level Fig. 10. Comprehensiveness of E-C features by revenue in US and Taiwan. results suggest that companies with superior revenue are more likely to deploy new Web technology for serving online customers in both countries. 3.6. The relationship between industry type and comprehensiveness of Web features Table 3 examines the relationships between industry type and comprehensiveness of Web features or E-C features. Significant differences are found between industries in terms of Web features using one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) statistics. Fig. 11 exhibits the value of Web features in various industries. The aerospace, finance, electronics, cosmetics, insurance, and retailing industries score high on Web features in both countries, whereas the plastics, textiles, and advertising industries are far behind. This demonstrates that companies in some industries tend to develop sophisticated Web sites across different countries. Industries facing heightened competition are keen on providing Web contents and features to potential customers. Other companies in certain industries might not have the urge to provide comprehensive Web features. The findings can provide us with some understanding of the practice of Web diffusion in various industries. It can be used as a guideline for companies to adopt, implement or diffuse Web technology. 3.7. The relationship between industry type and comprehensiveness of E-C features Significant differences were found between industries in terms of E-C features. The results imply that some industries are eager to provide sales and marketing functions to online customers. As shown in Fig. 12, the
  • 12. ARTICLE IN PRESS C. Liao et al. / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 196–211 207 Table 3 Differences between industries in terms of Web and E-C features F-ratio Country Features type Industry types Significance level o0.001 Taiwan Web features 20 11.597 o0.001 E-C features 20 18.769 o0.001 US Web features 20 6.538 o0.001 E-C features 20 19.091 Taiwan U.S. l ca ni ha ec ica M n t en io on em & g tat cs nm ce in cti cs e Ch ical l Ae g ni or nc tis eti 21.8 spa try Fo al tru tai e lin s s tro gy ile sp ls nc tic rs ic ra r tr sm es ter ve tai ns eta od ro he er an ed ec na ec xt su as r Ad Co Co En En Re Fo Ot Te Tr El M M El Pl Fi In 21.6 Points of Web features Points of Web features 30.0 30.0 20.9 20.9 20.9 20.0 19.6 18.9 19.8 18.5 18.6 18.7 17.4 18.0 18.6 16.4 15.3 16.8 18.1 18.5 25.0 25.0 20.0 20.0 15.0 15.0 18.2 16.0 10.0 10.0 14.9 14.0 13.0 12.8 12.2 11.9 12.8 11.0 11.2 11.8 11.5 10.3 10.7 5.0 5.0 9.1 9.9 8.7 8.3 8.8 0.0 0.0 ls g s s l on n d gy l rs try t cs l cs g e e e ica ca en ica tic ile nc ac nc eta in tio o lin he ni eti er cti Fo es ni nm tis sp as xt ra na em ed rta tai tro M Ot En sm ha r tru Te su r Pl ro Fo Fi M tai ve Re po Ch ec ec Co In Ae ns Ad ter ns El M Co a En l& Tr ca tri ec El Fig. 11. The comprehensiveness of Web features by industry type in US and Taiwan. electronics, retailing, insurance, entertainment, finance, aerospace and cosmetics industries in America took the lead in comprehensiveness of E-C features (5.0 or above), whereas the advertising and plastics industries were low in E-C features (3.0 or less). On the other hand, the aerospace, finance, insurance, cosmetics, retailing, and entertainment industries in Taiwan demonstrated a high acceptance of E-C functions (3.9 or above). The metals, advertising, and chemical had less desire to embrace E-C (less than 2.0 in E-C features). It seems that cosmetics, aerospace, entertainment, insurance, finance, and retailing are the hottest fields in E-C in both countries. Consumer, household, and information intensive products are the targets of E-C across various countries. On the other hand, companies in the advertising, plastics, forestry, chemical, construction, metals, and textiles industries are not too enthusiastic to take further steps toward E-C in both countries. Construction and raw material product types might not be the targets of E-C across different countries. Interestingly, companies in advertising demonstrated low interest in both e-commerce functions and Web functions across both countries. 4. Conclusions and implications 4.1. The strategic use of the Web Adopting and diffusing IS technology are critical to the prosperity and survival of a company. Web adoption, as a kind of IS technology, has risen almost twofold (41% to 80%) since 1998 in Taiwan (To &
  • 13. ARTICLE IN PRESS C. Liao et al. / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 196–211 208 Taiwan U.S. l ca ni ha ec M n t en g tio on in l& cs nm cs e rta cti e tis l ac ni try g ica nc l e eti s ca ica tai lin r nc tru po sp tro gy s tic rs ls ve ra es ile sm em tri ter eta na d he tai ed ro ns er ns as su ec Ad r o xt ec Fo Co Ch Ae En Fi Ot a M Fo En Re Pl Co In M El Te Tr El 8.0 8.0 Points of E-C features Points of E-C features 5.9 5.6 5.7 5.5 5.3 7.0 5.3 7.0 5.0 4.3 4.3 4.1 3.9 6.0 3.8 6.0 3.7 3.7 3.5 3.6 3.6 3.6 5.8 3.0 5.0 5.0 5.7 2.5 4.7 4.0 4.0 4.0 3.9 3.9 3.4 3.0 3.0 3.2 3.1 3.2 2.8 2.6 2.5 2.5 2.0 2.2 2.1 2.0 2.1 1.8 1.8 1.9 1.0 1.0 d rs ve tals gy s s e try l g l e cs e cs g on t n ica ica tic ile o nc nc en ac lin sin l he tio Fo eti ica er ni es cti e as xt na sp ed ra nm em tai Ot En tro M rti rta sm r n Te tru Pl su Fo ro Fi M Re ha Ch tai ec po Co In Ae ns ec Ad El ter ns Co M a En Tr l& ca tri ec El Fig. 12. The comprehensiveness of E-C features by industry type in US and Taiwan. Liao, 2000). Also, the Web adoption in the US has increased one-half (65% to 98%) since 1996 (Liu et al., 1997). The growing trends show that the Web in both countries has experienced an exponential increase and has had high acceptance in most organizations. Companies embrace the Web for keeping prosperous and surviving. Web technology now provides better opportunities to establish a distinctive strategic position than did prior information technology (Porter, 2001). The Web, for example, may bolster a company’s competitive advantage by packaging and promoting unique products or services into distinctive styles. Hence, companies in different industries are encouraged to determine their own business practices on the Web and to build a site suitable for their special purposes. This is especially true for companies in Taiwan, owing to the relative low percentage of Web presence. With the strategic use of Web technology, companies are able to coordinate online and offline efforts, add value to the business processes, and create new business models for reinforcing their own core competence. 4.2. The diverse use of the Web There are several reasons for companies to create their own Web sites including reducing the costs of matching buyers and sellers, promoting companies’ image, increasing visibility, improving customer service, enabling market expansion, and lowering stakeholder communication costs (Watson, Akselsen, & Pitt, 1998). Our findings, however, indicate that the majority of companies in Taiwan and some in the US only regard the Web as a platform to promote their products/services or as a channel to broadcast their news/image. It is risky for those companies to overlook the potential of the Web since their rivals may exert these opportunities. Thus, we suggest it is important that companies build more features in their Web sites for special purposes. The Web could be used to differentiate one company’s products and services from another, to strengthen stakeholders’ communications, to attract potential customers, and to enable market expansion. Companies in Taiwan have limited Web features in customer services/support and search capability. Researchers argue that the failure of the Web in some companies is attributed to poor online searching capabilities and the lack of an online facility to guide potential customers during the buying process (Zeng & Reinartz, 2003). The study, therefore, suggests that the Web sites in Taiwan need not only to improve user assistance for easily locating needed pages, but also provide necessary help for solving customer problems. An
  • 14. ARTICLE IN PRESS C. Liao et al. / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 196–211 209 appropriate facilitator with which the online customers can be satisfied will help to retain customer relationships and set these sites on the way to a bright future. 4.3. Contributions to practice Knowing how the top ranking companies use their Web sites may provide not only a more fertile ground for business use of the Web, but also a greater knowledge of online electronic activities. Since these companies generally act as IT leaders, it is rational that other companies may follow their steps in terms of Web adoption and diffusion. Meanwhile, revenues and industry types are also considered as important internal and external factors for Web adoption, respectively. Revenues relate to the capability of a company to adopt the Web while industry types reflect the competitiveness and threats a company may face. In addition, American experiences (e.g., the movement from limited functions sites to more sophisticated sites with online business) can serve as guidance for Web design in a newly industrialized country like Taiwan. Table 4 Practices unique to the US or Taiwan P1: Web technology has become well integrated into almost all American corporations. In Taiwan, an overwhelming adoption of the Web has been witnessed during the past a couple of years and is expected to increase continually and make steady progresses. P2: The Web is a necessity in almost all types of industries in the US. In Taiwan, the companies in the information-intensity industries are at the leading stage of information usage. However, the traditional industries are less likely to adopt Web technology. P3: The traditional industries in the US might be in more mature stage of Web adoption than those in Taiwan. The lower percentage of Web adoption in Taiwan across almost all industries implies that newly industrialized countries might be at different level of Web usage compared to those of advanced countries, such as United States. P4: The companies in the US view customer information as far more important to the prosperity and survival of the company than those in Taiwan. P5: While providing search capability and Web site direction are a must in American companies, companies in Taiwan might not share the same vision. In the future, the demand of search functions on the Web in newly industrialized countries such as Taiwan is likely to rise. P6: The Web presence is substantially high in all revenue levels due to the extent of the recent popularity of Web technology in the US. However, companies with lower revenue are less likely to adopt the Web in Taiwan. This implies that even the top 1000 companies in Taiwan are still experiencing major transformations in Web adoption. P7: Companies in the US have higher points than companies in Taiwan in terms of the comprehensiveness of Web features. The high level of comprehensiveness indicates that companies in the US are in the lead in using innovative technology to conduct business. P8: Wider discrepancy occurs between high and low levels of Web comprehensive groups in Taiwan implying that some companies are still at the premature stage of Web adoption. P9: Companies in the US have a higher level of comprehensiveness of electronic commerce than those of companies in Taiwan. Wider discrepancy occurring between high and low levels of E-C comprehensive groups in Taiwan implies that some companies were still at the early stage of E-C adoption. Table 5 Practices common to both US and Taiwan P10: Providing company overview information such as company address and phone, company history, organization and operation, company capabilities and updated news are considered to be basic functions in most sites while most companies avoid providing information of environmental threats and competitions. P11: Publicizing products and their news on the Web are natural, but advertising products price is uncommon. P12: Most of Web sites are being used for promoting company image or other purposes, but not for direct selling which needs online features to do business. Generating revenue directly from the Web is not the major concern for most top ranking companies. P13: Companies with superior business revenue are more likely to design sophisticated Web sites for servicing their customers and to deploy E-C for serving online customers in both countries. P14: Aerospace, finance, electronics, cosmetics, insurance, and retailing industries are high on Web features in both countries, whereas the plastics, textiles, and advertising industries are far behind. P15: While consumer, household and information intensive products are the targets of E-C in the US and Taiwan, construction and raw material product types are not. P16: Companies in the advertising industry demonstrate low interest in both Web and E-C functions in the two countries.
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International Journal of Electronic Commerce, 6(2), 9–33. Chechen Liao is an associate professor of management information systems in the College of Management at National Chung Cheng University, Taiwan. He received his Ph.D. in MIS from the University of Memphis. He currently serves on the Editorial Board of Journal of Global Information Technology management. His current research interests focus on electronic commerce, knowledge management, e- supply chain management, and the impacts of information technology on organizations and individuals. His articles have appeared in International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, Journal of Database Management, International Journal of Information and Management Sciences, International Journal of management, Journal of Information Management, MIS Review, Journal of Management and Systems, and other refereed journals and conference proceedings. Pui-Lai To is a professor and Chair of the Department of Management Information Systems at National Chiayi University in Taiwan. She received her Ph.D. in MIS from the University of Memphis. Her current research interests focus on electronic commerce, customer relationship management, and the impacts of information technology on organizations and individuals. Her articles have appeared in Journal of Database Management, International Journal of Information and Management Sciences, International Journal of
  • 16. ARTICLE IN PRESS C. Liao et al. / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 196–211 211 Management, Journal of Information management, Journal of Management and Systems, and other refereed journals and conference proceedings. Meng-Lin Shih is a doctoral student in the Department of Information Management at National Chung Cheng University, Taiwan. He is also a lecturer in the Department of Information Technology at the Ching Kuo Institute of Management and Health, Taiwan. He holds a master degree in Information Management from Tamkang University, Taiwan. His current research interests include electronic commerce, Internet marketing, and supply chain management.