Factors that Affect Customer Satisfaction in E-Commerce Services Worldwide and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq
IntroductionThe widespread acceptance of the internet as a medium of communication has led to rapid growth in opportunities for electronic commerce (e-commerce) (Kim, Park & Jeong, 2004). This technological innovation helps organizations to conduct business via online means using computer-mediated tools (Mustafa, 2011). Over the last two decades, e-commerce has proved to be one of the most important strategic and operational tools that bring various competitive advantages to business. In the developed countries, e-commerce has become an integral part of the business. However, developing countries such as Iraq lag behind although they are working round the clock to create the necessary infrastructure to facilitate the adoption of this technology.
It is observed that there is limited systematic research on the adoption and implementation of e-commerce technologies in Arab countries. The current research paper will address this knowledge gap by investigating factors affecting customer satisfaction with e-commerce services worldwide and in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. As one of the least developed countries in the Middle East, Iraq has been embroiled in conflicts and wars for many years. There is limited use of internet in the country, and hence e-commerce is poorly developed (Khayyat & Heshmati, 2012). Following the Kurdistan uprising of 1991, the then Iraqi regime rejected any information and communication technology development in the Kurdistan region. All means of communication between Kurdistan and other parts of Iraq were cut off, causing the region to be isolated technologically. It was not until the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq that Kurdistan was liberated from the government imposed sanctions. Since then, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has been developing the regions communication technology (Rizgar, Cuma, Bahzad & Sirwan, 2016). This has helped in reconnecting Kurdistan to other parts of the world, leading to the growth of e-commerce in the region. However, the adoption of e-commerce remains relatively low in many parts Kurdistan. But the ongoing initiatives by the government to revamp the information and communication infrastructure may soon lead to widespread acceptance and use of internet technologies in Kurdistan.
Literature Review The internet has grown over the years to become an important mass media platform and an integral aspect of peoples lives. It has helped to unite communities all across the globe by making communication more convenient, fast and utterly reliable. In the world of business, the internet has been adopted as a medium of commerce. Accordingly, consumers have turned to the internet for its unrivaled convenience as the ultimate ubiquitous marketplace (Gummerus, Liljander, Pura & Riel, 2004). E-commerce is one of the various phenomena that have been enabled by the internet. Millions of businesses have moved online, from where they can market and sell their products. In essence, e-commerce is part of the wider business strategy aimed at creating greater convenience for customers and hence enabling companies to increase sales at significantly reduced costs.The success of e-commerce relies greatly on information and communication exchanges between the sellers and buyers. Apparently, a great part of the communication in e-commerce is transmitted electronically. The widespread acceptance of digital technologies has made it possible for businesses to capture and exchange information with their customers (Hair, Black, Babin & Anderson, 2010). This information is used to create e-commerce information systems, which include elements such as order filling and customer notification, product inventory, customer profile database, customer business interaction, payment processing and shipping information. All these elements are integrated so that any data captured in one component can be instantly reflected and used in other components. Relevant channel members such as customers and the sellers have different levels of access to the information stored in the database. This helps in ensuring the integrity of information, which is a crucial consideration in the development of e-commerce systems.
Usually, the products sold in e-commerce platforms and the information about the products are designed in such a manner as to communicate the benefits expected by the customers and hence to increase satisfaction. Evidence from research suggests that trust is one of the most important factors related to customer satisfaction. Previous studies have shown online security and privacy to be an important factor as far as the satisfaction of consumers in commerce is concerned. Security concerns regarding the reliability of the method of payment and the storage of customer data are integral factors that influence customer satisfaction (Hair, Black, Babin & Anderson, 2010). This consideration is especially important given that online platforms are vulnerable to hacking and other acts of malicious access to information. Thus, it is imperative that businesses that offer e-commerce optimize their systems to guarantee high levels of security and privacy. Both privacy and security are critical to attracting and retaining online customers.
Fisher (2001) has reported similar results regarding the correlation between customer satisfaction and security features. According to this researcher, the issue of security is directly related to the enhancement of trust. This means that security and service features are only important if they contribute towards enhancing customers satisfaction with the online retailers. This finding by Fisher is consistent with Efendioglu, Yip, and Murray (2004) who reported that maximum security features have a direct relationship with customer trust and hence the high levels of customer satisfaction in online transactions. Presence of weak security features can cause customers to reconsider their interactions with online retailers either for fear of losing their valuable resources or confidential data. Flavian and Guinaly (2006) maintain that the dimension of security reflects customers perceptions about the reliability of the system especially the mechanisms of data transmission and payment processing. As such, lack of security can be a major risk to the development of reliable e-commerce systems.
The role of trust in e-commerce is even more important when one considers the fact that customers do not engage with company staff face-to-face (Dong-Her, Hsiu-Sen, Chun-Yuan & Lin, 2004). In most cases, e-commerce systems are automated meaning that customers can make orders anytime and expect the products to be delivered to their doorsteps within the shortest time possible. In this case, a high degree of trust stimulates consumers expectations of getting a genuine deal and also eliminates any perceived uncertainties, risks, and fears. As the level of trust increases, customers are more likely to purchase more products and services through e-commerce, and it becomes easier for companies to retain their customers. Overall, the trust pays a crucial role in creating a pool of satisfied customers.
The quality of information provided in e-commerce websites has been identified as an important indicator of customer satisfaction. According to Janda, Trocchia, and Gwinner (2002), e-commerce platforms should be optimized to give sufficient information to customers. The information should be valuable and relevant to enable customers to make the right decisions regarding whether to purchase the products they are looking for. Most importantly, the system should be designed to reduce the amount of time it takes customers to get the right information. Moreover, the specific information provided should be directly related to customers search needs to make it more relevant. This means that online retailers should focus on providing accurate up-to-date complete and useful information on their websites. This will not only increase customer satisfaction enable the business to attract customers.
Lee and Lin (2005) have discussed the issue of value factor as an important determinant of customer satisfaction in e-commerce. According to this researcher, product value encompasses the aspects of offer and price. Value manifests regarding the extent to which customers perceive the product as meeting their needs and are willing to pay for it. It follows that products that promise greater value are likely to be associated with greater customer satisfaction. This is because they expect to get good returns for their money. In most cases, customers evaluate value not only regarding prices but also quality in line with competing products. Thus, the value can be seen as a pre-condition for customer satisfaction because it influences desires and expectations. In effect, value forms the primary standard for comparing and judging the product.
Studies have also shown the appearance or design of e-commerce platforms to be an important factor in customer satisfaction. In commerce, the website is the first thing that customers come into contact with before they can even identify the desired product. If the appearance of the website is not impressive enough, it can discourage customers who can turn to competitors websites to look for the product. Ideally, the website should have a good visual appeal with matching esthetic elements (Efendioglu, Yip & Murray, 2004). As well, there should be no unnecessary cluttering, and the outlay of buttons and main features should be well presented. If a website looks attractive from the users interface, customers will have greater satisfaction with the information presented. It is, therefore, important for e-commerce businesses to employ the services of interface and user interaction designers to have the most attractive websites. Other factors that influence customer satisfaction in e-commerce include quality of information content and service support.
There are other important aspects related to web design quality that have been identified in the literature. These include ease of use, responsiveness, and customization. According to Mustafa (2011), ease of use refers to the degree to which a customer believes that using an e-commerce platform requires minimum effort and leads to the desired results. Ease of use is an integral factor in consumer usage and satisfaction with online services and supporting technologies. Responsiveness refers to the online retailers ability and willingness to assist systems users with prompt and helpful information when they need assistance. Customers have long recognized responsiveness as a key element of service quality and hence a determinant of customer satisfaction. Closely related to responsiveness is customization. This describes the extent to which information offered in online platforms is tailored to meet the individual needs of each user. Usually, users have different needs and would like a more personalized experience. In the absence of customized information, customers may lose confidence in the system, leading to...
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