Customer loyalty is a predictor of business success because it determines the likelihood that users would do repeat business with a firm. Therefore, loyal customers are likely to buy products or services of a company of their choice and shun those of its competitors. Usually, this decision does not have to follow logical reasoning because user loyalty is a construct of people’s emotional thoughts (Jeon and Jeong, 2017). Therefore, loyal customers are unlikely to be influenced by price changes of substitute products or the increased availability of substitute goods (Peter, Kraft and Lindeque, 2020). In other words, their loyalty to chosen brands gives them the safety and quality assurances they need to make repeat purchases (Trunina, Liu and Chen, 2019). Therefore, price is secondary concern for loyal users because they believe there is no harm in paying more for goods or services so long as they are assured of high quality services.
Based on the power of user loyalty in influencing customer behaviour, it affects almost all forms of performance metrics associated with an organisation. This is because happy customers make successful businesses and unhappy ones easily undermine its survival (Orser, Riding and Li, 2019). Furthermore, customer acquisition costs and benefits do not match the benefits that businesses can enjoy from maintain a loyal pool of customers. Therefore, loyal users enhance business survival even when conditions do not support growth (Qi et al., 2019; Podmetina et al., 2018). Moreover, loyal customers spend more money on purchasing products than new customers do. Consequently, organisations that do not meet their customers’ needs and requirements spend more money on acquiring new clients compared to those that effectively address their needs by nurturing user loyalty. Therefore, keeping customers happy and loyal is an integral aspect of modern business success, especially in an environment where consumers have many options for purchase.
Some of the most successful brands in the information communication and technology industry can attribute their success to high levels of user loyalty. For example, in the smartphone industry, Apple attributes most of its success to its loyal customers. In fact, it is estimated that about 80% of Apple users are loyal customers and make repeat purchases because of this attribute (Jeon and Jeong, 2017). This is why it has become common practice for some users to line up at the company’s stores to be the first to buy a new iPhone or iPad. Similarly, user loyalty has sustained business for firms in other industries, such as the automotive sector, where certain brands, such as Mercedes Benz, have sustained their business success by developing a loyal customer pool.
The aviation industry has reported similar corporate behaviours as airlines struggle to develop a loyal customer pool through frequent flyer programs and similar initiatives aimed at enticing customers to make repeat purchases. The retail sector also has similar loyalty programs designed to keep customers streaming into businesses because doing so allows them to garner redeemable points that they could use to make future purchases (Schiavi and Behr, 2018). Therefore, customer loyalty cuts across most industries. Indeed, stemming from its importance to business success it is imperative to understand factors that influence user loyalty.
Based on the above-mentioned insights into the role of user loyalty on corporate success, the concept of customer loyalty will be mentioned severally in this document to mean the likelihood that a client would engage in repeat business with a company. Additionally, in this study, customer loyalty will be reviewed in the context that e-commerce influences multiple factors defining loyalty development, such as user experiences, customer satisfaction levels and the perceived utility value of products or services bought from trusted companies (Braga et al., 2019). E-Commerce has influenced these major aspects of loyalty development by making it easier and convenient for customers to buy goods and services online. Furthermore, it has broadened the scope of commerce beyond what customers would have traditionally perceived as possible to achieve in the market. Combined, these factors have made e-commerce a powerful tool for influencing consumer behaviour.
Based on the aforementioned insights, there is need to question how consumers perceive the value of goods and services they purchase in an unpredictable and uncertain business environment. This investigation will be domiciled in the field of behavioural economics where user loyalty is not only influenced by the availability or fair pricing of substitute products or services but also by the experiences clients register when shopping virtually.
Outline of the Topic
As highlighted above, user loyalty is an integral aspect of business success. However, loyal customers are nurtured through improved trust between businesses and their customers in business-to-customer (B2C) relationships. Therefore, the concept is an important tool for understanding customer loyalty. In line with this statement, Tehseen and Parrey (2018) explored this issue and established that the perceived trust consumers have in online companies played a significant role in creating their perceptions of the value they would gain from taking part in virtual commerce. In this regard, understanding the importance of customer loyalty in defining business performance is not only a critical requirement in e-commerce development but also an integral aspect of business planning.
Subject to the above-mentioned views, the effects of e-commerce on user loyalty are largely behavioural-based and should be understood within the context of segmented market characteristics (Calvo-Porral and Nieto-Mengotti, 2019). It is important to review this topic from this perspective of analysis because different market segments have varied consumer profiles, which affect purchasing decisions. In this regard, understanding loyalty from a contextualised perspective makes it possible to capture inherent differences in consumer behaviours across different market segments, as proposed by Whaley, Lee and Kim (2019). Based on the importance of user loyalty to business growth and development, this timely review will provide managers with detailed and actionable information needed to understand consumer loyalty in an environment characterised by e-commerce growth.
Critical Reflection on Methods
Forty empirical studies were sampled in this analysis. The literature search was conducted using three keywords: “e-commerce,” “user loyalty” and “impact” to find peer-reviewed articles from the ABS journal list. The initial search yielded 2,378 articles but this number was scaled down after excluding articles published earlier than the year 2015. Implementing this exclusion strategy produced 156 articles, which was further scaled down to only include 74 articles, 40 of which were analysed in the literature review segment of this document because of their relevance to the research topic. The rest of the articles were added to the analysis as supportive evidence.
The narrative review technique was adopted as the main framework for undertaking the literature review because of the relatively new nature of the research topic. Indeed, e-commerce is still an evolving area of business development and requires a detailed analysis of existing evidence gathered in this area of research. Therefore, the information sought in this study will be exploratory. The narrative review method was used in this study because it provides researchers with a broad representation of the main issues relating to a research topic (Podmetina et al., 2018). Therefore, besides providing readers with what is known about a specific topic, it provides grounds for developing new perspectives of analysis based on the strength and development of current knowledge.
Lastly, due to the vast nature of research articles reviewed in this study, it was integral for the researcher to comprehend the scope and novelty of the study topic using the narrative method before embarking on the analysis part. However, one limitation of this approach to conducting a succinct information analysis is the indicative nature of the research findings. In other words, the pieces information collected from this review only provide anecdotal evidence regarding the effects of e-commerce on user loyalty. Therefore, it is critical to implemented the findings highlighted in this document cautiously and cognisant of the limitations of using indicative findings to address consumer behavioural issues.
As highlighted in section 3.0 above, the literature view process involved the analysis of 40 peer-reviewed research articles that discussed the impact of e-commerce on user loyalty. Four main themes emerged from this literature review: trust, customer satisfaction, user experiences and service quality. These themes are linked to user loyalty in the sense that they affect the likelihood that customers will make repeat purchases. They will be discussed in this section of the paper after reviewing concepts and models used to explain user loyalty highlighted below.
Although user loyalty is a widely studied concept in business studies, some researchers have argued that its focus should be on measuring changes in consumer behaviour, as opposed to broadly branding customers as either being loyal, or not (Guchait et al., 2019; Lu et al., 2020; Peter, Kraft and Lindeque, 2020). Relative to this statement, a study authored by Sarantidou (2017) highlights the need to understand the concept of customer loyalty from a performance-based lens as opposed to a perceptive understanding of its role in business growth and development. However, some researchers caution researchers against defining the concept of user loyalty in this manner because of varying consumer behavioural characteristics across multiple market segments (Närvänen et al., 2020). For example, offline and online purchasing experiences may have varied impacts on user loyalty. Similarly, gender differences may have a moderating effect on consumer trust and loyalty. Therefore, multiple socioeconomic factors may influence the likelihood that customers make repeat purchases, or not.
The challenges of understanding user loyalty, as described above, has led to the widespread use of the net promoter score as a reliable instrument for measuring user loyalty. Comparatively, a study by Tanford, Shoemaker and Dinca (2016) suggested that researchers should review user loyalty as the gap between market orientation and valued customer relationships. Borne from this linkage, the researchers also suggested that six key performance indicators (KPIs) were needed to understand user loyalty: customer retention, the value of the sales force, ability to innovate, service quality, lifetime value of a product and market orientation (Tanford, Shoemaker and Dinca, 2016). The decision to select the right KPI to use depends on the market in question. These attributes of assessment are important in understanding the impact of e-commerce on user loyalty because technology affects consumer behaviour by redefining their relationship with known value creation metrics, which are used as “currencies” for analysing customer loyalty. Therefore, through this analogy, user loyalty can also be assessed using the six key performance indicators (KPIs) highlighted above.
The aforementioned KPIs have been used to advance the debate regarding the role of individual and organisational attributes in defining the value of e-commerce on consumer loyalty. From a consumer’s perspective, e-commerce should work as a chain of operations that heightens engagement levels across various business platforms (Sarantidou, 2017). Comparatively, from an organisational perspective, user loyalty can be analysed by understanding how customers interact with different elements of the service environment (Lu et al., 2020). Some researchers have also linked user loyalty with brand equity by arguing that the latter has a lesser influence on consumer behaviour (Närvänen et al., 2020; Lu et al., 2020; Peter, Kraft and Lindeque, 2020). Others believe it could predict long-term loyalty patterns within existing markets (Guchait et al., 2019). From this analysis, the importance of analysing user loyalty from organisational and consumer contexts is emphasised.
Customer satisfaction refers to the extent that a company’s products and services meet consumer expectations. This concept is linked to user loyalty because consumers often make repeat purchases for products or services in companies that they believe address their needs. In line with this statement, Chaudhuri et al. (2019), Lee and Jung (2016) suggested that managers are often interested in adopting technological solutions that make like easier for their customers. Customer loyalty was also found to be dependent on how well organisations motivated their customers to continue using their products and how effectively they retained the perceived value of the items or services sold to them (Tu, 2018; Barasa et al., 2019; Guchait et al., 2019; Lu et al., 2020; Peter, Kraft and Lindeque, 2020). Relative to this assertion, Chaouali and El Hedhli (2019) argues that customer satisfaction is influenced by different factors relating to the acceptance of new technological innovations, such as timely feedback and real-time communication.
Other researchers argue that most customers are unwilling to use online or direct payment systems to complete their purchases because of scepticism regarding the use of e-commerce in completing business transactions (Chaudhuri et al., 2019; Vaittinen and Martinsuo, 2019). Interestingly, in similar studies, it is reported that the use of online transaction systems does not have a direct impact on the perceived trust and customer satisfaction standards associated with e-commerce users (Tu, 2018; Vaittinen and Martinsuo, 2019). These findings mean that customer satisfaction plays a meditating role in e-commerce development. Barasa et al. (2019), add that the reliability and efficiency of virtual communications have largely been responsible for heightened levels of customer satisfaction. In this regard, increased responsiveness in communication among online users has a positive impact on user satisfaction.
Employing new technology, as a moderator of user loyalty, in the e-commerce space has also been explored in discussions that have investigated how customers adopt self-service technologies. For example, the study by Chaouali and El Hedhli (2019) adopted this approach of reasoning when trying to understand how self-service technologies affected customer satisfaction to foster positive market outcomes. Their findings stemmed from existing pieces of evidence that showed positive outcomes in behavioural intentions and the development of customer loyalty. Lee and Jung (2016) also shared the same view by saying that firms should make sure their customers are satisfied with the types of services offered to them via e-commerce, as it is a predictor of user loyalty. Table 1 below outlines the findings of articles that discussed the theme of customer satisfaction.
Table 1. Customer Satisfaction
|Study||Sample||Context||Performance Measure (Dependent and Independent Variables)||Key Results|
|Parra-Lopez, Martínez-González and Chinea-Martin (2018)||(n= 497)||Hospitality||DV: Customer satisfaction |
|Young people are more receptive to e-commerce development and are consequently likely to be more satisfied than older clients in using its services|
|Hånell et al.(2019)||(n=332)||Retail||DV: Customer satisfaction |
IV: e-commerce strategy
|The implementation of e-commerce strategies has changed business plans, by making them more sensitive to user engagement trends|
|Singh and Srivastava (2019)||(n= 344)||Retail||DV: Customer satisfaction |
IV: Usefulness, risk and self-efficacy
|Perceived usefulness, risk and self-efficacy are important predictors of customer satisfaction|
|Mika, Nyrhinen and Karjaluoto (2017)||(n = 1,504)||Retail||DV: Customer satisfaction |
IV: Management style
|User loyalty is achieved indirectly as opposed to directly|
|Buldeo, Verlinde and Macharis (2019)||(n= 1,000)||Information Communications Technology||DV: Customer satisfaction |
IV: e-commerce design
|The design of e-commerce networks played a pivotal role in improving customer satisfaction|
|López-Jáuregui, Martos-Partal and Labeaga (2019)||(n= 475)||Marketing||DV: Customer satisfaction |
|Pricing plays a critical role in improving consumer purchasing behaviours, which boosts user loyalty|
|Wang and Kim (2019)||(n= 330)||Retail||DV: Customer satisfaction |
|Consumers of both genders consider efficiency to be of critical importance in the provision of quality services|
|Sivathanu (2019)||(n= 766)||Finance||DV: Customer satisfaction |
|Innovation influences consumer behavioural intentions when making purchases |
E-commerce site development should demonstrate creativity to boost e-commerce use
|Pantano, Priporas and Foroudi (2019)||(n= 341)||Retail||DV: Customer satisfaction |
IV: Interactive technologies
|Innovative interactive technologies setup in e-commerce platforms attract more attention from customers compared to non-interactive e-commerce platforms|
As explained in this paper, trust is one of the key driving forces of user loyalty. Therefore, in the context of this analysis, it is a basis for developing business relationships because it influences customer engagement and loyalty. An article authored by Dorcic, Komsic and Markovic (2019) affirmed the relationship between trust and user loyalty. Its findings revealed that the trust consumers held in service providers significantly affected their levels of engagement with local businesses. The results also implied that high levels of engagement among customers contributed to increased levels of user loyalty.
To this end, some researchers recommend that companies should strive to attain high levels of consumer engagement by earning their customers’ trust (Creswick et al., 2019; Jiménez-Barreto and Campo-Martínez, 2018). Dorcic, Komsic and Markovic (2019) support this assertion after investigating the role of information management in developing trust between organisations and their clients. The authors established a link between customer trust and loyalty by conveying the relationship in business management with the understanding that trust plays a mediating role in analysing knowledge and satisfaction levels among customers.
The role of e-commerce in building customer trust has further emerged in studies that have highlighted its mediating role in social commerce. For example, a study conducted by Jiménez-Barreto and Campo-Martínez (2018) found that trust was the single most reliable predictor of consumer behaviour in the social commerce space. Creswick et al. (2019) also support this statement by suggesting that the concept played a significant role in boosting user loyalty.
The adoption of new technology as a tool for conducting normal business functions has led to new discussions regarding the role of e-commerce in reshaping the traditional 4Ps of marketing – place, price, product and promotion. These four elements of the marketing mix are mentioned in this analysis to influence consumer purchasing decisions and loyalty. Jiménez-Barreto and Campo-Martínez (2018) emphasised their role in building customer trust in the online marketplace to the extent that users are always motivated to buy products and services that create the right balance of their purchasing needs, relative to the 4Ps discussed above. This statement was made after investigating the impact of the marketing mix formula on the competitive advantage of small and medium enterprises in Oman.
The effectiveness of the 4Ps of marketing highlighted above in improving user loyalty only goes to show the extent and multiplicity of choices consumers have to contend with before making their purchasing decisions. They also outline the multiplicity of factors companies have to manage when developing strategies that appeal to their target markets. Therefore, the plethora of choices available to e-commerce customers make it difficult to estimate its impact on user loyalty, especially in a business world that is increasingly being redefined by technology.
To demonstrate the difficulty that companies have experienced in adapting to the advancements brought by technology, researchers have documented challenges that telecommunications service providers have encountered in retaining their customers in a sector characterised by thin profit margins. Their findings suggest that opportunity cost is largely dictated by consumers’ perceptions of the time, effort and money required to make a change in purchasing behaviour (Creswick et al., 2019). This statement affirms a strong link between customer trust and loyalty. Table 2 below shows a review of articles that discussed the theme of trust and their findings.
Table 2. Trust
|Theme: Building Trust|
|Author (s)||Data Source and Sample||Context||Performance Measure (Dependent and Independent Variables)||Key Results|
|Maia et al.(2018)||(n= 229)||Social Commerce||DV: Trust |
IV: e-commerce design
|E-commerce websites should be designed to pay attention to trust as an important predictor of user loyalty |
The quality of data provided to clients in e-commerce websites should be improved to increase user loyalty
|Wang et al.(2019a)||(n = 500)||Retail||DV: Trust |
IV: e-commerce designs
|E-commerce designs should include consumer participation because it improves their willingness to make repeat purchases|
|Herrando, Jimenez-Martinez and Martin de Hoyos (2018)||(n= 771)||Information Communications Technology||DV: Trust |
IV: Information flow
|Trust is a critical factor in improving information flow, which ultimately boosts user loyalty|
|Tarhini et al.(2019)||(n= 530)||Information Communications Technology||DV: Trust |
IV: Service quality
|The quality of data provided to customers regarding their purchase decisions improves user loyalty |
Trust plays a key role in improving user engagement
|Kuswanto and Harmadi (2019)||(n= 507)||Retail||DV: Trust |
IV: Service quality
|Trust improves consumer satisfaction |
It is important to maintain high levels of service quality in the provision of offline as opposed to online services
|Gawor and Hoberg (2019)||(n= 550)||Retail||DV: Trust |
|Price is the most important consideration in the analysis of customer purchasing behaviour |
Customers prefer to purchase goods and services from companies that provide them with the convenience of buying goods virtually, such as having them delivered to homes
|Melewar et al.(2017)||(n= 45)||Information Communications Technology||DV: Trust |
IV: Identity and corporate strategies
|Identity and corporate strategies should be used to inculcate trust among employees|
|Cortiñas, Chocarro and Elorz (2019)||(n= 111,250)||Retail||DV: Trust |
IV: e-commerce site development
|Key retail features in e-commerce site development influences user loyalty|
Similar to the effects of trust in developing loyal customers, user experiences also play a moderating role in affecting user loyalty because positive experiences build loyal customers. The growth and proliferation of digital technologies in the global marketplace has drawn a lot of attention to its effects on consumer experiences during the purchasing process. Dorcic, Komsic and Markovic (2019) conducted a study to investigate the same phenomenon and found out that digital communications helped to improve the modern customer experience in e-commerce growth.
Relative to this discussion, companies are encouraged to create a “good flow” in their social medial marketing strategies to improve engagement with customers (Jiménez-Barreto and Campo-Martínez, 2018). In line with this recommendation, researchers claim that creating this “flow” helps to improve consumer attitudes and engagement with businesses (Creswick et al., 2019). This action was found to have a positive impact on business performance.
Subject to the aforementioned insights, organisational structures also play a moderating role in influencing consumer experiences. Particularly, Dorcic, Komsic and Markovic (2019) suggest that most companies which have expanded their markets due to e-commerce growth have experienced challenges in boosting their customers’ purchasing experiences because of structural barriers to communication. To investigate this issue further, Jiménez-Barreto and Campo-Martínez (2018) assessed user loyalty based on varying organisational structural influences regarding e-commerce use and found that it was subject to people’s societal norms and values. Watanabe, Torres and Alfinito (2019) add that an organisation’s internal operational dynamics play an important role in boosting user experiences.
From the aforementioned insights, companies have encouraged their employees to learn how to boost consumer experiences through the implementation of new engagement techniques, such as digital marketing optimisation because it avoids structural barriers of engagement that prevent customers from developing positive user experiences. The article by Orser, Riding and Li (2019) highlights this fact because it shows how companies are using e-commerce tools to overcome traditional barriers of communication to enhance their purchasing experiences. The document was prepared from a marketing perspective and it demonstrated that most organisations are developing their product placement strategies according to internally generated user algorithms designed to maximise engagement in the e-commerce field. In line with their investigation, Orser, Riding and Li (2019) say user engagement is heightened when companies match products with consumer tastes. Although the concept of user loyalty is not expressly mentioned in this study, the authors provide extensive information regarding the use of e-commerce marketing tools to improve user experiences.
Improving user experiences in the e-commerce space could be deemed a first-mover advantage in the global business sector because most companies are yet to transition their operations to the virtual space. Furthermore, those that claim to enjoy virtual business advantages may have only partially made the transition from the brick-and-mortar model to a digital one. In this regard, researchers have presented e-commerce as a foundational strategy, which requires firms to adapt to new levels of operations that offer immense competitive advantages to their internal management processes before rivals develop counterstrategies. Researchers, such as Creswick et al. (2019), deem this type of corporate reasoning as a marketing differentiation tool that companies can use to increase consumer engagement and enhance user loyalty.
The growth of e-commerce in the business space has further drawn attention to the need to adopt effective social media marketing strategies to improve user experiences. Researchers, such as Tanford, Shoemaker and Dinca (2016), have additionally demonstrated that most companies still have an unclear social media marketing plan because of their poor understanding of the intricacies of the e-commerce business model. Consequently, most companies have a fragmented digital marketing plan that is segmented into different cohorts designed to appeal to varied stakeholder groups. Therefore, social media marketing strategies adopted to address investor concerns may be different from those used to discuss consumer concerns. This segmented marketing strategy has created mixed results in B2C relationships and company performance analysis (Peter, Kraft and Lindeque, 2020). Besides, it may initiate action among consumers as opposed to fostering dialogue between them and their corresponding business partners. Table 3 below summarises articles that discussed the theme of user experience and their findings.
Table 3. Importance of improving user experiences
|Study||Sample||Context||Performance Measure (Dependent and Independent Variables)||Key Results|
|Mosquera et al.(2018)||(n= 628)||Information Communications Technology||DV: User Experiences |
IV: Business model
|Companies should strive to create holistic experiences across e-commerce online and offline activities|
|Davies, Dolega and Arribas-Bel (2019)||(n= 95)||DV: User Experiences |
IV: Store characteristics
|Store characteristics play an important role in improving user shopping experiences and loyalty|
|Khobzi, Lau and Cheung (2019)||(n= 11,894)||Marketing||DV: User Experiences |
IV: B2C communictaion
|Framing e-commerce communications either positively or negatively influence user engagement and loyalty.|
|Lee (2020)||(n= 12,588)||Aviation||DV: User Experiences |
|Pricing plays a critical role in increasing customer traffic and booking conversation rates|
|Wang et al.(2019b)||(n= 356)||Information Communications Technology||DV: User Experiences |
IV: Treatment of customers
|Convergent, discriminant and criterion-related validities affect the measurement of user loyalty and experiences|
|Papagiannidis et al.(2017)||(n= 150)||Information Communications Technology||DV: User Experiences |
IV: Telepresence in e-commerce
|The availability of telepresence components in e-commerce improves user experiences and enhances their overall engagement levels in B2C relationships|
|Kandampully, Zhang and Bilgihan (2015)||(n= 254)||Hospitality||DV: User Experiences |
IV: Customer engagement
|Customer engagement and brand citizenship behaviours should be considered in developing engaging e-commerce websites |
E-commerce websites should be emotionally engaging to attract loyal customers
|Reyneke and Barnardo (2019)||(n= 121)||Retail||DV: User Experiences |
IV: Management style
|An omnichannel strategy in e-commerce developments creates value to customers and makes them loyal|
|Faraoni et al.(2019)||(n= 155||Retail||DV: User Experiences |
IV: Website characteristics
|Website characteristics play a significant role in improving user experiences and loyalty|
|Belver-Delgado, San-Martín and Hernández-Maestro (2020)||(n= 175)||Marketing||DV: User Experiences |
IV: Website quality
|Website quality improves user services experiences, but a stare rating features keeps customers engaged|
|Song and Christen (2019)||(n= 389)||Service Industry||DV: User Experiences |
IV: Website features
|Website features improve user experiences in live e-commerce engagements|
|Hossain (2019)||(n= 264)||Information Communications technology||DV: User Experiences |
IV: Risk and Trust
|Risk and trust factors affect B2C engagements on the e-commerce platform|
|Smith (2020)||Emerald Insight (n= 152)||Telecommunications||DV: User Experiences |
|Companies should pay attention to the effects of personality in improving user experiences|
|Kim, Kim and Park (2017)||(n= 3,906)||Information Communication Technology||DV: User Experiences |
|Customer personality and profiles play a significant role in influencing user experiences and loyalty|
|Faullant, Fueller and Hutter (2017)||(n= 121)||Retail||DV: User Experiences |
IV: Service quality
|E-commerce should be seen to be fair to boost user experiences|
|De Keyser et al.(2019)||(n= 46)||Service industry||DV: User Experiences |
IV: Service technology
|It is prudent to integrate frontline service technology in e-commerce development to improve user experiences|
The quality of services or products that customers get after purchasing goods on e-commerce platforms plays a key role in defining user loyalty. To this end, Tassabehji, Hackney and Maruyama (2019) developed a study that measured changes in customer satisfaction based on changes in service quality standards. The study further showed that management precision was largely fixated on how company directors measured service quality based on current e-commerce market characteristics. Service quality, being a subjective attribute of a customer’s user experiences, was also examined as measure of a customer’s willingness to make repeat purchases. For example, an article authored by Klein et al. (2020) showed that e-commerce had a significant impact on customers’ willingness to participate in internet marketing platforms because of its novelty and improved service quality. Based on this finding, it was established that most companies fail to register significant success on their e-commerce platforms because of their inability to convey important quality attributes of the platform, such as enhanced safety, awareness and novelty, to its customers.
The impact of service quality dimension on user loyalty has further been explored in current studies, which suggest that there is a nexus between service quality, customer satisfaction and loyalty standards in e-commerce development (Li et al., 2020; Saunila, Ukko and Rantala, 2019). The study also established that empathy and responsiveness to customer issues also had a significant impact on user loyalty. Current works of literature also suggest that firms should pay attention to traditional values that customers treasure, including reliability and assurance when developing their service quality standards (Blasco-Lopez et al., 2019).
In a different study authored by Tassabehji, Hackney and Maruyama (2019), it was reported that the use of QR codes in e-commerce helped to improve service quality standards and, by extension, a company’s business performance. The study furthered demonstrated that QR codes had a positive impact on the flow of a consumer’s purchasing intentions, thereby helping companies to increase user loyalty.
A different research study authored by Klein et al. (2020) uses service quality as one of the major determinants of understanding consumer behaviour alongside corporate image, monitoring and control procedures set up by companies to improve user loyalty. The aforementioned observations were made after evaluating the purchasing behaviours of customers when paying their utility bills online. The researchers demonstrated that attitudinal and institutional factors were some of the major determinants of consumer behaviour in the marketplace. At the same time, it was established that consumer behaviour is a product of multiple environmental factors, some of which are environmental and others are intrinsic.
Some researchers have linked service quality with different aspects of business performance by using customer satisfaction as one of the major performance metrics for assessing loyalty. For example, Saunila, Ukko and Rantala (2019) suggested that service quality plays an important role in shaping entrepreneurial orientation. From their recommendations, companies have been advised to improve their service quality capabilities as a prerequisite for boosting user loyalty (Tassabehji, Hackney and Maruyama, 2019). Table 4 below provides a summary of the articles that explored this theme of service quality, including their findings.
Table 4. Service Quality
|Study||Sample||Context||Performance measure (Dependent and Independent Variables)||Key Results|
|Gandhi, Sachdeva and Gupta (2019)||(n= 101)||Manufacturing||DV: Service Quality |
IV: B2B working relationships
|Service quality plays a critical role in improving working relationships in B2B and B2C relationships|
|Childs (2020)||(n= 237)||Retail||DV: Service Quality |
IV: Shopping experience
|Service quality improves user experiences and makes them loyal |
Pleasurable shopping experiences improve user loyalty
|Garcia et al.(2020)||(n= 727)||Virtual Sales||DV: Brand Image |
IV: Service Quality
|Service quality influences a product’s popularity and brand image|
|Phan, Thai and Vu (2020)||(n= 200)||Transport and Logistics||DV: Customer satisfaction |
IV: Service Quality
|Service quality enhances customer satisfaction and user loyalty|
|Romero and Ruiz-Equihua (2020)||(n= 491)||Marketing||DV: Service Quality |
IV: Customer involvement
|Customers should be included in value co-creation to improve service quality and user loyalty|
Four main themes emerged from this literature review: trust, customer satisfaction, user experiences and service quality. These themes are linked to user loyalty in the sense that they affect the likelihood that customers will make repeat purchases. These findings emphasise the importance of understanding the impact of e-commerce on user loyalty through a review of the consequences of the decisions made by companies in the e-commerce space. From this assessment, the main research question that will be investigated in this study is predicated on understanding how e-commerce development impacts user loyalty.
Analysis and Critical Discussion
This chapter highlights the implications of the research findings on three groups of people: practising managers, policymakers and academicians.
The relevance of the findings highlighted in this study to practicing managers is best captured from two themes that emerged from the literature review: service quality and customer satisfaction. According to the first and fourth tables highlighted in section 4.0 above, 15 research articles discussed this theme. They suggested that “knowing your customer” is one of the guiding principles of e-commerce success. Managers who understand this fact and are always under constant pressure to meet set targets relating to different areas of operational performance. Therefore, by emphasising on the aforementioned two themes in e-commerce development, they would be better equipped to identify and improve aspects of their companies’ operational performance to create the most value for users (Braga et al., 2019). Similarly, the information generated from the process would provide them with better information on how to track their customers’ behaviours and provide products or services that suit their individual needs.
The emerging role of service quality in influencing consumer purchasing behaviours also emerged as a core theme from the review. It should be of concern to practicing managers because user loyalty is predicated on their capacity to provide customers the best shopping experiences. This theme, which emerged in the literature review, was not discussed in isolation because it has been investigated with other dimensions of user experiences, such as customer satisfaction and consumer attitudes. In the context of this study, the concept is linked with service quality as a significant dimension of user loyalty that should be factored in e-commerce development. This finding means that e-commerce growth has increased consumers’ sensitivity to the quality of services offered in the market. This change in behaviour could stem from the expansion of new purchasing choices available online. Indeed, unlike brick-and-mortar businesses where shoppers have to walk from one store to another to select the best items to buy; e-commerce gives them the luxury of checking what different stores have for sale from the comfort of their homes.
The convenience that e-commerce shoppers enjoy when making purchases draws attention to the need for managers to make sure that they provide quality services online and offline. It is also important to standardise user experiences across both platforms because customers need to match their online expectations with offline experiences. A gap in these two expectations would undermine user loyalty. Therefore, e-commerce development has heightened the need for managers to focus on quality as an important aspect of their core operations.
Trust is one of the core themes that emerged in this study. It was reported in table 1 as having eight articles discussing it. Policymakers who recognise its importance in building B2C relationships have benefited from sustained sales and increased patronage even in periods of economic adversity (Frumento and Korenman, 2018). The relationship between trust and loyalty is also at the core of product branding strategies because it denotes a set of expectations that customers expect from purchasing specific products or services (Donegan, 2019). This area of B2C relationships is fuelled by e-commerce implementation because face-to-face interactions are minimised online (Hanaysha, 2018). Therefore, e-commerce firms need to be trustworthy; otherwise, they will lose customers. This statement provides the direction that policy-makers should follow when developing laws and guidelines that regulate the digital marketplace. Stated differently, they should design or formulate policies that promote trust between business partners and their customers.
Their laws and policies should also provide an additional layer of protection in B2C and B2B relationships because the parties involved would be assured that they would live up to their contractual obligations if a right policy environment is in place. Furthermore, the development of such regulations would contribute towards the improvement of B2B and B2C relationships, as concerned parties would expand their networks of collaborators based on the common trust developed among them. From this background, user loyalty is developed through increased levels of customer satisfaction.
Overall, at an organisational level, the information outlined in this analysis will be useful to policymakers because it will help them to make better decisions regarding their product development and marketing strategies. Policy-makers would also be better informed about decisions regarding business regulation in the technology space. Through this process, they would better understand the relationship between aspects of customer engagement, which have been directly (or indirectly) affected by e-commerce growth.
One of the key findings that emerged from this study is the use of quantitative techniques to undertake research studies in e-commerce development and customer satisfaction. The latter concept emerged as a core theme in this study. According to table 1, nine research articles addressed this theme. From an academic standpoint, it is prudent to expand the scope of investigation relating to the linkage between e-commerce and user loyalty by using the mixed methods approach and qualitative-based techniques to broaden the breadth of data obtained from the two fields of assessment – e-commerce growth and user loyalty. The types of research articles obtained from the review also indicate that, much of the investigations focusing on e-commerce and its relationship with user loyalty are interdisciplinary to the extent that they cut across various business sectors.
Broadly, most of the articles sampled in this document were primarily based on the hospitality industry as a unique sector of the economy that is dependent on user loyalty for patronage to known hotels and tourism facilities. Conversely, the knowledge generated from this research further reveals that specific industries are more dependent on e-commerce development and user loyalty than others are (Seepma, de Blok and Van Donk, 2020). Therefore, it comes as no surprise that some of the articles sampled in this study were based on research investigations involving companies that rely on online booking as a source of data. From an academic perspective, this direction of research means that most investigations are increasingly relying on digital data generated from service processes and online marketing tools to make strategic decisions (Matthias et al., 2017). This trend in research development may have two types of implications.
On one hand, it may mean that more accurate and reliable data is being generated from industry reports and organisational documents, thereby enhancing decisions-making processes in most firms; on the other hand, most of these data are context-specific and may pose challenges in extrapolation to other research contexts. Overall, the scholarly community can benefit from the findings of this analysis by profiting from the expanding volume of research data relating to technology and customer engagement. This focus of the investigation will be instrumental in improving the quality of management education in both professional and academic fields. Furthermore, the data obtained from such a process could be effectively used in designing future research studies, especially those that focus on areas that will be highlighted in section 7.0 of this document.
From the onset of this study, the importance of understanding the impact of e-commerce on user loyalty was highlighted as a critical aspect of business development. The investigations undertaken in this review further showed that e-commerce development has caused changes in consumer attitudes, tastes, preferences and expectations regarding their purchasing decisions. Furthermore, technological advancements have forced businesses to rethink their operational models by making their offline and online stores more engaging and interactive. This aspect of e-commerce development has been highlighted in the technological the “user experience” theme, which focuses on website design and development.
Service quality, user experiences and trust are three other core themes that emerged from the review. They denote the need to understand user loyalty from multiple perspectives because, in addition to organisational processes that lead to the production of quality products and services, human-related factors still determine users’ purchasing experiences. They ultimately intensify over time to enhance user loyalty and consumer purchasing behaviours. Therefore, implicitly, the conveniences and changes brought by e-commerce development in the global business environment have redefined consumer expectations and their threshold for being loyal to specific brands or companies. Particularly, companies that have demonstrated trustworthiness and high levels of service quality have benefitted from this paradigm shift through heightened levels of user loyalty.
Lastly, from a methodological approach, the findings of this study have demonstrated that most researchers who have explored the relationship between e-commerce and user loyalty have done so from a quantitative perspective. This is an interesting piece of finding because user loyalty is subjective and warrants the use of qualitative techniques. This contradiction in research techniques adopted by most authors sampled in this review warrants the need to re-examine the research process through an analysis of the learning experiences highlighted below.
The investigation into the impact of e-commerce on user loyalty is informed by my curiosity regarding the expanding role of technology in redefining business models and process outcomes in the 21st-century corporate environment. My interest in this field of study is also compounded by the growing prominence of technology-based companies, such as Google, Amazon, eBay and the likes in the e-commerce space. Coupled with the rising interest in social media use, as a customer engagement tool, it has become imperative to understand how these developments influence user loyalty in the global business environment for companies that have traditionally enjoyed market success based on the brick-and-mortar business model. Stated differently, technology has revolutionised how firms engage with their customers and the manner clients respond to online business practices and e-commerce growth. These trends in technological advancement captured my interest in understanding the impact of e-commerce on user loyalty.
Stemming from my focus on the above-mentioned research areas, I found that multiple studies have investigated the impact of e-commerce development, as a subsector of global commerce. However, little attention has been paid to understand its impact on consumer behaviour and user loyalty. This gap in research further informed my interest in this area of study. However, in the course of my investigation, I found that several scholars have addressed the research phenomenon, albeit anecdotally. Nonetheless, it is difficult to implement their findings in a specific business or organisational context because of differences in e-commerce rates across countries, varying attitudes towards technology use across varied population segments and the fluctuating influence of multiple cultural contexts on people’s purchasing behaviours or perceptions of service quality.
The presence of multiple factors influencing e-commerce and user loyalty in this research investigation demonstrates that the topic was much more multifaceted than was previously conceived. Furthermore, the use of different metrics to evaluate the measurement of user loyalty, as a function of consumer purchasing behaviours, also exacerbated the complexity of the research topic. New insights that emerged during the process of data collection and analysis meant that different researchers have used varied metrics for assessing user loyalty. Thus, they made it difficult to compare one set of findings with another. Based on this realisation, I found it prudent to highlight key issues affecting user loyalty and linked them to findings related to online consumer behaviours to understand the relationship between the two concepts.
The data collection process was a seamless one, except for the fact that the investigation was limited to sampling research articles published within the last five years (2015-2020). As explained in section 3.0 of this document, it was necessary to do so to obtain the most updated catalogue of data. Although it was prudent to pursue this strategy for practicality purposes, it limited my ability to perform a trend analysis of consumer behaviours that were captured in research articles published before the year 2015.
In hindsight, I would conduct the investigation using primary data. Particularly, I would use the case study approach in evaluating the impact of e-commerce on user quality because I found that different regions have varied levels of e-commerce interests and attitudes that influence their loyalty and purchasing behaviours. Therefore, there is a need to undertake a contextualised understanding of the research issue, which warrants the use of the case study approach. This approach to learning and development is appropriate for the current study because e-commerce is a relatively new area of commercial development whose impact is not fully understood. Therefore, using a case study approach to gain new insight into the research topic would contribute to the creation of new knowledge in this area of learning.
Finally, conducting this research has exposed me to the intrigues surrounding legacy research projects. The insights provided are based on my experience searching for relevant articles and designing the literature review process to get the best results. The articles sampled for review were sourced from the ABS database, which provided a solid foundation for the retrieval of high-quality research articles that could address the topic of analysis. Although the use of this database improved the quality of information obtained for the investigation, it was relatively restrictive, in the sense that a broader database pool could have expanded the breadth of articles obtained for review.
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