Putting a Human Face on E-Business
How does a business build trust, a positive image, and an enjoyable shopping experience when its main point of contact with customers is a computer screen?
Electronic business is rapidly evolving, enabled by information technology. Despite the promise this technology holds, many consumers in Canada and around the world are still reluctant to do business on-line. Izak Benbasat's research is designed to overcome some of the obstacles standing in the way of business-to-consumer electronic commerce in the Internet era.
Increasingly, knowledge workers, industrial employees, consumers, and professionals in every walk of life have to make sense of their work and of their environment based on information provided by a variety of technologies. Instead of regarding communication facilitated by these technologies as an isolated transaction, Benbasat views it as an ongoing relationship. Potential customers are now considering whether to share their credit and personal information with a computer that delivers this information to businesses. As a result, issues of trust, emotion, image, and credibility are growing in importance. Interfaces-the means by which customers interact with a virtual business-should be designed with those relationship issues in mind.
Improvement of the quality of interaction between people and computers requires the development of innovative hardware and software. It utilizes knowledge from such diverse fields as cognitive psychology, decision-making, industrial engineering principles and human factors. Benbasat intends to collaborate with other experts in these fields for a number of his research projects.
Among Benbasat's projects (conducted in collaboration with his graduate students) is the study of the emotions Web interface designs evoke and their potential for influencing customers' behaviour. He will also explore how the level of control that consumers have over products they see on a computer screen (variation of features, angles of view, on-line trials, etc.) affects their perception of the quality of those products. Similarly, Benbasat will assess Web interface design that enables virtual shoppers to feel they are getting a social experience similar to that in a real-life store.
Awarding Benbasat this research chair will facilitate the development of information technology management as a significant discipline that is increasing in importance in our connected economy. His previous research has explored the use of intelligent systems for supporting decision making, learning, and knowledge management and transfer, focusing on improving the acceptance of and trust in such systems. His current research extends this work, and has major implications for the diffusion of e-commerce among Canadian consumers.