Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Toward more secure, usable and personalized Internet commerce

By Xu Sun and Qingfeng Wang ( Updated: 2014-11-20 16:58

The Internet has revolutionized our world and economy like nothing before. China, with 630 million users, hosted discussions on Internet development and governance at the World Internet Conference 2014, in Wuzhen, East China’s Zhejiang province.

With its exponential growth, the Internet has allowed us to make positive changes in our economy. For example, E-commerce companies like Taobao Baidu and Amazon have developed applications with dazzling functions which have notably enriched our life. It also presents problems, by its very nature. The Internet has transformed into ecology of knowledge in which highly diverse information is linked in an extremely complex manner. There is so much information being disseminated that it is impossible for individuals to be aware of enough to enable them to take advantage of it.

Personalization, as an approach to provide content and services tailored to individual customers, was highlighted by the president of Baidu at the conference. It provides customers shopping experiences relevant to who they are and guided by what they need. Studies show that personalization is a highly effective method for increasing consumer lifetime value for online sellers. It can help people feel more capable when using Internet services. According to a survey by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) in 2013, 70 percent of consumer respondents agreed that “attempts at personalization are superficial” partly due to usability and lack of deep understanding of customers. Usability has also been identified as an important attribute for E-commerce. For example, usability dimensions have direct and interaction effects on customer loyalty and satisfaction.

Another highlight at the conference was the effort geared toward Internet security, which has been considered as the most important attribute for E-commerce. There is a distinction between national security and individual security. National security entails actions that affect social functions relying on the Internet and other critical infrastructures while individual security involves actions affecting acquired values like privacy and other personal details.

Adopting a top down approach by focusing on higher level security led to individuals’ security needs being undermined. There is a general consensus among industry players and security researchers in E-commerce on the needs to make Internet security mechanisms accessible to average users. Systematically balancing national and individual security is relevant in determining appropriate policies and controls in E-commerce.

In 2011, McKinsey Global Institute reported that “The Internet accounted for 21 percent of GDP growth in mature economies over the past 5 years”. This trend is likely to continue and to grow. On November 11 last year, Tmall made a record $5.75 billion in online sales, and this year set a new single day online sales record of $9.4 billion. The Internet is transforming the way we live, work and socialize. The Internet also plays a crucial role in transforming the global economy. Providing more secure, usable and personalized Internet solutions to all stakeholders is relevant to sustain the indispensible and healthy role that the Internet is playing.

The authors are with the Nottingham University Business School China

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