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Information & Management 39 (2002) 457±465

Key dimensions of business-to-consumer web sites
C. Ranganathana,*, Shobha Ganapathyb a Department of Information & Decision Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago, 2402 University Hall,
601 South Morgan Street, MC 294, Chicago, IL 60607-7124, USA b Customer Relationship Management Group, Atlanta, USA
Received 15 July 2000; received in revised form 15 January 2001; accepted 16 March 2001

Abstract
The rapid growth in the electronic commerce over the Internet has fuelled predictions and speculations about what makes a business-to-consumer (B2C) web site effective. Yet, there are very few empirical studies that examine this issue. We examined the key characteristics of a B2C web site as perceived by online consumers. Based on a questionnaire survey of 214 online shoppers, we empirically derived four key dimensions of B2C web sites: information content, design, security, and privacy.
Though all these dimensions seem to have an impact on the online purchase intent of consumers, security and privacy were found to have greater effect on the purchase intent of consumers. The implications of the ®ndings for online merchants are discussed. # 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Business-to-consumer web sites; Online shopping; Web design; Security; Privacy

1. Introduction
There has been a phenomenal growth in businessto-consumer (B2C) electronic commerce since the commercialization of the Internet in early 1990s.
The global nature of the Internet, its vast reach and different interactive capabilities have made it an important marketing and trading medium for many
®rms. There is a drastic increase in the number of organizations that are using the web for marketing, promoting, and transacting products and services with consumers. In 1999, organizations exchanged US$ 20 billion worth products and services through B2C web sites. This number is predicted to be as high as US$
184 billion in the year 2004 [19].
*
Corresponding author. Tel.: ‡1-312-996-2676; fax: ‡1-312-413-0385.
E-mail addresses: ranga@uic.edu (C. Ranganathan), shobhag@usa.net (S. Ganapathy).

Apart from organizations, there seems to be rapid adoption of the Internet by consumers for various purposes, including information search and online shopping. A study by the Georgia Institute of Technology [33] reported that about 40% of the respondents indicated shopping as their primary use of web.
Another study by Ernst & Young found that over 39 million individuals shopped online in 1998, with more than 50% of them spending US$ 500 or more on their online purchases [20]. The rise in online shopping is affecting the traditional retail sales in that the growth in of¯ine sales over the next decade is expected to slow down from 5 to 3% a year. The increase in B2C commerce has made several ®rms look for new ways to understand online shopping behavior in order to attract and retain consumers.
While there seems to be an understanding that online shopping behavior is fundamentally different from that in a conventional retail environment [46], empirical research in this area is sparse. There is little

0378-7206/02/$ ± see front matter # 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
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C. Ranganathan, S. Ganapathy / Information & Management 39 (2002) 457±465

documentation on consumer perception of what makes an effective B2C web site. A number of frameworks and guidelines have been proposed by industry experts and consultants for building and designing B2C shopping sites, but there is no uni®ed view on its key characteristics. Our research is intended to help addressing these gaps.
In this paper, we identify the key dimensions of
B2C sites as perceived by online consumers. We operationally de®ne a B2C web site as a site on the world wide web through which a consumer can purchase a product or service. By our de®nition, they include online shopping sites set up by…