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SHORT VERSIONS (FORUM WARE INTERNATIONAL)

Empirical Survey

For the empirical survey, the authors analyzed 164 Web sites from Austrian Top 500 companies’

representing the following industry sectors: Optical Industry (incl. Photography), Home and Personal Care,

Energy, Textile Industry and the Food Industry. The industry sectors were chosen among the complete range

of sectors given by the Austrian Top 500 companies based on the precondition that they participate in Business

to Consumer (B2C) e-Commerce, in order to ensure comparability. The above defined commodity

characteristics (core and additive characteristics) are used as items to sort and classify the content of the

surveyed Web sites employing three parameter values (Not mentioned, Mentioned, Details provided). The

results of the empirical survey show that the Web Sites vary greatly in the disclosure of the different items: as

far as the core characteristics are concerned, information about variety and usage was found to be displayed

often, whereas information on raw materials, production processes and composition was quite rare. Referring

to the additive characteristics most of the Web sites display no relevant information about quality,

environmental aspects, product testing or prices.

Test of Significant Differences

A Pearson's Goodness of Fit Chi-square and a Likelihood Ratio Chi-square were used to test for significant

differences between the sectors of the industry. By applying a Chi-square test (level of significance: 1 %) the

disclosure of raw materials, the production process, environmental information and prices were found to vary

significantly between the different sectors, while the disclosure of the composition, variety, usage, quality

information and product testing remains insignificant. Interestingly three of these items (variety, quality

information and product testing) become significant when applying a level of significance of 5 %. The mere

fact that the majority of the industry doesn't offer certain product-related information cannot be seen as an

indicator that the provision itself doesn't make sense. In some cases certain organizations successfully

differentiate themselves from the majority by providing information that goes into detail.

Conclusions

The findings show that commodity knowledge does not play a prominent role for the surveyed companies.

The degree of commodity knowledge on the analyzed Web sites varies visibly. The survey illustrates that the

companies are present online, but with regard to commodity knowledge the companies use the unlimited

information possibilities of the Internet only partly. Commodity knowledge could be seen as unnecessary or

too complicated to be communicated online. Maybe some companies look upon the commodity characteristics

of their products as corporate secrets. These information gaps represent unused communication potential. In

times of sustainable development consumers are more and more interested about the background of the

products they buy and profound online information about the commodity characteristics would address this

need.

* Michael K. Pieber, Horst Treiblmaier, Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration, Department of

technology and sustainable product management, Augasse 2-6, A-1090 Vienna, Austria, Tel.: +43 1 31336 4801,

Fax: +43 1 31336 706, E-mail: michael.pieber@wu-wien.ac.at

FORUM WARE 32 (2004) NR. 1 - 4

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