This paper will attempt to deconstruct the belief that eCommerce in its current format is empowering customers. It focuses on five of the most prevalent myths surrounding eCommerce (namely that it: will revolutionise retailing, offers greater choice and convenience, offers greater access to information, enables better C2B and C2C communication, and brings about personalisation of services to consumers). The paper demonstrates that these assumptions derive from the technologically determinist school of Information Systems (IS) thinking (grounded in the myth that technology per se brings huge benefits, including wealth and empowerment), and thus merits more sophisticated consideration of the technology, providers and users. A critical epistemology is adopted, and through a series of semi-structured interviews with consumers and consideration of the wider empirical evidence the myths are deconstructed. The paper proposes that there is incongruence in online retail provision and the needs or requirements of customers. It argues that a greater sense of “audience” is required by retailers who adopt eCommerce. The conclusion raises the question ‘how far can commercial enterprises afford to empower consumers?’ Buyer power continues to be regarded as a threat to competitive advantage and as such needs to be managed effectively. This paper offers a contribution to e-commerce literature by demonstrating that the assumption that the consumer is empowered through internet retail is not grounded in reality. It provides a practical contribution to businesses by heightening awareness of the extent to which current internet-based retail fails to fulfill consumer needs.
McLean, Rachel and Blackie, Nigel M., "SRF or Soverign? eCommerce and the Promise of Consumer Empowerment" (2005). ECIS 2005 Proceedings. 22.