Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
This dissertation presents a collection of research projects on software agents in electronic commerce (e-commerce). A common theme throughout this research is that agents are an innovation. We are interested in identifying conditions and design criteria that would lead to their adoption in e-commerce applications. We define and study a class of agent applications that fall under the Decision Support Systems (DSS) Approach, where users delegate part of a decision-making task to a software agent. We show how findings from traditional DSS research can guide the development of e-commerce applications that include software agents. Two frameworks are presented that organize research and development activity. The first framework looks at the kinds of knowledge that agents should possess if they are to assist in e-commerce decision-making and identifies some of the major research challenges in designing intelligent agent applications. The second framework is directed at development and design activities. It builds on models of buyer behaviour where perceived risk and frequency of purchase are two characteristics of purchasing situations that can help identify when buyers are expected to find agents useful. The results of two empirical studies suggested by these frameworks are presented. The first study was exploratory and identified consumer preferences for information display over searching and browsing tasks. This was a first step in a larger project aimed at designing adaptable agents to support consumers in different information-seeking modes. A second experiment studied consumer behaviour in the actual online purchase of a music compact disk. We found that subjects who used an agent made their purchase decisions in less time and made more-informed decisions than subjects who did not use an agent.
Sproule, Susan, "Software agents in electronic commerce: A decision support systems approach" (2003). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 2811.