An Investigation into ecommerce Utilisation by SMEs within East Lothian
(2015) An Investigation into ecommerce Utilisation by SMEs within East Lothian, no. 105.
Purpose As public demand grows for eCommerce, the value of eCommerce sales within the UK has continued to increase year on year. Despite this, UK based SMEs are not taking full advantage of this opportunity for growth, with the number of SMEs utilising full eCommerce trading declining since 2012. The study aims to investigate eCommerce utilisation levels of SMEs within East Lothian, Scotland, analysing the factors preventing full eCommerce trading. SMEs future plans regarding eCommerce are also identified, as well as investigating if the Government and local council are providing sufficient initiatives and support for businesses. It is hoped that the study will enable the local council to identify the types of support needed by SMEs in incorporating eCommerce and tailor this support to the needs of the individual businesses within the community. Research Methods To achieve the aim and the objectives of the study, a mixed methods approach was used to gather the necessary data. As no previous research of a similar nature had been previously carried out within East Lothian, the gathering of initial quantitative data was deemed appropriate. An online questionnaire consisting of 10 questions was sent to 183 SMEs registered in the East Lothian Business Directory, yielding 69 responses. Further in-depth, qualitative data was then gathered from 6 follow-up face-to-face, semi-structured interviews with SME owner-managers. The online questionnaire and the interviews were then analysed and compared with previous literature, drawing conclusions and future recommendations. Key Results and Outcomes The results reveal that SMEs within East Lothian utilise the early stages of eCommerce such as social media and having a basic website higher than the UK average by 10.6% and 22.7%. However, the later stages such as the implementation of an e-Brochure and/or full eCommerce trading are below the UK average by 7.1% and 4.1%. The biggest factors preventing SMEs within East Lothian incorporating full eCommerce trading are due to a lack of resources such as finance and time and/or it does not support the needs of the business - similar to the rest of the UK. Encouragingly, 63.8% of SMEs within East Lothian indicate that they plan to increase their eCommerce usage in the future. Currently East Lothian Council offer initiatives and support such as grants, interest free loans and time with consultants. These are deemed to be sufficient and appreciated by SMEs within the area; however, it is recommended that the council increasingly look to create awareness of these types of support as 69.6% of SMEs are unaware of the support available.