A classification model to support SME e-commerce adoption initiatives

Document Type

Journal Article


Faculty of Business and Law


School of Management




This article was originally published as: Stockdale, R. & Standing, C. (2006) A classification model to support SME e-commerce adoption initiatives, Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development 13(3), p.381-394. Original article available here


Purpose – Adoption and effective use of e-commerce remains low among small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) despite substantial investments. This paper aims to analyse the e-commerce adoption paths of SMEs to identify a specific group that would benefit the most from e-commerce initiatives. Design/methodology/approach – This qualitative study builds on a government-funded research project that aimed to improve SMEs' understanding of on-line trading. Data were drawn from case studies of smaller businesses, stakeholders and a series of seminars. A literature review supported the empirical data. Findings – The paper finds that SMEs have significantly different attitudes to online business and cannot be regarded as a homogenous group for e-commerce initiatives. Rather, specific targeting would enhance participation and lead to more effective use. Using categories derived from the literature, a classification of five SME groupings based on firms' motivations is proposed. It is recommended that adoption initiatives are targeted at two groups which have the need or desire to become e-enabled. Research limitations/implications – By providing recommendations for targeted initiatives the paper contributes to the development of effective support for SMEs' e-commerce adoption. Motivators and inhibitors to adoption are discussed within the context of existing literature to confirm and challenge current thought and present the case for more research into SMEs' motivations. Originality/value – Value lies in the paper's use of empirical data derived from three separate methods of data collection and informed by the literature. This provides rich data to enable wider implications of the subject area to be discussed and contributes new perspectives to the SME e-commerce adoption debate.




Link to publisher version (DOI)