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The emergence of the internet and World Wide Web has entailed dramatic changes since the last years. This occurrence has redefined the way in which business is done due to the rising significance of e-commerce (Chong, 2008). Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) which have a vital role in economies of many nations and contribute continuously to economic growth by new job creation even during economic downturns. The rising number of SMEs embracing e-commerce using their flexibility and responsiveness to tap new opportunities and innovations (Sudhakar and Ravindran, 2012), has enabled them to capitalize on it as it reduces significantly marketing costs and provides instruments for the individual to use other people's connections to set up their businesses in a methodological way through blogging and online networking (Harris et al., 2008).
A new alternative of networking has arrived. The online networking services or Social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms have a strong impact on millions of adults Americans in the way they interact or network with each other, purchase and perceive brands (Swartz, August 28, 2009).Consequently, many companies are leveraging on social media for not only promoting and communicating but also to provide feedbacks, innovative solutions to the customers and be fully committed to them (Solis, 2010). Certainly, many firms, especially entrepreneurs aim to avoid challenges by networking with people on a global basis and these enterprises are in turn, transforming important sources or suppliers of resources needed for quick and timely commercialization of innovative product offerings to the international market, (O'Donnell et al. 2011).
Recent research has proven that social media have drifted into the 'majority' and marketers have come into conclusion that the percentage of companies utilizing social media for marketing is estimated to reach 88% by 2012, up from 42%in 2008 (Williamson 2010). Subsequently, the internet allowed new forms of intermediaries, hence inciting firms to adopt Customer Relationship Management (CRM) to concentrate on maintaining effective relationships with them as well as connecting the utilization of online technologies to ease customer supplier relationships (Wright et al., 2002).
1.2 Electronic-customer relationship management (e-CRM)
Internet technologies comprising of any web tools that provide commercial procedures, ranging from e-mail to customer databases, so e-CRM can be defined as the usage of internet technologies to enable the management of customer relationships (Chaston and Mangles, 2003). Essentially, e-CRM is the extension of Relationship Marketing that brings on internet-based technologies (ibts) to enhance its power and Capabilities (Chen and Ching, 2007). The relationship marketing paradigm which refers when enterprises are required to perceive their customers and other stakeholders as partners, to form sustainable relationships with them and to gain the subsequent returns of reliance, loyalty and increased profitability (Hunt and Morgan, 1994).
With the advent of a wide variety social media, comprising of blogs, social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, You tube...etc.) and content communities are now available for business use (Kaplan and Haenlein 2010). Ever since the introduction of the first identifiable network, Six- Degrees in 1997, multiple Online Social Networks (OSNs) such as Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+ have become prevalent Internet platforms, where people around the globe are gathered and linked together.
The use of OSNs has escalated to an outstanding scale: the segment of Internet users visiting OSNs at least once a month is estimated to rise from 41% in 2008 to over 65% in 2014. So, the OSN Facebook already has beaten Google as the most frequently visited weekly website in the US in March 2010 and totaled 845 million active users in December 2011, (www.emarketer.com).
Certainly, many marketers understood its relative importance with the ultimate customer engagement on such platforms, and so proposed the managers to adopt such platforms in order to be express and communicate with other stakeholders online easily (Boyd and Ellison 2008).
1.4 Definition of problem
Generally, SMEs function by following a strong focus on close relationships with customers, personnel, suppliers and other stakeholders; it is practically a problematic situation to generalise research information based on the adoption of electronic-customer relationship management (e-CRM) on SMEs which are located in peripheral economies unlike large organisations found in the European and US economies which met evident success (Carson et al., 1995; McGowan and Durkin, 2002). Networking, at times eased global industrial trade events (Evers and Knight 2008; Shoham, 1999) especially significant for SMEs as they represent vital but have limited resource to exploit full advantage of new opportunities in the market.
Hoang and Antoncic (2003) reviewed 15 years of study into the consequences of networks in new ventures and SMEs and find that although an extensive research has been done on online network relationships, authority, and structural design, a more systematically examination is nevertheless to be developed. Additionally, as many studies on e-CRM were carried out on big enterprises located within America (US) and European economies (Adebanjo, 2003; Boyle, 2001; Gronroos, 2004; Hunt and Morgan, 1994). Hence, it can be noted that there is no particular research done for SMEs on e-CRM and on the specific social network-Facebook in the small developing nations such as Mauritius.
As supported by the Mikolaj Jan Piskorski, (2011), increasingly more traditional companies are attracted "like moths to a flame" to Facebook and LinkedIn, so clearly based on his studies on more than 60 companies in different industries, he believed that there is indeed, a success factor in terms of competitive advantage, communication, branding, responsiveness to feedback from customersâ€¦etc. through the adoption of social online approach.
Therefore, noting the absence of specific study in this context in the country, this dissertation fills the gap in the knowledge base by assessing Facebook as an effective tool in generating e-CRM and its associated benefits and barriers within Mauritian SMEs. Thus this study will contribute positively for SMEs in terms of the proper adoption of Facebook while building on e-CRM to gain competitive advantage mainly in the local economy. In line with this aim, the research will address the following questions:
What is the extent to which SMEs use Facebook for their business transactions?
What are the benefits derived from Facebook utilization by the SMEs in Mauritius?
What is the extent of e-CRM that is being achieved through the use of the Facebook by the local SMEs?
Want are the barriers which block SMEs to develop e-CRM through Facebook?
1.4 The Research Objectives
The objective of the study is to know the emerging value of e-CRM by investigating its opportunities through Facebook created for the SMEs in Mauritius and the overall advantages realized presently such as enhanced customer interactions and maintenance of personal relationships, possibilities for customization and the creation for a new competitive edge in the local market. The research will also acknowledge the strong challenges which e-CRM adoption and implementation through Facebook pose for SMEs. The related objectives are as follows:
To determine the extent to which SMEs use Facebook for their business transactions,
To measure the benefits derived from Facebook utilization by the SMEs in Mauritius
To assess the extent of e-CRM that is being achieved through the use of the Facebook by the local SMEs,
To identify the reasons which block SMEs to develop e-CRM through Facebook
1.5 Outline of the Dissertation.
The structure of the dissertation is as follows:
Chapter 1: Introduction
It gives an overview of the research topic and objectives.
Chapter 2: Literature Review
It outlines the necessary literatures pertaining to e-CRM, Facebook and SME's.
Chapter 3: Research Methodology
It underlines the research design used to carry out the survey among the SME's.
Chapter 4: Analysis and Findings
It provides an overview on the analysis of the data gathered by the questionnaires and
hypotheses testing, using the suitable statistical functions of SPSS v.20.0 & MS Excel 2010.
Chapter 5: Recommendations
Based on the findings of the study, this chapter emphasizes on the recommendations for improving e-CRM of SME's in Mauritius through Facebook utilization.
Chapter 6: Conclusion
It displays the wrapping up, followed by the limitation of this dissertation.
This chapter gives a detailed description of the aim and research objectives, the background of the e-CRM, and what it seeks to achieve. It also provides a basic guideline of the aspects that come by moving forward into a journey of investigating the extent SMEs utilize Facebook in the Mauritian context. It investigates into the paradox of e-CRM and Facebook and the relating uncertainties and success factors for SME's. The next chapter will emphasize on literature pertaining to this study.