Electronic Commerce (E-Commerce) is all over these days. Its common reading articles about how e-commerce is going to change and affect our lives. It is accepted all across that e-commerce and internet technologies can benefit an organization. E-commerce has evolved over the years to become a significant channel through which businesses can exchange goods and services, coordinate production and market to customers. Although the downturn in e-commerce activities at the end of the 20th century led to many new businesses failing, it has subsequently been followed by a second wave of e-commerce that is more international in nature, more dynamic in terms of business and revenue models, and more effective in terms of utilizing internet services to address customer needs. Today organizations around the world are using e-commerce to satisfy their communication and business needs.
E-commerce has taken the world into a revolutionary tide. With the great success of e-commerce, there are also challenges. To meet individual user’s demand, customizable e-commerce is quite in need. It has significance to the development of e-commerce and has the characteristics and advantages compared with traditional e-commerce. This paper emphasizes on the Evolution of E-commerce, benefits of E-Commerce, adoption of e-commerce and a study to investigate the extent of Malaysian women’s involvement with e-commerce applications in Malaysia.
Definition of E-commerce
Many of the e-commerce definitions are derived from past experiences rather than on possible futures. There are different ways to define e-commerce based on different people, different businesses and different services.
E-commerce is a general phrase for any kind of business, or commercial electronic transaction that involves the transfer of information across the internet. E-commerce consists of the buying and selling of products or services over electronic systems such as the Internet and other computer networks.
Evolution of E-commerce
The mission of E-commerce is to use electronic data transmission such as internet and web, to enhance the business opportunities. Over the years people who have been into business have always made use and adopted new tools and technology as and when they were available.
According to WorldHistory.com (2000) the meaning of the term “electronic commerce” has changed frequently. In the earlier days, e-commerce meant as provision of commercial transactions electronically, basically using the technology like Electronic Data Interchange (EDI, launched in late 1970’s) and Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT) which were used to send commercial documents like purchase orders or invoices electronically.
E-commerce than added new activities more specifically “Web Commerce” – the purchase of goods or services over the World Wide Web (WWW) through secure servers, such as HTTPS, with e-shopping carts and with electronic pay services, like credit card authorizations (WorldHistory.com, 2000) . The e-business evolution can be broken into three major phases
3.1 First Wave
In the first phase, “way” back in 1998, business-related “dot-com” Web sites emerged all over the virtual world. Most of these were simple portals for Web surfers-customers and other interested parties-to view product specifications and ordering information. Soon after, basic procurement capabilities were added to these sites, particularly buyer-seller matching for indirect procurements that were both labor- and paper-intensive. (Maintenance repair operations, and travel and entertainment are two primary examples of indirect procurement.)
3.2 Second Wave
In the second phase, namely last year, Web-based technologies expanded. They began incorporating several core back-office processes, including order management, procurement, logistics, financial management, and supply chain planning. At the same time, online procurement systems began handling direct materials (those materials used in finished goods).
These activities proved the concept of electronic collaboration. The next step was to move the focus from the back office to the front office. Electronic collaboration in engineering and design became particularly attractive, given that these two business functions are themselves very much collaborative environments.
Benefits of E-Commerce
E-Commerce is changing the economy and the way businesses are organized and run.(Barua et al,2001). It motivates the firms to find new methods to expand their markets, to gain and retain customers by modifying the products and services to their needs, and to reorganize their business processes in order to deliver high quality products and services efficiently and effectively.
There are lots of benefits that organizations need to be aware of when deciding whether the use of e-commerce in their business can benefit their organization. Many people might view the importance level of the e-commerce benefits in many ways. Some benefits of adopting e-commerce for the firms or organizations include enchanced customer service, better inventory control, lower marketing and distribution costs, reduced cycle time, increased market reach, reduced operation costs, global connectivity, high accessibility, scalability, interoperability, and interactivity (Turban et al., 2000).
Improved speed of delivery
Speed of delivery is the time it takes for an organization to deliver its products or services to their business partners. It means the total time it takes to deliver the product will decrease because of e-commerce technology adoption. E-commerce system can make the business process faster since it works 24 hours as long as the server is on.
Improved markets reach
E-commerce is not restricted by geographical location. Market reach is the ability of an organization to reach a larger number of trading partners and consumers. Since e- commerce is using World Wide Web, it can reach larger market in world easily and not only those who is nearby.
Improved Customer Service
Improved customer service refers to the quality of tasks that an organization performs to increase sales, retain its customers and improve the quality of services provided to the customer. It is achieved if the level of satisfaction the customer experiences from conducting business with the organization is raised after e-commerce adoption. This in turn increases the customer’s loyalty and purchasing behaviors (Mcknight and Chervany, 2002).
Better Inventory Management
The daily production involves maintaining, organizing, and accounting for product.The daily production involves maintaining, organizing, and accounting for product inventory. It was realized when the inventory control processes are made simpler or eliminated and at the same time are able to handle inventory, thus ensuring that there will be no large stockpiles of inventory, while simultaneously reducing out of stock situations (Pauline, 2002). Some of the companies, especially those big organizations, are facing inventory problem as keeping track of warehouse or stock is not easy. So, with the use of e-commerce which come with computerize inventory system, the firms were able to manage inventory properly.
The costs experienced by organizations in their daily business operations from paperwork, paying bills and making products or delivering services are largely reduced due to the automation processes of e-commerce applications. These include operational due to the automation processes of e-commerce applications. These include operational costs, administrative costs, and transaction costs. This benefit is realized when the total costs after e-commerce adoption are lower than the costs of operating the business before adopting e-commerce (Hruska, 1995).
Transformation from Traditional to Modern (E-commerce):
The Five stages that a firm goes through in the adoption are explained below by Courtney and Fintz (2001):
This is the facility to use the email to send messages , either for intranet communication between the employees, or to allow communication between businesses and their suppliers and consumers. In E-commerce some elements of EDI can be considered as messaging like sending a request for quotation.
This is the establishment by a business of a website or e-mail list to publish information about products and services, so that their customers can access this information online. It gives the business an opportunity to create a greater awareness of its products to its customers. The website can publish marketing information, prices, and stock levels.
This is the online interaction between a business and its customers, or a business and its suppliers, for the placement of an order. Online activities include issuing or receiving an invoice and an electronic payment.
This is the use of e-commerce to support the business relationship between a customer and a supplier, for example through, the provision of interactive order progress tracking or online support. An integration of the supply chain links suppliers, manufacturing, and delivery, thus improving efficiencies and minimizing waste.
The final outcome is the integration of all these activities with the internal processes of a business. The focus is customer service orientated. According to the researcher’s review, most of the Malaysian companies are in stage 2 and a small number of the medium or large size companies are now in stage 3 or stage 4. While there are only few companies such as Amway and Cosway are in the stage 5.
There are very few case studies about e-commerce adoption in Malaysia. In addition to that, there isn’t any detailed study about the adoption of e-commerce among Malaysian women at all. So, the researcher has proposed to study this area to investigate the extent of Malaysian women’s involvement with e-commerce tools in Malaysia and find a set of guidelines on the best practices of e-commerce adoption which might help them. According to the studies’ analysis, a web portal would be developed in order to network Malaysian women in e-commerce and promote e-commerce adoption among Malaysian women. Some information of the studies would be put on the web portal as well, in order to help Malaysian women understand better about e-commerce adoption.
6.1 PROPOSED RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
This section explains the research design for this exploratory study and the manner in which the research was conducted.
6.1.1 Population and Sample
Since the population is too larger for the researcher attempt to survey. A small, but carefully chosen sample has been used to represent the population. Stratified Sampling has been used as the sampling technique in this research because it used probability methods, which can reduces sampling error. First, the researcher has identifies the targeted population of this research is any female or male who own a company or working in a company with the right to decide on a business plan, within Peninsular Malaysia. The targeted subjects are likely to have e-commerce knowledge experience.
6.1.2 Data Collection Method
It was decided that the data collection method to be utilized would be mail surveys (distribution of questionnaires), e-mail surveys (distribution of questionnaires) and personal interviews. Mail survey is where the questionnaire is distributed to each individual in the sample by mail, with a request that it be completed and then returned by a given date. Besides that, the researcher will also conduct face-to-face interviews with the respondents. All the respondents are expected to be aware of company’s IT related information. Survey instrument packages consisting of a cover letter, questionnaire and a self-addressed stamped envelope were included to facilitate the return of the completed questionnaire.
The first set of questionnaire (refer to Appendix A) was mailed to the 150 samples, which include 75 males and 75 females. The female respondents, who returned the first set of questionnaire, were then mailed the second set of questionnaire (refer to Appendix B), so that the researcher can study more in-depth for e-commerce adoption among Malaysian women. In order to meet the minimum of sample amount the researcher need, the researcher has conducted some interview to collect data as well.
6.1.3 Research Instrument
The survey instrument used was two different sets of questionnaires. The first set of questionnaire consists of 5 sections (shorter version of questionnaire) is for the businessmen only. The second set of questionnaire consists of 7 sections (with more questions) is for the businesswomen, so the researcher can collect more details in order to study how to network Malaysia women in e-commerce. The questionnaire is also used for the face-to-face interview. Questionnaire was used to test e-commerce adoption levels amongst Malaysian in Peninsular Malaysia because questionnaires covered a wide range of subjects and provide a format for large and quick data collection. Besides that, it also provides a standardized form of response, reducing biasness, and finally allowing easier way for analysis. The first set of questionnaire is developed for Malaysian, both men and women, and is divided into five main sections. The first section requested general information about the respondent. The second section is about the company’s general information, including the company’s primary business and number of employees. The third section is about the respondents’ perception of e-commerce and the fourth section is about the e-commerce adoption in respondents’ company. The final section is for the respondents to give extra opinions.
The second set of questionnaire is developed for Malaysian women and is divided into seven main sections. The first section requested general information about the respondent. The second section is about the company’s general information, such as the company’s primary business and primary market, and the percentage of imports and exports. The third section enquired about the respondent’s perception of e-commerce. This includes rating potential benefits and limitations of e-commerce in terms of importance. The fourth section enquired about the company’s adoption of e-commerce, and requested information about the company’s technological and e-commerce capabilities. The fifth section is regarding the internet connection and communication in the company. The sixth section is regarding the respondent’s perception on how to promote e-commerce adoption. The final section requires the respondent to give other opinions. The response options for the sub-questions were in accordance with the five points like scale in order to get more accurate information. (Refer to Appendix A for the questionnaire).
6.1.4 Questionnaire Distribution and Return
Three methods of distribution were used for the questionnaire:
By hand (Personal)
All companies with e-mail addresses received the questionnaires via this medium. Alternatively, questionnaires were faxed or posted. Business responses were predominantly via post. However, some companies responded via fax or e-mail.
6.1.5 Data Analysis Techniques
The results from the questionnaires were initially entered into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet to allow for the easy generation of graphs and tables. Other software such as SPSS was not used since all the data collected were descriptive data.
There are many implicit and explicit definitions of e-commerce and there are various ways to define e-commerce by different people or parties. Anyway, in this thesis, e- commerce is defined as the use of computers and electronic networks to conduct business with other businesses or with customers over the Internet or another electronic network. A number of factors affect e-commerce adoption. These are the results of the owner’s perception and acceptance of e-commerce, the characteristics of the organization, and the context in which the business finds itself. Various benefits and inhibitors to e- commerce adoption have been identified. There has been no significant study undertaken in Malaysia regarding the adoption of e-commerce in Malaysia, especially among Malaysian women. Further research is needed to determine current e-commerce perceptions and adoption strategies.
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