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Title: Canadian SMEs, export barriers and the Internet
Author: Maltby, Neil
Awarding Body: University of Strathclyde
Current Institution: University of Strathclyde
Date of Award: 2011
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This thesis explores the intersection of export, small firms and the Internet. In particular, the challenges of export barriers and the role of the web will be examined. Advances in technology, especially Internet technology, open new opportunities for exporters. The Internet enables virtual interaction between stakeholders in many markets around the world. Yet, with these opportunities come challenges. Exporters face economic, regulatory and social challenges in foreign markets. Transportation distances, import/export documentation, and language differences are just some of the challenges an exporter faces abroad. Large firms, with more resources, can acquire or develop know-how to address these challenges. Small and medium-sized firms, with fewer resources, are subject to considerable challenges in overcoming export hurdles and adopting Internet technology. Using a model developed from the review of literature, this study provides an integrated examination of SME exporters and the role of an Internet strategy. The factors for exploring Internet strategy draw from multiple activities, including outward looking Internet usage, Web 2.0 online network participation, and website characteristics and presence. Central to the model are marketing decisions and external forces that represent challenges for SMEs. Both are linked specifically to strategy and performance, providing an insight into the Internet's role in export success. This study used a multi-method approach to data collection. Survey, website evaluation and online business network data was generated from 83 Canadian SME exporters, with follow-up depth interviews with nine respondents. Qualitative theme analysis was applied to the interview data, open-ended survey questions and website observations. This informed an integrated analysis using qualitative and quantitative data. Findings indicate SMEs use the Internet and websites to overcome many key export barriers and improve their overall export performance. Owner/managers gather export market information and regard the Internet as a key means of communicating and relationship-building with potential and existing customers. However, the SMEs of this research focus on product-driven websites; evidence suggest the firms are underutilizing the opportunity to provide an interactive and internationalized experience for their foreign users. The Internet is important for mitigating external barriers such as foreign regulations, and language, while websites were found to be less utilized for these external barriers. Recent developments in Web 2.0 appear to offer interesting new approaches to addressing export barriers, but more research is needed in this area. A key outcome of this research is the importance of owner/manager attitude toward the Internet. The more owner/managers value the Internet the more it is used, the more it is used the more export barriers are addressed, and the more export barriers are addressed the better export performance the firms achieve. The findings from this thesis make several important contributions to the literature/knowledge base. The contributions pertain to the impact of an online strategy regarding export barriers and export performance. The qualitative and quantitative findings show an online strategy helps SMEs overcome several marketing and EXTERNAL export barriers. These findings add to the work of Leonidou (2004) about export barriers which the author notes are particularly challenging for SMEs. And, this research extends the qualitative work of Tiessen, Wright and Turner (2001), Tiessen (2003) and Saulnier and Rosson (2004). Several researchers, including Lohrke, McClure Franklin and Frownfelter-Lohrke (2006), Saban and Rau (2005) and Moini and Tesar (2005) have done empirical work about websites as channels. But the work did not involve evaluation of the firm's websites themselves. Nor does this extant work link online performance to export barriers and export performance as completed in this research. Furthermore, the research done in this thesis incorporates preliminary qualitative and quantitative data about SMEs use of Web 2.0 for export. Finally, this research offers a model linking the Internet to export barriers and performance. While the model as a whole needs further testing and validation, it provides an integration of SME strategy, resources, the unique role of the owner/manager, and the influence of the Internet regarding export performance. This model specifically links these factors to export barriers, which is a distinct contribution.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available