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  • Subject area(s): Marketing
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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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1.1 Background to the study

Rapid developments in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), especially the Internet, have brought about a lot of changes in the world, both in developed and developing countries (Jones & Beynon-Davies, 2011) in virtually all walks of life. The benefits of ICT, in particular the Internet, are generally well-acknowledged now although attaining such benefits has been elusive to many organizations and individuals worldwide (Montazemi, 2006). Some of the benefits of the Internet and other associated networks include; reductions in transaction cost, and easy reach to global markets, easier facilities for branding, opportunities for multiple trading partners, and the chance to refocus on core competencies of the business, amongst many others (OECD, 2004, 2002).

The praxis of electronic commerce (e-commerce) has emerged since 1965 when users were able to pull off money from Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) and make leverages using point of sale terminals and credit cards. This was accompanied by systems that crossed organizational sovereignty and assist organizations to send and receive information and conduct business electronically. These types of systems were commonly known as inter organizational systems (Senn, 2000).

Until the far-flung preparation of Internet-based technologies in the early 1990s, initiatives that conducted e-commerce used almost solely a closed and formalised form of computer-to-computer communication also known as “Electronic Data Interchange” (EDI). In fact, the term “electronic commerce” was virtually similar to “EDI” (Fellenstein and Wood, 2000; Senn, 2000). E-commerce as such, nonetheless, has come to appeal to the interest of many forthcoming the commercialization of the Internet and most especially the procession of the World Wide Web (WWW) and its job applications.

Electronic commerce, or e-commerce, means economic activity that takes place online. E-commerce includes various types of business activity, such as retail shopping, banking, investing and rentals. Even small businesses that allow for personal services, such as hair and nail salons, can gain from ecommerce by giving a website for the sale of related health and beauty products that usually are ready only to their local customers. Electronic commerce draws on technologies such as mobile commerce (m-commerce), electronic funds transfer, supply trend management, Internet marketing, online business transaction processing, electronic data interchange (EDI), inventory management systems, and automated data gathering systems. Modern electronic commerce generally makes use of the World Wide Web (WWW) at least at one point in the transaction's life-cycle, although it may cover an increased range of technologies such as e-mail, mobile devices social media, and telephones as also. E-commerce differs from e-business in that no commercial transaction, an exchange of value across organizational or individual boundaries, takes place in e-business.

E-commerce as a worldwide network and also as marketing and communication prerequisite attempts to modify the methods of business, because of its ubiquity, relatively low cost access, ease of work, flexibility and attraction (Lecy Et al. 2012). This technology has offered new models of buying, selling and rendering services to customers and tries to make a new conceptualization of traditional relations between customers and sellers (Gilaninia et al, 2011). Fundamental interaction between technology and business process is the key of empathizing the effects that e-commerce may have on economic transactions and at economic in general. Something which separates e-commerce from traditional commerce is basically a process or method through which the information between customers and sellers is exchanged and acted on. In e-commerce, the information instead of passing through direct contact of persons goes directly through a digital network or other electronic channels. E-commerce may create a selling channel, marketing or excessive distribution beside the traditional channel of commerce or commodities, services and new market (Tseng 2010).

E-commerce in the present day means a lot of things to various types of people. There subsist wide forms of e-commerce resolution and conceptualizations covering a profuseness of issues, applications, and business models. Some opined e-commerce as “doing business electronically” (EC, 1998). Such conceptualization leans to be very generic and assign neither the network archetypes nor the business actions to be carried out electronically. Other conceptualization such as OECD, (1999), when discussing about e-commerce, specifically lay emphasis on the Internet and other look alike TCP/IP based specifically on networks that uses non-proprietary formalities as a passage for carrying out businesses electronically.

Academic definitions are minute and concentrated on applications and business backup. Zwass (1996), for instance, delineate e-commerce as “the distribution of business information, managing business relationships and carrying out business transactions by means of telecommunications networks”. Others (Applegate, 1999, Fellenstein and Wood, 2000) were also in support this perspective and regard e-commerce to also include various procedures within and outside the organization in conjunction with buying and selling activities.

Several efforts have been made to acquire frameworks and to analyse the differences in the e-commerce perspectives of living enquiry. In one of the earliest works, Zwass (1996) evoke that the best way to define and examine e-commerce is to consider it as a grade structure comprising of three metalevels: infrastructure, services and products and structure. Zwass indicates that each of these levels provides a different way of generalization in that lower ones deport a well-defined functional assistance to the higher ones. Riggins and Rhee (1998) on the other hand were of the view that the setting of the application user relative to system firewall (such as internal and outside) and the types of correlations (technology enhanced and technology facilitated) as two proportions along which e-commerce (internet based) views can be separated. By joining these two dimensions, Riggins and Rhee (1996) introduced various uses of e-commerce arraying from externally focused e-commerce with the aim of facilitating new or aiding existing business relationships (such as business to consumer and business to business) to intraorganizational systems with the main aim of boosting coordination with internal business.

In the growing world economy, e-commerce and e-business has progressively become an important feature of business strategy and a strong shooter for economic growth. The merging of information and communications technology (ICT) in business has rotated relationships within organizations and those between and among organizations and persons. Mainly, the use of ICT in business has boosted productivity, encouraged increased customer involvement, and enabled mass customization, outsides reducing costs. With maturation in the Internet and Web-based technologies, differentiation between traditional markets and the world electronic marketplace-such as business capital size, among others-are procedurally being narrowed down. The name of the game is strategic laying, the ability of a company to ascertain emerging opportunities and employ the necessary human capital skills (such as intellectual resources) to make the most of these chances through an e-business strategy that is simple, workable and non-theoretical within the context of a world information surroundings and new economic setting.

Khan and Mahapatra (2009) remarked that technology plays an important purpose in enhancing the richness of services offered by the business units. One of the technologies which really contributed information revolution in the society is Internet Technology and is rightly known as the third wave of revolution after agricultural and industrial revolution. The critical point for business today is e-Commerce. The influence of e-commerce are already showcasing in all angles of business, from customer service to new product blueprint. It alleviate new types of information based business procedures for contacting and interacting with customers like online advertising and marketing, making orders online, online customer service etc. It can also deoxidise cost in managing orders and interacting with a wide range of suppliers and trading partners, areas that mainly add significant overheads to the cost of products and services (Rajiv Rastogi, 2003). Businesses are growingly using the Internet for commercial activities. The omnipresent nature of the Internet and its world-wide admittance has made it highly an effective mode of communication between businesses and customers (Rowley 2001). Thompson (2005) enclosed that the increase of Internet technology has great potential as it delineates the costs of product and service delivery and extends geographical boundaries in bringing buyers and sellers to the round table.

E-commerce means setting processes electronically which is carried out with the interchange aim of money, commodity, information and other services. The difference between e-commerce and electronic commerce is in the form of commercial actions that goes in line with every one of them (Marjani Et al. 2012). E-commerce on its own admits the activities of commerce unit in an organization such as tenders, price quotations, order negotiation, conveyance of deliveries and payments. In addition to these processes, commerce includes other activities like customer relations management, supply trend management and enterprise resource organizing (Hertwig 2012). In the present world, the information and communication technology and its applications has led to substantial changes in economic, social and cultural procedures, as of the former conventional procedures which has been “banned completely” and replaced by the procedures of third millennium or so-called “virtual” methods. In addition, exports are not excluded from this category. E-commerce and related procedure to the electronic business have facilitated and accelerated the export sessions (Kraemer Et al. 2005)

Devendra et al., (2012) conceptualised that electronic commerce, usually known as e-commerce or e-Commerce, comprises of the buying and selling of products or services over electronic system such as internet and other computer network. Intent is the technology for e-commerce as it offers easier modes to access organizations and individuals at very low cost in order to carry out everyday business activities. Search engine marketing (SEM) is a form of web advertising that companies adopt to enhance their products and services on search engine results pages (SERPs). SEM is concentrated on the effective use of search engine advertisements (a.k.a., sponsored results, sponsored links) that shows on the SERP. SEM which aids firms to identify consumers by placing ads on search engines has proven to be an effective crowd acquisition strategy. Unlike traditional online advertising, advertisers pay only when users actually click on an ad when successfully implemented, SEM can generate stable traffic levels and overwhelming return on investment (ROI).

Electronic Commerce is the very rapid increasing field in the present day scenario. It is used for Purchasing Order i.e. for buying and selling electronic goods and any other type of things. Also, there it is necessary for development of a number of ecommerce protocols, which ensure integrity, discreetness, atomicity and fair exchange (Deepu & Vijay, 2012). E-commerce is meliorating standard among the business community in worlds, about the opportunities offered by E-commerce. E-commerce has released yet another revolution, which is modifying the way businesses buy and sell products and services; and its trading in goods and services through the electronic medium.

E-commerce concept has changed the way of transacting business in the present day world. It is not just electronic payment on the Internet. There are many application areas in this level; this includes banking activities, publishing including electronic distribution, sales portals including sales, marketing, production, management, and dispersion. Major types of e-commerce can be categorized into the following: Business-to-Consumer (B2C), Business-to-Business (B2B), Consumer-to-Consumer (C2C), Business-to-Government (B2G), Mobile commerce (m-commerce) (Koponen, 2010).

1.2 Problem statement

Absorbing from Turban et al., (2008), electronic commerce (e-commerce) is conceptualised as ‘the process of buying, selling, transferring, or exchanging products, services, and/or information through e-mail, Internet, and the world wide web.' The rationale for this definition grew from the fact that some developed world countries have lagged behind in acquiring and using ICT resources in their business ascribable to various challenges such as lack of ICTs, unfriendly regulatory policies, lack of financial resources and different other reasons (Kshetri, 2007).

Rapid growths in information and communication technologies (ICT), most especially the Internet, have contributed about a lot of modifications in the world, both in developed and developing countries (Jones & Beynon-Davies, 2011) in almost all aspects of life. The contribution of ICT, in particular the Internet, are wholly well-acknowledged now although getting such benefits has been missed by many organizations and individuals worldwide (Montazemi, 2006). Some of the gains of the Internet and other related networks also include; lessened transaction cost, and user-friendly reach to world markets, easier facilities for branding, chances for large trading partners, and the chance to re-establish on core competencies of the business, amongst many others (OECD, 2004).

The espousal of electronic commerce (e-commerce) among University students and young adults remains an important aspect of examination in information systems research (Parker & Castelman, 2009; MacGregor, 2004). Scanty e-commerce acceptance researches in University settings have been unravelled in developed countries as can be represented by a few (Scupola, 2009, Chibelushi & Costello, 2009; Brand & Huizingh, 2008; Karakaya & Shea, 2008; Wilson, Daniel & Davies, 2008; Bharati & Chaudhury, 2006). Likewise, third world countries can be represented by these studies (Tan, Tyler, Manica, 2007; Looi, 2005; Molla & Licker, 2005) meanwhile the overall representation in academic publications shows that there are less studies in developing countries. Problems that have been examined are diverse, ranging from different sets of people, and the use of specific ICT applications (Ngai & Wat, 2002). A key area of concern in the literature is the lack of detail on how e-commerce adoption among University students is undertaken as most researchers have made use of exploratory research methods such as surveys that lack depth and theoretical foundation (Riemenschneider et al, 2003). The wide and single nature of University setting (Parker and Castleman, 2009) is usually glossed over in a rush to summate a collective and generalised knowledge of the factors affecting e-commerce adoption by University students.

Based on studies on SMEs, most researchers do accept that a one-size-fits-all model may not be achievable (Molla and Licker, 2005) in the dispersion of e-commerce due to the various ways in which organisations are inherently constructed (Drew, 2003; Rolland & Monteiro, 2002; Southern & Tilley, 2000). The uneven distribution of ICT infrastructure, products and services, in the developed and developing countries, or urban and rural SMEs also accounts for differences in how e-commerce is adopted and applied in organisations. Previous studies have shown that the availability of ICT resources in developed countries has contributed to their having an upper hand in adoption and assimilation of ICT innovation (Scupola, 2009). In some developed countries, ICT resources have been difficult to acquire and use, and the cost of acquiring e-commerce infrastructure has been very high for many SMEs. Moreover, the many ICT project failures in the developed countries that are attributed to ‘poor understanding' of issues in context (Heeks, 2002) leading to disorganized solutions to ICT issues (Avgerou, 2000), require attention. These concerns are equally transferable to areas such as e-commerce adoption.

The web is getting much accepted over the last decade, resulting to a strong platform for information distribution, retrieval and analysis of available information. Presently, the web is much popular for a large data repository consisting of a broad variety of data and knowledge base, in which information are covered (Guandong et al., 2011).

Users face problems due to the huge volume of information that is consistently growing. Most especially, web users have regular complaints in getting the real information due to low precision and low recall page. For instance, if a user wants to get any information by using Google and other available search engines, it will provide not only web contents regarding this topic, but a series of non-useful information, so called noise pages and cookies, resulting in difficulties for users in getting necessary information (Guandong et al., 2011).

Majority of studies on the adoption e-commerce has been carried out between Small and Medium Scale business owners, as well as large organization. However, there has been a dearth of research on adoption of e-commerce among users, most especially, larger proportion of users – University students and young adults. This set of people are regarded as the largest number of people with most adequate knowledge of how ICT works, as well as e-commerce application usage. Also, this study will go further to unravel factors that could determine adoption of e-commerce among University students. Therefore, this study has set out investigate views of University students towards e-commerce applications in higher education.

1.3 Significance of the study

This study aims to promote the understanding of e-commerce espousal from the angle of University students, to excavate the social-technical problems that can analyse the students' e-commerce adoption or non-adoption. Of interest are issues that relate to the nature and characteristic of e-commerce environments in Universities, what factors affect the adoption, and how these factors comes together in determining the rate of e-commerce adoption. In addition, the study also traces times of discontinuity, against or failure of e-commerce initiatives with the sole aim of unravelling apposite issues that confronts University students in developed countries. This study dates back the origin of e-commerce from the low level of an organisation. The study therefore is in contrary with general factor studies that are carried out to list exciting or inhibiting factors (Mohamad & Ismail, 2009). Universities in North Cyprus is chosen not for any special peculiarities but rather as a developed area with social and economic characteristics that can provide a rich and unique dimension in e-commerce adoption literature among students. There is still little knowledge about University students and e-commerce in developed countries and so this study assists in filling the gap (Mpofu et al., 2011).

1.4 Research Questions

The following research questions are put forward in order to guide the study;

1. What is the nature and characteristic of the University settings e-commerce environment?

2. How much do University students make use of e-commerce applications in North Cyprus?

3. What factors affect e-commerce adoption among University students in North Cyprus?

4. How much familiarity do University students have with e-commerce applications in North Cyprus?

5. How confident are the students on using e-commerce applications in North Cyprus?

1.5 Purpose of the study

The main purpose of the study is to unravel the views of University students in North Cyprus towards e-commerce applications in higher education. However, the following specific objectives will be achieved at the end of this study;;

1. To understand the nature and characteristic of the University settings e-commerce environment.

2. To investigate the frequency by which University students make use of e-commerce applications in North Cyprus.

3. To unravel the factors affect e-commerce adoption among University students in North Cyprus.

4. To know how much Familiarity University students have with e-commerce applications in North Cyprus.

5. To delineate how confident are the students on using e-commerce applications in North Cyprus.

1.6 Scope of the study

The scope of this study involves the adoption and usage of Information and communication technology (ICT) to enable business transactions among university students in North Cyprus. Hence, any electronic transaction that involves the internet, email with/without the web, constitutes e-commerce in this study. Other than using personal computers for business transactions, participants in e-commerce may employ various other devices and ICT applications (Ngai & Wat, 2002) that are mobile, thus covering mobile commerce. Although, most e-commerce transactions may be arrived at by an individual or corporate client through other media such as social networking sites, blogs and other platforms, from any location on the globe.

1.7 Operational definition of terms

1. Information and Communication Technology (ICT): This refers to forms of communication and exchanging of information through the internet.

2. E-commerce: This refers to electronic commerce. In this study, this means making business transactions (buying and selling), paying bills online i.e. via internet, etc. through computer applications.

3. University settings: In this study, this is referred to as a formal tertiary level of gaining education.

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