Adoption and Usage of M-Commerce: A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Hong Kong and the United Kingdom

Article excerpt


Researchers and industry commentators alike have been both fascinated and perplexed by variations in take-up and usage of m-commerce services in different countries around the world. Our research compares m-commerce usage in the United Kingdom and in Hong Kong, areas with apparently similar mobile telecommunications infrastructures but with markedly different cultural profiles. We find significant differences between the UK and Hong Kong in usage of and attitudes to m-commerce services. We attribute these differences to the levels of collectivism and power distance in the cultures and to structural differences between the two markets. Attitudes to m-commerce services are formed by cultural and structural factors, consequently the search for a single, global killer application may be misguided. An understanding of the cultural dimensions of a market can aid marketers immensely in developing appropriate m-commerce services, marketing these appropriately and in setting realistic adoption targets.

Keywords: Adoption; Cross-cultural study; Hong Kong; Mobile Internet; United Kingdom

1. Introduction

The explosive growth of penetration and usage of mobile devices is frequently noted in research studies [Barnes and Scornavacca 2004; Dholakia et al 2004; Massoud and Gupta 2003]. By 2009 the number of mobile telephone subscribers is estimated to outstrip that of fixed-line subscribers [ITU 2000, cited in Dholakia et al. 2004]. The widespread availability of mobile phones that can handle digital data and that are connected to digital communications infrastructure means that the scene is set for the widespread adoption of m-commerce (defined as the use of mobile, wireless (handheld) devices to communicate and conduct transactions through public and private networks [Balasubramanian et al. 2002]). However, the development of m-commerce has been comparatively slow [Mylonakis 2004] and research suggests that it is seen as expensive, with poor service and usability [Jarvpenaa et al. 2003]. There are, nonetheless, indications of growth in consumer interest in m-commerce services. Research conducted in western Europe finds that consumer interest in m-commerce services and mobile payments increased from 23% in 2001 to 39% in 2003 [Strategy Analytics 2004]. In the UK added value mobile services grew by 29% to £1.4 billion, which is equivalent to 4.3% of total mobile revenues [Ofcom 2004]. Research by ATKearney [2004] finds that worldwide use of the mobile phone to pay for services grew from 3% of respondents in 2003 to 10% in 2004. Possibly the largest single use of m-commerce to date occurred on January 17 2005 when mobile phone users in the UK donated over £1 million via SMS to the relief fund following the Asian tsunami of 26 December 2004 [Telecom Paper 2005]. Adoption and usage of m-commerce services have been highly variable between countries; according to Dholakia et al [2004 p7], "the adoption of mobile technology does not follow any single universal logic or pattern". Differences in adoption and usage between countries may be attributable to differences in the mobile telecommunications infrastructure, to the range of m-commerce services on offer, to the marketing strategies utilised by service providers and to the underlying culture of the consumers of m-commerce services. We seek to investigate the role that culture plays in explaining differences in adoption, usage and attitudes to m-commerce by comparing countries which have broadly similar m-commerce infrastructures [same operators, same technology platform) and service portfolios, but markedly different cultural profiles. Our objective is to inform decision making in the mcommerce industry.

2. M-Commerce Infrastructure In Hong Kong And The United Kingdom

Hong Kong and the United Kingdom have among the highest mobile telephony penetration rates in the world at 91% and 82.5% respectively [OFTA 2003]. The telecommunication industry in Hong Kong has been shaped by intensive competition, with 6 operators licensed to serve a population of 6. …