Export Marketing and the World Wide Web: Perceptions of Export Barriers among Tirupur Knitwear Apparel Exporters - an Empirical Analysis

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ABSTRACT

The use of Web for export marketing normally enables firms to leapfrog the conventional stages by removing a number of barriers associated with exporting. This study investigates the impact of Web presence on the perception of export barriers among Tirupur knitwear apparel exporters, Indian bricks and mortar manufacturing small firms. A mail survey was conducted among 950 active exporters with 13.6 % response rate. The psychological barriers are found to be the biggest barrier to their export activities. Their overall perception of export barriers decreases significantly with their advancement in the business growth stage, and not with their company's age. However, in the company age group of less than 10 years, exporters with Web presence significantly differ in their perception from other exporters. Even though a number of patterns are observed, in the other age group and at all the business growth stages the differences in their perception of export barriers remain insignificant. It is concluded that the functionalities of these exporters' Websites are of primitive in nature and not being effectively exploited.

Keywords: Electronic Commerce Adoption; Small Businesses; Export Marketing; Export Barriers; Web Presence

1. Introduction

The Internet, the massive network of interconnected packet switched computer networks, is a general-purpose global communication and information system. The Internet has revolutionized the pattern of human society (Biswas and Kumar, 2004). But the emergence of World Wide Web (Web) has created the most interest in the business world.

The Internet has become a central fact of life for export firms. For a number of years, the Internet has provided a vehicle by which firms can communicate with those outside the company using electronic mail and has provided a rich source of information that firms can tap to help in fulfilling their business functions (Stallings, 2003). Stansfield and Grant (2003) investigated into the impact of government policy on Internet connectivity and adoption among small and medium businesses. Clarke (2002) found that even after controlling for self-selectivity bias and for factors that might affect both export performance and Internet connectivity, firms with Internet access exported more than similar firms and Internet access affected industrial and service enterprises to similar degree.

The recent changes in market conditions like increased globalization, competition, customer awareness, changing demographic factors, etc., have forced the business firms towards doing business over the Internet (Chakraborty and Ajoy, 2004). Now many firms do business over the Internet, mainly through the use of Web. Web provides the functionality necessary for online businesses. Technically and commercially, the Web client-server model becomes a dominant technology (Kalakota and Whinston, 1996). Kettinger and Hackbarth (2004) found that a small firm's capacity to perceive benefits had the strongest influence on the degree of integration of its electronic commerce networking into the sales process. Whether it is dealing with suppliers or corporate buyers, or individual consumers, the Web provides a great opportunity to expand export business.

1.1. The Web and Export Marketing

The export firms traditionally adopt export marketing through an evolutionary series of sequential stages (Anderson, 1993; Calof and Beamish, 1995). The use of the Web for export marketing enables export firms to leapfrog the conventional stages, as it removes all geographical constraints, permits the instant establishment of virtual branches throughout the world, and allows direct and immediate foreign market entry to the smallest of businesses. Roger Bennett (1997) envisages that the conventional model of obtaining export orders by information seeping out of a firm through formal and informal contacts with buyers, suppliers and like is not particularly relevant in the present Web era. …