From "Push or Pull" to "Push Comes to Shove": Entrepreneurs' E-Commerce Strategic Orientation and Initiatives

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ABSTRACT

As more entrepreneurs integrate new business models into their organizations, it is important to investigate the process of how their perceptions and attitudes influence major changes in the adoption of new e-commerce technologies. Our study begins to explore the attitudes of the entrepreneur in relation to business criticality and innovation and its role within the firm in adopting and implementing an e-commerce-based strategy and initiatives. These attitudes may assist the firm in developing and aligning its strategy with its innovative prowess, making it possible for the venture to introduce and capitalize on emerging opportunities and technologies within their respective industries.

INTRODUCTION

Rapidly changing market needs and the emerging technologies required to capitalize on new opportunities have presently created a highly challenging environment for entrepreneurs. More specifically, e-commerce technology and the explosive growth of the Internet have impelled many entrepreneurs to take a much closer look at how effectively their firms develop and implement innovative activities. These phenomena are playing an increasingly important role in entrepreneurial organizations, as new forms of arranging work are evident. For example, conventional boundaries between firms and their suppliers, customers and competitors are eroding as new and expanding markets increase competition and concomitant consumer choices (Morino, 1999). Those entrepreneurs who are intentional in their search for new opportunities, and are willing to allocate the necessary resources toward these innovations will be positioned to compete most effectively (Hodgetts, Luthans, & Slocum, 1999). Research has shown that entrepreneurial orientation, technological capabilities, and financial resources were important predictors of a firm's performance (Lee, Lee, & Pennings, 2001).

The availability of e-commerce technologies is very recent, and therefore it is not surprising that there has been scant research focused on this area. Yet, it is of growing interest to entrepreneurship scholars to identify the attributes of firms that successfully integrate ecommerce initiatives. The present study focuses on the strategic behaviors of entrepreneurs, including the priority placed on innovative initiatives, resource allocation to support these innovations, and the degree of congruence between the firm's generic strategy and e-commerce strategy. In an exploratory study of a group of entrepreneurial firms in the manufacturing sector, a model is proposed to guide the development of the growing research base in this area. It is of primary research interest to examine whether these entrepreneurs perceive these new technologies to be a business criticality, and the behaviors they undertake to capitalize on ecommerce opportunities. This research is timely, evidenced by a recent global manufacturing futures survey in ten countries/regions that sought to examine the benefits from innovation, investment in innovative activities, and manufacturing performance improvements (Harrison, 2002). The study disclosed that most firms were simply applying innovation to current products and processes, i.e., what they were already doing, rather than adopting new practices at the forefront for new products and markets - what they could be doing. Thus, the extent to which entrepreneurs capitalize on the conditions presented by e-commerce, and engage in experimentation and innovation is of major interest in contemporary research.

The present study examines how entrepreneurs effectively design and integrate ecommerce business models and practices in their organizations. The purpose of this paper is twofold:

1. To examine the relationship between business criticality on the following set of strategic activities and objectives: a) the level of entrepreneurial team priority placed on e-commerce-based initiatives; b) the level of resource allocation, primarily internal, to meet these e-commerce-based initiatives; and c) the level of strategic congruence between the firm's overall strategy and e-commerce strategy (see Figure 1). …