|The objectives of the research study was to consider factors affecting or influencing internet adoption (IA) within small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and indeed of internet marketing (IM) by SMEs; to explore the different IM tools in use, the levels of implementation and measurement, the strategies of use and to consider the impact of these on the SMEs overall marketing performance.
This research adds to previous research in similar fields, complimenting the existing research regarding IM and SMEs in Ireland while also contributing to research between SME industry categories. The study also introduces new research in the area of IM and SMEs in the Northwest of Ireland.
The study incorporates a mixed method research philosophy and triangulation approach, where survey research by use of a questionnaire collected the data required with a second phase of data collection involving semi structured in-depth interviews with SMEs throughout business categories throughout the Northwest of Ireland. These methods of data collection conspired to provide insights throughout the different topics within the research study area. Although the triangulation method typically consumes greater time and financial resources, it acts to remove bias which overall benefits the research study more so than using any single data collection technique.
This research finds that IM and internet adoption (IA) is indeed in use by SMEs in the Northwest of Ireland and is driven by its advantages, ease of use, micro and macro influencers, business readiness and knowledge. The findings indicate that website, email and social media marketing are the most used throughout SMEs and that IM activity has a strong positive impact on the SMEs marketing performance. This research provides a contribution to the study of IM in SMEs and introduces new research into the area within the Northwest of Ireland. It provides new insights for marketers, SMEs, researchers, practitioners, and government policy makers by providing a clear understanding of key IM issues and IA influencers for SMEs in the Northwest. The research addressed such issues as research gaps pertaining to IM measurement, IM and overall marketing performance and IM tools used within SMEs.
The research was tested on 1,799 SMEs in the Northwest receiving a 20% response rate, and received further validation through eight semi structured in-depth interviews with SMEs throughout the Northwest. Expert insights were then obtained to validate and triangulate the data.
Overall the research found that IM is indeed in operation throughout SMEs in the Northwest but is perhaps still in its growth stages, with activity being reactive rather than proactive. There were no outstanding differences in activity between SME category other than in areas of marketing planning and awareness of any government assistance and IM incentives.