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Research to prove value of e-commerce

Posted 15 April 2015

Sarah Lane

A student at Harper Adams University hopes to justify the value of online retailing and e-commerce within the food and drink industry, through research being conducted for her dissertation project.

Sarah Lane hopes to find out what influences the adoption of retail technologies, particularly in small to medium enterprises (SMEs) in the food and drink sector in East Anglia. She is also looking at whether it has been a facilitator for growth for these particular businesses. 

The 21-year-old who studies BSc (Hons) Agri-food Marketing with Business Studies, said: “Many shoppers choose to buy their groceries online, yet previous research suggests that SMEs are lagging behind this trend.

“I’m trying to understand adoption patterns, so if a business isn’t using online retailing I want to understand why. If they have adopted such technologies, I want to find out how it has benefitted them.

“I chose to focus on East Anglia not only because I am from there, but also because agriculture is a primary employer for the area so there are many SMEs operating within the food and drink sector.”

To conduct her research, Sarah distributed questionnaires, receiving a total of 66 responses. This then led to telephone interviews with three of the respondents to gain more information.

Sarah from Sudbury in Suffolk, said: “Initial results contradict previously conducted research in that they suggest that more people are using modern technologies, including cloud computing.

“Only one retailer sampled didn’t have any form of web presence at all, and those without individual websites use either social media or online directories.

“Those that use e-commerce have a better understanding of its value and have incorporated it into their business strategy.

“But, it’s not necessarily the larger companies that use online retailing and e-commerce. Some of the smaller, newer businesses are more willing to adopt the technologies and social media proves to be very influential for them.

“Finally, there is a direct link to growth following the use of e-commerce, but retailers have found that this doesn’t necessarily meet their high expectations.”

It was during her placement year with StonesThrow Food Company that Sarah found inspiration for her dissertation research.

She hopes that her findings will fill a gap within research and show non-adopters of e-commerce that it does have a value, particularly for the food and drink industry.

Sarah, who rides and competes with her horses, hopes to pursue a career within agriculture or the food industry.

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