Social e-commerce

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Research design and procedures

In this section the reader will find information about the research design (it is briefly showed in Figure No. 1). Firstly, the choice of research approach and method is discussed an explained. Secondly, the cases companies are presented and data collection is described. Lastly, the technique of data analysis is explained and delimitations and limitations of research are discussed.

Research methodology

Research approach

Social e-commerce is relatively new field of study, thus, it has to be explained firstly. It would really difficult to measure the benefits of this strategy using a quantitative method and deductive approach. Therefore, inductive research approach suits better with the cho-sen explanatory design of this research (Saunders et. al., 2007). Inductive approach refers to the raw data collection and deriving of new concepts, models and theories through data analysis and interpretation (Thomas, 2006; Sounders et. al., 2007). Hence, inductive ap-proach begins with a field of study and the researchers emerge theory from data. At this stage of social e-commerce studies it is more important to explain how the companies de-velop their renewal strategy and explain how the decisions are taken

Research method – Case study

In order to study the retail companies and their decisions to use social e-commerce the au-thors have chosen case study method because it “helps to gain a rich understanding of the context of the research and the process being enact ed” (Sounders et. al., 2007). Eisenhardt (1989) points out that case study method is “well suited for new research areas”. After conducting the secondary date analysis the authors found out that social e-commerce has not been studied much yet, therefore, it confirms the choice of research method.
According to Yin (2009) the case study research method is an empirical study that analyses a phenomenon in depth and it is especially suitable when the boundaries between the phe-nomena and its context are not really clear. The boundaries between social e-commerce and its and its context are not clearly evident.
Case study research method is “relevant when a study requires “in-depth” description of social phenomenon” (Yin, 2009). In the case of explanatory research design there are three possibilities to choose: history, case study and experiment. Case study is the best choice in our case because it relies on many if the same techniques as history, however, it adds some relevant sources of evidence (Yin, 2009). In our research this source of evidence are semi-structured in-depth interviews. Thus, case study research method gives an opportunity to gain more information and study the subject in more depth. The critiques of case study method argue that it is not possible to generalize the findings from a single case study. The best way to make the findings more generalizable is use multiple-case studies research method (Yin, 2009).
In addition, the holistic case study method was used because the research was focused to investigate the relationships between the retail companies and their business environment and answer the questions why they bring new strategies to the market and what are the benefits (Yin, 2009). Therefore, the authors have focused on organizations (retail compa-nies) as a whole (single unit) and have not investigated the separate units / departments

Case criteria selection

The main criteria when choosing the cases was the implementation of social e-commerce. It means that the authors were looking for the companies that have been using this strategy already and are able to share their experience about it. As social e-commerce is a combina-tion of social media and e-commerce and can developed by means of many different tools (different social networks, features in the Web-shop etc.) the authors looked in the depth of implementation of social e-commerce.
The source of information when selecting the cases was the information available on the internet. We have analyzed the Web -pages of the companies and their social presence. Af-ter the analysis five retail companies from three countries (Lithuania, Germany and Austria) were selected for further investigation (in Table No.1 there are social e-commerce tools de-scribed which are developed in each company):

  1. IMK (www.imk.lt): one of the leading e-shops in Lithuania. IMK specializes in e-commerce and in addition has two physical stores in the biggest cities of Lithuania (Vilnius and Kaunas). The main merchandise sold on IMK.lt are: computers, elec-trical appliances, video and audio devices and mobile phones.
  2. Skytech (www.skytech.lt): is one of the leading computer and electronic appliances retailer in Lithuania. Besides the e-commerce the company has 8 physical stores lo-cated in the main cities of Lithuania.
  3. Tiketa (www.tiketa.lt): is the leading ticket retailer for different events in Lithuania. The services of Tiketa are certified to ISO 9001:2000 which shows a high quality of services provided. The company is continuously implementing new technologies (e.g. mobile phone tickets) to keep the market leader positions.
  4. Berge & Meer Touristik GmbH (TUI Group) (www.berge-meer.de): is a part of TUI Group which is the biggest travel agent in Europa. Berge & Meer offers more than 1000 destinations in more than 80 countries.
  5. Eybl (www.eybl.at): one of the leading retailers of sport and leisure activities goods in Austria. Besides e-commerce Eybl has 44 physical stores in Austria and Germa-ny. The competitive advantage of Eybl is width assortment of sport and free time merchandise.
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Data collection techniques and procedures

For this master thesis the authors used primary and secondary data. The combination of different data leads to better understanding of the research topic. Primary data was mainly used to analyze the phenomena of social e-commerce and the factors of social e-commerce which are considered from strategic renewal perspective. Secondary data served as an addi-tional source of data which helped to develop the frame of reference, understand the re-search problem and the studies which have been done already.

Secondary data

The secondary data collection was done by using scientific books from Jönköping Univer-sity Library and the scientific articles found through Jönköping University Library’s website and Google Scholar. Different literature was studied in order to analyze the different views to corporate entrepreneurship, strategic renewal, social e-commerce, e-commerce and so-cial media. The analysis of secondary data helped to define the research problem and the research questions. In addition, the authors have studied the retail companies’ Web-pages in order to select the best cases for this research. The studied retail companies provided some additional information (internal reports, presentations about social e-commerce etc.) and this secondary data was studied in order to understand and analyze the cases.

Primary data

For primary data collection semi-structured in-depth interviews technique was used. In-depth interviews are based on open-ended questions are the best suitable option in order to collect qualitative data (Williamson, 2002) about the process of development of social e-commerce strategy. The authors conducted 5 semi-structured interviews with retail compa-nies which are implementing social e-commerce strategy in their retail activities (See table No. 2). These interviews have a standard list of questions, but at the same time allowed the interviewer to follow up on answers provided by a participant and gain more relevant in-formation on a particular issue. Hence, the semi-structured interview technique allowed to compare the answers about the implementation of social e-commerce in different retail companies located in different countries. Moreover, semi-structured interviews allowed omitting or adding some questions according to the particular company, its history and other features (Saunders et al., 2007).
In order to conduct semi-structured interviews with the selected retails companies the au-thors have developed an interview guideline (Appendix No. 1) (Williamson, 2002). The questionnaire consisted of 11 questions divided into four blocks:

  1. Decisions to incorporate social e-commerce;
  2. Social e-commerce decisions and tools used;
  3. Challenges while implementing social e-commerce;
  4. Outcome of social e-commerce implementation.

These blocks of questions were developed after having investigated social e-commerce, e-commerce and social media in scientific books and articles. In addition, the Web-pages and additional documents of each selected company have been analyzed in order to get a deeper insight what is a particular company already doing in social e-commerce.
The interviews were done by phone because of big distances from Sweden to all these three countries. Each interview took 1 hour and was transcribed. As the questionnaire consisted of 11 questions the authors had enough time during 1 -hour interviews to discuss all the questions thoroughly and get enough information about the companies’ attitude to social ecommerce and the reasons for decisions related to this strategy. The transcripts af-terwards were used to analyze the data and proceed the research. Getting the main ideas was the most important issue because the exact words are usually not so important (Stake, 1995). The notes were made during the interview and in case of some unclear explanations, answer etc. the interviewed representatives from retail companies were asked for explana-tions (Stake, 1995).
 

Ethical issues

Ethical issues are important in academic research too because only a research proceeded in an ethical way can be reliable (Saunders et. al., 2007). In order to keep the code of ethics the authors informed the companies before the interviews for what purpose the data is col-lected, how it will be proceeded and saved. It was clearly indicated that the data obtained during the interviews will be used only for the academic research at Jönköping University. The authors have gotten written confirmations from all companies that they agree with the data collection and analysis procedures.

Reliability, Validity and Generalization

In every scientific research it is very important the research process and its findings stand up the scrutiny. Saunders et al. (2007) argue that the main goal of the researchers should be to minimize the possibility for errors to occur. For this reason the emphasis is put on relia-bility and validity.

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Reliability

Reliability of a research means that if someone else later will follow the same research de-sign and procedures which were described by an earlier researcher, the later researcher should get similar findings (Yin, 2009; Saunders et al., 2007). In order to increase reliability of this research the research procedure was documented and the research design described in details (Yin, 2009). This gives an opportunity for later researchers to repeat the same re-search again. In addition, the researchers were very careful during the interviews with the representatives from studied retail companies and did explain the research and its questions without showing any emotions or attitudes which might affect the answers Saunders et al., 2007). Furthermore, after the interviews were done the authors developed case study data-base2.

Validity

Validity refers to the credibility of the results and if the findings are about what they appear to be about (Saunders et al., 2007). Such factors as errors, faults in the research process, poorly made sampling, inaccuracy and deceptive measuring can result in the validity of the research being put to the test (Collins & Hussey, 2003).
During the research process authors have conducted in depth interviews and gained a wide range material. The information was analyzed thoroughly comparing it to information on the companies’ websites and the literature in order to explain the studied phenomena. In order to increase construct validity the authors used multiple sources of evidence: infor-mation on companies’ web-pages, additional documents provided from the companies. To increase internal validity the authors used data analysis technique called general inductive approach. External validity was increased by using replication logic in multiple-cases (Yin, 2009) because the same interview guidelines were used to study all 5 retail companies.

Generalization

Generalizability is the ability to apply the findings of the research to the whole populations, other organizations etc. (Saunders et al., 2007). In order to increase the generalizability of this research the case studies from different countries were chosen. However, the authors do not claim that their findings are generalizable for all retails companies because the amount of studied companies and interviews was too small

Data analysis

In order to analyze the data about the case studies the general inductive approach was cho-sen (Thomas, 2006). General inductive approach is “a brief, nontechnical set of data analy-sis procedures” (Thomas, 2006). Because of the reason that the design of this study is ex-planatory the general inductive approach was chosen to analyze the data in less restricted manner. This data analysis technique allows the findings arise direct from raw data and the previous models or expectations are not needed (Thomas, 2006). This is very important in this case because social e-commerce is a new field of study.
The process of general inductive approach:

  1. transformation raw textual data into brief summary format – identifying, coding, categorizing, and classifying the primary patterns in the data;
  2. links establishment between research objectives and the summary findings derived from the raw data;
  3. framework development and data analysis.

Delimitations & Limitations

The delimitations of this research are:

  1. Multiple case study research was chosen for this research and 5 cases were studied. However, due to limited amount of time the authors could not study every compa-ny in small details.
  2. The chosen retail companies were studied from holistic point of view. It means that the retail companies were investigated as one unit without studying how different departments of the company perceive social e-commerce and different elements of it from strategic renewal perspective.
  3. Even though 5 retail companies from 3 different countries (Lithuania, Germany and Austria) were studied the amount of cases is too small to make any generalizations.

Definitions 
1 Introduction 
1.1 Background
1.2 Problem statement
1.3 Purpose
2 Research design and procedures 
2.1 Research methodology
2.2 Data collection techniques and procedures
2.3 Reliability, Validity and Generalization
2.4 Data analysis
2.5 Delimitations & Limitations
3 Frame of reference
3.1 Corporate entrepreneurship
3.2 Strategic renewal
3.3 Social e-commerce
3.4 E-commerce from the social media perspective
3.5 User generated content
3.6 Existent networks in social e-commerce
3.7 Social e-commerce from systematic perspective
3.8 Social presence in social e-commerce
3.9 Challenges of social e-commerce
3.10 Benefits and potential opportunities of social e-commerce
4 Empirical findings from the interviews 
4.1 Company decisions to incorporate social e-commerce as a renewal strategy
4.2 Social e-commerce decisions and tools used
4.3 Decisions related to multichannelstrategy
4.4 Features for successful implementation of social e-commerce
4.5 Power-shift to customers
4.6 Challenges to incorporate social e-commerce as a renewal strategy
4.7 Benefits achieved through social e-commerce
4.8 Future perspectives of social e-commerce
5 Analysis
5.1 Decision to incorporate social e-commerce
5.2 Social e-commerce decisions and tools used
5.3 Challenges to incorporate social e-commerce as a renewal strategy
5.4 Outcomes of social e-commerce
6 Conclusion 
7 Discussion 
7.1 Critiques of the study
7.2 Suggestions for further research
List of references
Appendix
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