An Empiricalstudy – Dissertation Sample

An empiricalstudy on the carriers and barriersto the adoption of m-commerce

1. Research Background

Information Technology has made a prolific influence on the business world. Almost all business houses are looking to reap the perils of new evolving technologies and enhance their business prospects. The new technological innovations have allowed organisations to conduct business in a completely new way by using online electronic transaction mechanisms and the concept of E-Commerce evolved (Gunasekaran & Love, 1999; Westland and Clark, 1999). Today in the business and commerce sector IT has taken one more step forward in the form of M-Commerce. These days many e-commerce transactions are conducted through mobile devices (e.g., cellular phones, hand-held or palm-sized computers, and even vehicle-mounted interfaces) using wireless telecommunications networks. 

With the explosive growth of the mobile telephone population, combined with the development of wireless technologies, M-commerce is becoming increasingly important to many businesses nowadays (Hung et al., 2003). IDC a research firm in the US has projected M-Commerce revenue to be around US$27 billion by the end of 2005 as compared to the US$ 500 million worth revenue collected in 2002. In addition, global revenues from M-commerce were $6.86 billion in 2003 and expected to reach $554.37 billion in 2008 (Wireless Week, 2004). In the UK an online survey of 1000 consumers in 2001 showed that 55% of them were very interested in these mobile services (Meyer, 2001). 

Even after the above mentioned facts many analysts have expressed their reservation for the use of M-Commerce primarily questioning its return on investment. This concern is also reflected in the study conducted by Thomas (2003) in which a survey among 1,205 U.K. companies across 15 sectors has shown that 65% of firms do not plan any M-commerce strategy in the near future. 

It is with the above observation that this research is to set out to conduct a study that investigates the various aspects of M-Commerce and how consumers perceives the use of different mobile applications. This will permit the organisations, mobile developers to better understand and target the appropriate user groups so that the goal of making m-commerce a reality instead of another technology fad that goes by the wayside can be achieved.

2. Aims and Objectives

The main aim of this project is to find out the key success factors and the barriers for the adoption of M-commerce? Consumer’s as well as organization’s perspective towards M-commerce will also be collated and evaluated. Additionally the study will measure the level of customer’s usability satisfaction and their expectations towards M-Commerce, Mobile devices and applications. Last but not the least this research will also provide accurate, up-to-date, research-based information about present and possible future trends in M-commerce. 

To summarize some of the research questions that will be addressed through this research are as follows:

• What are the factors that influence the adoption of M-commerce?
• What are the problems/challenges faced by the organisations in the adoption of M-Commerce?
• Consumer and organisational perception towards mobile communications and M-Commerce
• Identifying usability issues related to mobile communication devices using HCI principals
• The future of M-commerce and mobile communication market

3. Literature Review

M-Commerce Overview

Mobile commerce (m-commerce) can be viewed as a subset of e-commerce [Coursaris, and Hassanein, 2002] and [Kwon and Sadeh, 2004] and refers to “any transaction with monetary value that is conducted via a mobile network” M-commerce adds mobility and convenience to the Internet and creates a whole new set of opportunities. The portability of mobile devices offers new business applications outside the scope of fixed, desktop-based Internet offerings. However according to Siau et al (2001) mobile devices have a lot of limitations in the form of: (1) small screens and small multifunction key pads; (2) less computational power, limited memory and disk capacity; (3) shorter battery life; (4) complicated text input mechanisms; (5) higher risk of data storage and transaction errors; (6) lower display resolution; (7) less surfability; (8) unfriendly user-interfaces; and (9) graphical limitations.

M-commerce applications can be broadly divided into two categories: content delivery (i.e., reporting, notification, and consultation) and transactions (i.e., data entry, purchasing, and promotions) (Balasubramanian et al., 2002; Leung and Antypas, 2001). The following table elaborates the operation modes as mentioned above.

Service Types and Characteristics

Mobile commerce services can be characterized as subscribed service and un-subscribed service. This classification is based on service access modalities, and on the kind of devices that may be involved.

Subscribed services: are often personalized for the specific user and have a strong security level. (Ford & Baum, 2001) For example, like content transactions, stock market quotes delivered to your mobile phone on an hourly basis for a minimum monthly charge. The disadvantages of this service are a complex process and may require a wire-connection, or a direct interaction with the supplier of the service [Dionisio et al, 2001]. Besides that, it also implies some kind of permanent contract with the suppliers.

Unsubscribed services: Dionisio et al (2001) states that, due to their time-limited nature, always need more complex interaction between the user and the system, which implies a longer time to access the service, and also makes it more unreliable and exposed to network problems. Such as credit transactions, it is normally two ways, that involves a payment function, like shopping, credit card payment.

Some of the emerging services that already being used or is expected to be widely used by the consumers are listed below.

Banking: A lot of banks are already offering mobile banking services by using WAP mobile phone technology. Those banks currently transfer the account information to the wireless devices, and allow the customers to access and transact via the mobile Internet. Almost half of Western Europe's WAP-enabled mobile banking accounts originate in Scandinavia, 22 percent in the UK and 13 percent in Germany. (Engel-Flechsig, 2001)

Shopping: In England, Virgin Mobile customers can already browse the company's website via a mobile phone and buy wine, compact discs or appliances. Other products are likely to emerge, when the consumers who are shopping in one store are able to call up a service that can compare the price for a given product with the same product in different stores. So that the consumers can make an instant decision as to whether they should purchase, or go somewhere else. As noted earlier, there is also significant potential for commercial advertising, spam, and some special offers to attract customers.

The potential for this will be even more significant as shops are able to monitor consumers who are in specific geographic locations. For example, a person walking through the London street, could receive a spam SMS message from one of the shops which offering a special discount, then they may choose to go that shop. The customers may also avail point of sale transfer in which rather than paying a shopkeeper by cheque, consumers will be able to conduct an instant transfer of funds from the mobile account to the account of the tradesman, by linking to their identifying phone number.

Location Information and Marketing: According to Adams et al (2003), many organizations are involved today in the development of location base services. Customers can access location information at anytime and anyplace. For example, a service could tell a person how to find the nearest petrol station when they are concerned about their fuel, or to compare prices of an item elsewhere in town while they are in a shop.

Similarly other services include gambling, entertainment etc will be explored while conducting the detailed literature review.  

Organisational and Consumer perspectives

As mentioned earlier there is a lot of difference between e-commerce and m-commerce. For wireless-based applications to be used effectively in an m-commerce environment, we need a better understanding of the factors that influence a successful implementation. This in turn has created an increased need for dependable ways to measure the success and/or effectiveness of an m-commerce system. In order to achieve this it is very important to consider both organisational as well as customer’s perspective towards M-Commerce. As per Wen and Mahatanankoon (2004) current e-commerce providers, engaged through mobile devices, will find advantage in developing unique m-commerce value propositions founded upon the specific dimensions of “always on,” location-centric, convenience, customization, and identifiability.

The literature on information systems (IS) success contains concepts that can be readily applied to research on user satisfaction with m-commerce systems. User satisfaction being one of those concepts is commonly acknowledged as one of the useful proxy measures of system success. Some of the measures primarily designed to measure user satisfaction by means of information quality, system quality, service quality and other variables can be applied to M-Commerce as well (DeLone & McLean, 2003). In this initial review of literature the author considered the aspects related to the system quality of the mobile devices. This can be achieved by the usability analysis of the existing handheld/mobile devices. In order to do so it is important to review the various usability factors that are established according to the general HCI (Human Computer Interaction) design principals.

Usability Factors

Various standards and guidelines have been introduced to ensure that acceptance across the target user group and organisation is achieved.  Usability refers to general guidelines for interface design and operability.  Nielsen (1993) defines five usability heuristics thus:

Learnability: The rapidity with which users can accomplish tasks is directly related to the ease with which they can learn to use the system.

Efficiency: designing an efficient system attains high levels of user productivity.

Memorability: This refers to the ease with which system operations and navigation can be remembered by the user.   'The system should be easy to remember, so that the casual user is able to return to the system after a period of not having used it, without having to learn everything all over again' (Nielsen, 1993).

Errors: A low error rate within the system is required to prevent users making multiple errors. Moreover, in the event of a user error this precaution should enable the user to fully recover from his/her own errors with ease, avoiding catastrophic system crashes.
Satisfaction: Subjective user satisfaction is vital to system success.   Therefore a pleasant user design is essential.

Usability is widely regarded as a user-oriented process, whereby requirements can be observed and recorded in the intended task-specific environment.   Here behavioral attitudes, navigation tendencies, speed and ease of interaction, quality of feedback, system response rates, and ergonomic factors can be measured against usability heuristics and guidelines.  Tractinsky et al (2000) also stress the importance of aesthetics within HCI, stating that aesthetic perceptions of an interface are highly correlated with a user's perceived ease of use of the interface.

The preceding text in this section is a result of the preliminary literature review conducted by the author. A much more in depth review will be carried out during the course of the research which will be presented in the final report and will be used in developing the basis for interviews and the final questionnaires for the survey.

4. Research Methodology & Analysis

Research Approaches

Research methodology is a general plan of how the researcher will go about answering the research questions considering the sources to collect data and the constraints that one might have (access to data, time, location and money, ethical issues etc). It should reflect the fact that the researcher has thought carefully about why a particular strategy has been employed. There are many approaches or paradigms that are used for research purpose with labels implying opposite poles such as experimental/naturalistic, interpretive/positivist etc. In reality, however, there may well be a mixture of two or more approaches that is generally used. Some of these research approaches were reviewed by the author of this report at the initial stage of the research. This section briefly explores the purposes of some of the most commonly known research approaches/methods.

Qualitative Research

Qualitative research questions focus chiefly on three areas: language as a means to explore processes of communication and patterns of interaction within particular social groups; description and interpretation of subjective meanings attributed to situations and actions; and theory-building through discovering patterns and connections in qualitative data [Tesch, 1990]. Interviewing, focus groups, and participant observation are common modes of qualitative data gathering. Qualitative research interviews aim to elicit participants’ views of their lives, as portrayed in their stories [Rice and Ezzy, 1999], and so to gain access to their experiences, feelings and social worlds. They may be unstructured or semi-structured. Qualitative analysis is a process of reviewing, synthesizing and interpreting data to describe and explain the phenomena or social worlds being studied.

Quantitative Research

Quantitative research is often conceptualised by its practitioners as having a logical structure in which theories determine the problems to which researchers address themselves in the form of hypothesis.  Some of the positive main characteristics that can be superficially recognised are: the emphasis on rendering theoretical terms observable and the presence of both induction and deduction. Statistics is the bottom line in quantitative research. To apply statistics correctly, you must follow the basic rules, and then use the appropriate mathematical formulas to arrive at average measures of your variables and their variance. When the basic conditions are met, the results should be repeatable, in this instance meaning that the same test applied to another sample of the same background population should yield the same results within the limits of random fluctuation. The quantitative analysis is based on numbers and predefined categories. Results are presented as rates or ratios, with statistical tests applied to rate differences. Conclusions are based on valid evidence.

Case Study Research

Case Study is a generic term for the investigation of an individual group, or phenomenon (Bogdan and Biklen, 1982). While the technique used in the investigation may be varied, and may include both qualitative and quantitative methods, the distinguishing feature of a case study is the belief that human systems develop a characteristic wholeness or integrity and are not simply a loose collection of traits. This very belief leads the researchers using case study approach to investigate a given scenario to a much greater depth bring out the interdependencies of the parts and the emerging patterns. 

Action Research

Kemmis and McTaggert (1998) based on the works of Kurt Lewin, frequently described as the father of action research, defined it as a form of collective self reflective enquiry undertaken by participants in a social scenario in order to improve the productivity, rationality and justice of their own social practices. The main purpose of the action research method is aimed at improving educational understandings, practices and settings and at involving those affected in the research process.

Naturalistic/Interpretive Research

The naturalistic researcher believes that the observer makes a difference to the observed and that reality is a human construct. The purpose of this kind of research is generally to explore perspectives and shared meanings and to develop insights into situations. Data generally takes the form of qualitative methods based on conversation fieldwork, interviews etc. 

Practitioner Research

This kind of research is conducted by a practitioner or professional in any field (doctor, nurse, teacher etc) into their own practice. Practitioner research is somewhat similar to naturalistic approach in the sense the practitioner is able to carry out research in his/her own natural environment. 

Survey Research

Bell (1993) says that surveys can provide answers to questions like What, Where, When, And How. It tries to elaborate the problems of ‘representativeness’ from other approaches like case studies or most of the qualitative approaches. This approach can be termed as fact finding mission and may contribute little towards the development of a hypotheses or shaping theory. The results from the survey can definitely be used to test a hypotheses or theory. The data here is primarily quantitative but may also be qualitative in nature as it represents peoples view about an issue. Questionnaires are generally used for the purpose of data collection.
Research Strategy
After reviewing the various approaches mentioned above the author decided to use a collection of methodologies to carry out this research. Both primary and secondary data will be collected. The secondary data will comprise of data from literature reviewed from books, journals, Internet and the annual reports of the organisations selected for the survey while the primary data will take the form of information/results collected from case studies, interviews and surveys. 

The preliminary phase of the research will comprise of collecting secondary data from the literature review. According to Sharp and Howard (1996), two major reasons exist for reviewing the literature. First, the preliminary search helps to generate and refine the research ideas. And secondly, a critical review is a part of the research process. Like most research projects, literature review will be an early activity in this research. After the initial literature search, the researcher should be able to redefine the parameters more precisely and undertake further searches, keeping in mind the research objective and goal. The literature review will help develop a good understanding and insight into the previous research done on this topic and the trends that have emerged.

The second stage of the research will comprise of short listing of potential organisations where selected employees will be interviewed to gain an insight into their M-Commerce vision. Informal or unstructured interviews will also be conducted with randomly selected consumers. Organisations which have an M-Commerce presence as well as those who have not yet incorporated M-Commerce in their organisation will be selected. Also for the purpose of comparative study the organisations selected will be of same size.  Interviews will help to gather valid and reliable data relevant to the research objectives. According to Saunders et al (2003), interviews may be categorized into three categories:

1. Structured interviews – Use questionnaires based on a predetermined and identical set of questions.
2. Semi structured interviews – The researcher has a list of themes and topics to cover, although these may vary from interview to interview depending upon the organizational context. The order of questions may also be varied depending upon the flow of conversation. Some new questions may also arise due to discussions.
3. Unstructured interviews – These interviews are informal. There is no predetermined list of questions. The interviewee is free to talk about events, behavior and beliefs in relation to the research topic. This type of interview is also known as informant interview because it’s the interviewee’s perception which leads to the conduct of the interview. It is also known as in depth interview because it’s used to explore in depth a general area in which the researcher is interested.

In this research, both the unstructured and structured interviews will be incorporated which will help in ensuring a smooth and friendly atmosphere while taking the interviews. First, an in-depth or unstructured interview will be held to identify variables. These interviews will be coded and analyzed to produce a set of questionnaire with reduction of categories to a smaller number of dimensions by means of analysis. Semi-structured or structured interviews can then be used to explore the themes that have emerged from the use of the questionnaire.

The next stage of the research will comprise of conducting two surveys on the selected organisations and the consumers respectively. The main idea behind the surveys will be to find out the organisational and consumer perspective on M-Commerce from a larger sample. The questionaires that will be used for the survey purpose will be developed based on the results of interviews and literature review. The different distribution techniques as described by Hussey and Hussey (1997) will be followed. The questionnaires will be circulated to the employees and consumers through Post, Telephone, face-to-face, Group distribution, email distribution and individual distribution.

Hussey and Hussey (1997) identify some important factors to be considered while using questionnaire. These are – Sample size, Types of questions, Wordings, Design, including instruction, Wording of any accompanying letter, Method of distribution and return, Method of collecting and analyzing, Actions to be taken if questionnaire is not returned. All of these factors will be considered while preparing the final set of questionnaire. Kindly refer to Appendix A and B for sample questions perceived at this stage of the research.

The final stage of the research will comprise of a case study on one of the most successful M-Commerce models in recent time. ‘I-Mode’ the mobile technology model that was launched in Japan in 1999 has achieved enormous success in the last six years. As per some report in June 2005, I-Mode had 45 million customers in Japan. This successful model will be studied thoroughly to bring out the interdependencies of factors leading to its success and the emerging challenges. The result of this case study will then be compared with the results of the interviews and questionnaires.   

Hussey and Hussey (1997) state that the use of different research approaches, methods and techniques in the same study is known as triangulation and such triangulation can overcome the potential bias and sterility of single method approaches. Triangulation has the potential to provide a multifaceted view, as it is the combination of different research strategies. The main emphasis in triangulation is on combining methods, e.g., survey questionnaires with in-depth interviews and case studies. The idea behind taking several data collection methods is that if diverse kinds of data support the same conclusions, confidence in the conclusions is increased.

Research Analysis and Presentation

Data collected from any research would require a good analysis to infer some logical arguments and make a sound conclusion. Data from this work will be analyzed using quantitative as well as qualitative methods. All the survey information collected will be analysed by using a quantitative data analysis technique SPSS. Coloured charts and graphs will be displayed to explain the results of SPSS analysis. This will include creation of simple tables, charts and diagrams that will show statistical relationship between several research variables. 

Qualitative analysis is a process of reviewing, synthesizing and interpreting data to describe and explain the phenomena or social worlds being studied. As Tesch [1990] states, the differing analytical procedures can be grouped into content, discovery and meaning-focused approaches. No matter which approach is used, just as with data collection methods, the rigour of the analytical procedures depends on their adequacy and transparency. Qualitative research findings are presented as textual descriptions that should illuminate the subjective meanings of the phenomena, or social world, being studied, but which should also place the findings in context [Popay et al, 1998], so as to represent the real world of those studied and in which their lived experiences are embedded. Qualitative data analysis will be carried out based on Yin’s (1994) descriptive framework.

This framework allows the existing theory to formulate research aims and objectives which will be further supported by analytic induction (Johnson, 1998). Analytical induction may be said to a process of intensive examination of carefully selected cases to empirically establish the cause of a specific phenomenon.  Validity of the data collected will be established by using the triangulation method in which preliminary results will be used to refine and restructure the questionnaires and Interviews. The completed work will be presented in a well structured report format using visual aids like pictures and tables. The author will try to make every possible effort to keep the report devoid of any technical jargon.  

5. Time table

Objective Timeframe Task

1. Phase 1 : Literature Survey 
25% of the total time spent on research 
Phase 1 will involve exploring the nature of business relationships, motivations, security and trust in m-commerce. Enhancement of current knowledge on M-Commerce will take place in this phase.  Also a good understanding and insight into the previous research done on M -Commerce will be developed in this phase.

2. Phase 2: Interviews 
20 % 
Phase 2 will investigate m-commerce issues in a deductive (positivist) manner. Prepare Interview questions. Prioritize the list of organisations (employees) and consumers to be surveyed. Survey may comprise of online interviews, telephonic interviews, and face to face interviews.

3. Phase 3 : Surveys
20 % 
Phase 3 will involve re-investigating m-commerce in an inductive (phenomenological) manner. This will involve taking the results obtained in Phase 2 and further investigating these by way of online questionnaires and paper based questionnaires. Through the questionnaire a much larger sample would be targeted.

4. Phase 4: Case Study 
20 %
(Will overlap with Phase 3) 
Phase 4 of the research will comprise of a case study on one of the most successful M-Commerce models in recent time: ‘I-Mode’ used in Japan.

4. Analysis of results and recommendations 
25 % 
After taking the interviews and surveys, a large quantity of interview notes, tape recordings, questionnaire results and other records will be generated all of which will be analyzed. There are many models (There can be many ways of linking between different parts of discussions or observations) available for the analysis of the surveyed data. The appropriate method will be chosen for effective analysis and to interpret the data collected from the interview/surveys from the prospective of the ‘interviewed’. Recommendations will be laid out based on the analysis of the data collected.

5. Writing up 
10 % 
The final report will be written

References and Bibliography


  • Adams, P. Ashwell, G. & Baxter, R. (2003) Location-based services – an overview of the standards. BT Technology' Journal 21(1): 34-43
  • Balasubramanian, S., Peterson, R.A., Jarvenpaa, S.L., (2002). Exploring the implications of M-commerce for markets and marketing. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science 30 (4), 348–361.
  • Bell, J. (1993) Doing your research project: a guide for first-time researchers in education and social science, Open University press.
  • Bogdan, R. and Biklen, S (1982) Qualitative research in education, Ally and Bacon
  • Coursaris, C. and Hassanein, K. (2002) Understanding m-commerce, Quarterly Journal of Electronic Commerce 3 (2002) (3), pp. 247–271
  • DeLone, W. H. and McLean, E. R. (1992), Information systems success: the quest for the dependent variable, Information Systems Research 3 (1992) (1), pp. 60–95.
  • Dionisio, L. Penna, G.D. & Intrigila, B. (2001)  On Designing M-commerce Applications [Accessed on 19 August, 2005]
  • Engel-Flechsig, S. (2001), Securing the new global economy, Mobile Commerce World. Accessed at:  [Accessed on August 20, 2005]
  • Ford, W. and Baum M.S. (2001): Secure electronic commerce: building the infrastructure for digital signatures and encryption. Prentice Hall
  • Gunasekaran, A. & Love, P. (1999). Current and future directions of multimedia technology in business. International Journal of Information Management, 19(2), 105–120.
  • Hung, S.Y., Ku, C.Y., Chang, C.M., (2003). Critical factors of WAP services adoption; an empirical study. Electronic Commerce Research & Applications 2 (1), 42–60.
  • Hussey, J. and Hussey, R. (1997), Business Research: A Practical Guide for Undergraduate and Postgraduate Students, Macmillan Press, London.
  • Johnson, P (1998) "Analytical Induction" in Cassell, C. and Symon, G. "Qualitative Methods and Analysis in organizational Research", London: Sage, ISBN 0 – 7619 – 5351 – 5. (pp. 28-50)
  • Kemmis, S. and McTaggart, R. (1988) The Action Research reader, 3rd Edition.
  • Kwon, O.B.  and Sadeh, N. (2004) Applying case-based reasoning and multi-agent intelligent system to context-aware comparative shopping, Decision Support Systems 37 (2004) (2), pp. 199–213
  • Leung, K., Antypas, J., 2001. Improving returns on M-commerce investment. Journal of Business Strategy 22 (5), 12–14.
  • Meyer, D., (2001). Consumer study tells wireless industry to go back to basics. Wireless News 20 (44), 45
  • Nielsen, J., (1993) Usability Engineering. Morgan Kaufmann, Los Altos, CA
  • Popay J, Rogers A, Williams G. Rationale and standards for the systematic review of qualitative literature in health services research. Qualitative Health Research 1998; 8:341–351.
  • Rice, P. L. and Ezzy, D. (1999) Qualitative research methods, a health focus Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1999.
  • Saunders, M.N.K Lewis, P. Thornhill, A. (2003) Research Methods for Business Students, Prentice Hall
  • Sharp, J.A. and Howard, K. (1996) The Management of a Student Research Project. Aldershot, Gower.
  • Siau, K.  E.-P. Lim and Shen, Z. (2001) Mobile commerce: promises, challenges, and research agenda, Journal of Database Management 12 (2001) (3), pp. 4–13.
  • Strauss, A. and Corbin, J. (1990) Basics of qualitative research. California: Sage, 1990.
  • Tesch, R. (1990) Qualitative research: analysis types and softward tools. New York: Falmer, 1990.
  • Tractinsky, N., Shoval-Katz A. and Ikar, D. (2000) What is Beautiful is Usable. Interacting with Computers, 13(2): 127-145.
  • Wen, J. and Mahatanankoon, P. (2004) M-commerce operation modes and applications, International Journal of Electronic B