E-commerce in UK

E-Commerce in UK: Particular focus on consumers in Bradford

  1. Attitude/behaviour/pattern of consumers in online shopping environment.
  2. To analyse the factors rating


Since UK's first online shopping was successfully transacted from WH Smith in April 1995, e-shopping has simply grown in leaps and bounds (Which? 2007; E-business news, 2007). In fact, a great deal has been written by pundits on how e-shopping has revolutionized commercial transaction in UK. It is a well known fact that UK is one of the busiest places in the world with its citizens operating a tight schedule which of course includes shopping. In fact, an article in British urban newspaper titled "England's Glory Days" states that "UK is a land that has gone shopping crazy" (Metro, 2006). Therefore, any factor which could reduce the stress or make more convenient this key part of British citizens busy schedule i.e. shopping, is a welcome development. This is where shopping comes in because it basically represents convenience. No wonder this technological phenomenon has been embraced by the British government and UK online consumers in general.

Electronic commerce or e-commerce is a growing phenomenon in today's business world, especially among technologically advanced countries with facilities for marketing activities over the Internet. It is one of the most discussed topics in business today. It is already leading to the reshaping of customer and supplier relationships, the streamlining of business processes and, in some cases, even the restructuring of whole industries. Organizations, irrespective of their size and industry, have witnessed a revolution in their business world mainly due to information technology and the resulting e-commerce phenomenon. (Shaw et al., 1997)

The last decade had witnessed tremendous advances since the emergence of the internet and Worldwide Web, closely followed by the significant rise in electronic commerce (EC) which has changed and is still changing the way business is conducted around the world (Chong, 2008). Despite the economic downturn and the burst of the "dot-com" bubble, EC is expected to continue its significant growth. In 2008, Internet sales represented 9.8 per cent of the value of all sales of UK non-financial sector businesses. This was up from 7.7 per cent in 2007. The value of these sales rose to £222.9bn in 2008, an increase of 36.6 per cent from the 2007 figure of £163.2bn. Sales consisted of £104.7bn website sales and £118.2bn EDI (electronic data interchange) sales over the Internet (Office for National Statistics 2008).

Literature Review:

The literature review will consists of two sections. In the first section, the literature on e-commerce and e-business will be examined so as to get clear understanding of the concepts of e-commerce and e-business. This section will also include a discussion on the difference between the two terms. The second section will deal with concepts such as privacy, security, trust and other behavioral factors.

E-commerce and E-Business:

E-commerce is a part of the new means that has been opened up by the development of internet. In simple words, e-commerce is the secure trading of goods, information or services conducted using internet as a medium (Fraser et al., 2000). It has been in existence since the past three decades in some or the other form like the Automatic Teller Machines and use of credit cards.

Over the years, there have been a number of varying definitions of what actually encompasses e-commerce. The differences are generally dependent upon the focus or perspective of the individual researcher, and not upon the actual core elements of e-commerce (Chong, 2004).

According to Turban et al (2006), 'Electronic commerce is the process of buying, selling, transferring or exchanging products, services, and/or information via computer networks, including the internet'. Bauer and Glasson (1999) define Electronic commerce as the "buying and selling of information, products and services via computer networks". He further extended the definition to include "the assistance of computer and telecommunication networks that use internet technology" and argued that the key distinction between EC and the discipline of Information System (IS), is the underlying electronic communication which stand-alone information systems do not possess in the communication with other users or computers. After considering alternative definitions, it is necessary to define "Electronic Commerce" in the context of the operative word of "Commerce" and the concepts of inter organisational communication and commercial transactions. "Electronic Commerce" is first and foremost Commerce and that the "electronic" component is merely one of the means of serving the commercial ends. In this study, the following definition will be used, which adopts a broad approach to EC:

Electronic commerce is the provision, buying and selling of information, products, and services with the assistance of computer and telecommunication networks that use internet technology to perform commercial activities (adapted from Bauer and Glasson, 1999).

E-business is about doing business digitally, linking with customers and suppliers as well as managing enterprise resource planning systems that streamline an enterprise's supply chain (Brache, 2000).

It was in the year 1993, that the Internet was made available for commercial purposes, and since then has been leading any other medium of communication used in business, as it is now a major platform that enables many businesses to conduct transactions smoothly (Amor, 2006). Importantly, various factors have been discovered by previous researchers to have an impact on e-shopping by internet users. These researchers take different view and focus on the factors affecting e-shopping


Privacy includes all the measures taken by, so as to safeguard customer's information. It has According to Westin (1967) privacy is defined as, "people's ability to control the terms under which their personal information is acquired and used". From a business point of view, privacy means making consumers comfortable in disclosing their personal information on the web at the same time convincing them that it is a low risk proposition. This issue becomes more important on the internet as the new medium of commerce offers unparalleled opportunities for the invasion of privacy. It is noted that privacy and security are related. For a firm to be effective, a privacy policy must be supported by security measures that can protect against unauthorised disclosures of private information.


Security is one of the major concerns for both organizations and consumers across the globe. The benefits of e-business are impossible to realize without a coherent and consistent approach to security. The dimension of security consists of all the issues that are not only important for the transaction and payment mechanism of customers, but also for the data applications, user access and network & system security. Consumers are often distrustful of the safety of the information they give out on the web. The main concern of consumers in an online shopping environment is related to credit card or bank information and privacy related to personal information.


Trust can be defines as, "the belief that a party's word or promise is reliable and a party will fulfill his/her obligations in an exchange relationship". There is a big difference in traditional and online trust, as the value of trust is far greater on the internet than in the physical world. The importance of trust in the e-shopping environment is more because of the physical seperation of buyer and seller, and the perceived insecurity on the internet.

The intended study will consist of more terminologies and concepts such as, E-tail industry, Convenience, Attitudes and Behaviour. There is a wide range of published information about the topic including journal articles, books, newspaper and other published reports.


Based on the proposed research and factors identified in the literature, this study will focus on the following hypothesis:

H1: Greater the Convenience in e-shopping, happier the costumer.

Based on the questionnaire, it is proposed that if organizations focus more on convenience they are more likely to successes in delighting the customer.

H2: Greater the focus on customers security, privacy and trust, more likely is the success of business.

Based on the literature review, it is proposed that if organizations focus more on effective privacy policy, security and invests in developing customer trust, they are more likely to retain the customer.

Research Methodology:

Research methodology refers to an overall approach to the research process, from the theoretical underpinning to the collection and analysis of data. "Like theories, methodologies cannot be true or false, only more or less useful (Silverman, 1994).

In this research both qualitative and quantitative paradigm will be adopted to achieve the research objectives. The reason of choosing the Qualitative approach is because it is more realistic in nature and involves value judgments. The qualitative research methodology is more about the obvious data or the realistic data, this methodology involves in the search for significant themes running through the disparate sources. It results in a holistic understanding of the situation of the factors involved and or interrelated in it. The important factor in such an approach is that it demands you to identify the less obvious issues as well as those which initially grab your attention, which naturally is very essential in the initial stages when the data is being collected hence, it needs the attention seriously in all the matters related to the project. Furthermore, there exists various assumptions that are underlying to the qualitative paradigm and they are discussed here under:

  • According to Hussey and Hussey (1997) Ontological assumption refers to the peoples assumptions about the nature of the reality. Reality is subjective and multiple as seen by participants in a study. The ontological approach will help me question my assumptions which I have about the way the world operates and the commitment held to particular views. The two aspects of ontology which I will describe will have their devotees among business and management research. In addition, both these aspects are likely to be accepted as producing valid knowledge. The first aspect is objectivism. This portrays that social entities exist in reality external to social actors. And the second is subjectivism (Saunders et al., 2007).
  • The epistemological assumption refers to the peoples assumptions about the relationship of the researcher to that researched and its effect on the validity of knowledge. Under the qualitative method, the researcher interacts with that being researched. They attempt to minimize the distance between the two.
  • The axiological assumption refers to peoples assumptions about the role of values. The qualitative approach is value laden and biased. Phenomenologists consider that the researchers have values, even if they have not been made explicit. These values help to determine what are recognized as facts and the interpretations which are drawn from them.
  • The rhetorical assumption refers to peoples assumptions about the language of research. In qualitative research it is informal and demonstrates the preferred style of writing which fully reflects the immediacy of the research and the researcher's involvement (Hussey and Hussey, 1997).

As described by Saunders et al (2003), the research approach can be divided into two broad categories namely: deductive approach and inductive approach. Deductive approach is used to develop a theory and hypothesis and design a research strategy to test the hypothesis whereas inductive approach is used to develop theory as a result of analysing collected data (Saunders et al 2003). From past studies it is clear that deductive approach incorporates well with positivism approach while inductive approach with interpretivism philosophy. This study will be based on mixture of both inductive and deductive approach with the collection of qualitative data from the consumers who shop online.

Though, both positivism and interpretivism philosophy can be adapted to direct overall research process, the most appropriate philosophy for this research is interpretivism due to the nature of the topic, since it is explained that "interpretivism is an epistemology that advocates that it is necessary for the researcher to understand differences between the humans in our role as social actors. This emphasises the difference between conducting research among people rather than objects such as trucks and computers". (Saunders et al. 2007. p. 106)

Research Methods:

A method is a systematic and an orderly approach taken towards collection of data so that information can be obtained from that data. For probing into the above topics, both qualitative and quantitative techniques will be analyzed and used. In spite of using a combination of both, the project focuses more on the qualitative aspect as it relates to the interpretation of data that involves value judgments and a critical evaluation. The various methods that will be followed in the research will be:


The questionnaire is one of the most extensively used survey data collection methods as every respondent is asked to respond to the same set of questions which enables the researcher to collect the responses from a huge sample prior to quantitative analysis (Saunders et al 2003) and therefore this research intends to use questionnaire with standardized questions which will enables the researcher to examine and describe the relationship between variables. The data from the questionnaire will not only enable the researcher to collect the large amounts of data in a systematic way but also help the researcher to find out specific information on this subject with minimum bias. As described by McDaniel and Gates (2001) the design of the questionnaire should meet the requirement of the research and must fit into the thinking of the customer, based on the data collection code and process thereby provide a valid feedback required for research.

Types of Questionnaire

Basically, there are two broad types of questionnaire namely Self-administered and Interviewer administered. Self- administered questionnaires are generally completed by the respondents while responses to the interviewer administered questionnaire are recorded by the interviewer on the bases of each respondent's answer (Saunders et al 2003). Figure 3.2 explains the further subdivision of self-administered and interviewer administered questionnaire.

This research will be conducted using Self administered questionnaire, using online questionnaire method where questionnaire will be send via email to consumers in Bradford along with delivery and collection method where questionnaire will be delivered and collected from students of both Bradford college and University of Bradford. It is to be noted that though online questionnaire is cost saving, time saving and widely used technique the response rate is often low whereas in delivery and collection technique the response rate is high. A combination of open questions, list questions and category questions will being used while designing the questionnaire.


An interview is a purposeful discussion between two or more people (Kahn and Cannell, 1957 cited by Saunders et al 2003). Collis and Hussey (2003) stated that interviews are the method of collecting data with particular interviewees to know their thoughts about your designed questions. For this study, the researcher intend to conduct structured interviews with the customers who frequently shop online where a set of questions will be asked and responses of the interviewee would be recorded.

Secondary Data

This research also intends to make use of vital secondary data from government publication, company reports, newspaper articles, journals and books. Secondary data can be defined as, "the data that have been previously collected for some project other than the one at hand" (Zikmund 2003, p.115). Sources of secondary data are journal articles, annual reports, newspapers, books, magazines etc. As secondary data includes both raw data and published summaries, it will be used in both descriptive and explanatory research. Saunders et al (2003) highlighted some of the limitations of using secondary data which are as follows:

  • The researcher may find it difficult to collect data which correctly suits his research objectives and questions. So there arises the necessity to find an alternative source for research.
  • Gaining access to the data may be difficult or costly.
  • As much of the secondary data is available in published report format the processed data may have been aggregated which may be unsuitable for researcher's study.
  • Data sources must be evaluated carefully as most of the secondary data are collected from government reports or publications. Data quality cannot be controlled tightly.
  • The initial purpose of the collected may have big influence on presentation of data; therefore the researcher should be aware of the purpose of report while using the data.
  • Sample Collection and Sampling Technique:

    The population of interest for study are the students of Bradford College and University of Bradford along with online consumers within Bradford. Due to the huge size of this population, they will be accessed via e-mail and delivery and collection method would be used where possible.The population encompasses the total collection of all units of analysis about which the researcher wishes to make specific conclusions. A proper clarity of the population has to be obtained before compiling a sampling frame. A sampling frame is a complete list in which each unit of analysis is mentioned only once.

    For this research the data would be collected from individuals who shop online or make use of electronic commerce while shopping. The research will be based on responses of 200 questionnaire and 5 interviews along with the use of some secondary data.

    According to Saunders et al (2003, p150), "Sampling techniques provide a range of methods that enable you to reduce the amount of data you need to collect by considering only data from a subgroup rather than all possible cases or elements". This research intend to uses convenience sampling and judgmental sampling along with other data collection technique.

    Convenience sampling

    For this research the researcher intend to use convenience sampling where consumers and students of University of Bradford and Bradford college would be selected as per the convenience of the researcher. As described by Saunders et al (2003, p.177), ' Convenience or haphazard sampling involves selecting haphazardly those cases that are easiest to obtain for your sample, such as the person interviewed at random in a shopping centre for a television programme'. In other words it is selection of samples that are easiest to obtain randomly. The process is continued until the required sample size for the research has been reached (Saunders et al 2003). The main reasons for selecting this sampling are limitation of time and convenience of the researcher.

    Data Analysis:

    Having collected the data, an in depth analysis of the same is required to come to a justifiable conclusion. This research will use SPSS (Statistical Package for Social Sciences) along with Microsoft Excel which are the widely used programmes for statistical analysis in research to analyze data collected from the Questionnaire. The data analysis varies from the methods of data collection that is used. The quantitative data would be analyzed using graphs, tables and other pictorial representations whereas the bi-variant data can be analyzed by cross tabulation and scatter diagrams. According to Miles and Huberman (2004) qualitative data can be analysed using 3 different activities of data reduction, data display and conclusion drawing and verification.

    Validity and reliability:

    While planning or judging research, the credibility of the research findings must be assessed on two dimensions: reliability and validity (Dooley 1995). Validity is concerned with whether the findings are really about what they appear to be about. It is essential to collect information through reliable sources as the gathered data will be the pillars of the entire research. The reliability and validity of measures must be tested after the fact to assess the quality of the information obtained (Schutt 1999).


    After completion, the proposed piece of study is expected to provide a better picture of Ecommerce and will also highlight the behavioural factor and issues related to security in online shopping environment in technological advanced country like UK.


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