Within the context of the G8 pilot project 'A Global Marketplace for SMEs' the project KITE set out to collect, illustrate, analyse and inform on the diversity of Ecommerce that is undertaken specifically by small and medium sized companies (SMEs). To achieve these goals an Inventory with a self-registry mechanism was set up, an analysis and a best practice guide were produced. In addition, the project supported the activities within the G8 pilot project and disseminated best practice in E-commerce.

KITE Inventory of electronic commerce initiatives
To compile data, 1000 E-commerce activities were contacted. Instead of inflating numbers by including multiple companies serving the same market, e.g. 20 Internet-based music suppliers, KITE’s effort has been directed at finding innovative SMEs across a wide range of sectors, and covering micro-SMEs, medium-sized companies, electronic marketplaces and auction sites serving whole SME communities, Internet-only start-up companies, and SMEs for which E-commerce is a new market channel.

The examples have been collected across a period of 20 months for the KITE inventory of SME E-commerce, the aim of which is to illustrate the breadth of E-commerce activities being carried out by this little-understood sector of the E-commerce market. The KITE inventory focuses primarily on commercial examples of E-commerce, although it also includes some pre-commercial trials and publicly funded or not-profit oriented examples of particular interest for SMEs. We believe the quality of the entries, and the ‘gold mine’ of ideas and contacts the inventory provides, is unique and valuable information for the global SME community. Many E-commerce ventures from the KITE inventory have been written up for the KITE newsletter highlighting benefits and critical success factors.

Analysis and best practice
Drawing on the data collected in the KITE inventory, a preliminary Analysis of E-commerce practice in SMEs looked at how the success of SMEs in the sample is being determined by one or more of the four identified success factors content, commitment, community and control. The paper also analysed the role played by technology within the SME sample. While putting the SMEs within the KITE sample in context with the overall SME community in Europe, the analysis seeks to make early recommendations about the critical success factors SMEs need to consider should they wish to join the select band of early adopter SMEs.

A more rigorous analysis and classification of SMEs is made in our publication Gazelles and Gophers: SME Recommendations for Successful Internet Business. The best practices are drawn from an analysis of a sample of 145 SME E-commerce ventures and in-depth interviews with 27 best practice SME initiatives. This paper argues for a new categorisation of SMEs and an understanding of their strategic objectives in order to determine applicable Critical Success Factors (CSFs). Recommendations for best practices are mapped against SME strategies and CSFs. The Key findings can be summarised as follows:

  • Revisiting inventory entries at a later stage in the project highlighted the way SME E-commerce initiatives developed, and the distinct growth patterns of those SMEs classified as gophers and baby gazelles
  • The definition and conventional classifications of SMEs are no longer helpful in an E-commerce world. The classification defined by KITE offers a robust way of segmenting the SME market so that awareness actions and adoption strategies can be better targeted
  • There are 11 critical success factors that determine the competitive success of an SME adopting E-commerce: commitment, content, price sensitivity, convenience, control, interaction, brand image, community, partnership, process improvement, integration
  • The same critical success factors apply to all SMEs engaged in E-commerce -with the exception of community, which should not be attempted by gophers
  • Critical success factors deliver competitive advantage at different phases of an SMEs development. Some critical success factors should be applied from start-up phase; others become important in a growth phase, and still others will determine an SME’s competitiveness in a volume phase
  • Within each critical success factor, different recommended practices may apply, depending on the competitive strategy/category of SME
  • The recommendations are supported by checklists on web site design, form design, and legal conditions, which give detailed ‘do’s and don’t’s’
  • The list of recommendations is not exhaustive. We hope over time that we, or other SME E-commerce awareness bodies, will be able to add to and refine the list.

G8 support and Awareness creation
In the framework of this work package KITE has supported a series of G8 events. The support included agenda setting, presentations, suggestion of speakers but also extensive logistics. In addition KITE has put together, contributed and edited the final G8 report, which can be found under http://www.ispo.cec.be/ecommerce/Welcome.html.
All KITE publications and the inventory can be found under http://kite.tsa.de.