Business-to-Business E-Commerce: A Study of Greater Chinese and U.S. Electronics and Apparel/Textile Firms

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1 Business-to-Business E-Commerce: A Study of Greater Chinese and U.S. Electronics and Apparel/Textile Firms By Sherry M.B. Thatcher, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Management Information Systems The Eller School of Business and Public Administration University of Arizona Copyright 2002 by CAPS Research. All rights reserved. Contents may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the express permission of CAPS Research.

2 Table of Contents Acknowledgments Executive Summary Introduction Objectives of the Research Summary and Implications Research Questions Research Question 1: What Is the Current State of B2B E-commerce between U.S. and Greater Chinese Electronics and Apparel/Textile Companies? Research Question 2: What Are the Factors That Have Led to E-commerce Adoption and What Are the Perceived Results? Research Question 3: What Recommendations Can We Provide to U.S. Companies Wishing to Increase B2B E-commerce with Businesses in Greater China? Research Question 4: What Recommendations Can We Provide to Chinese Companies Wishing to Increase B2B E-commerce with Businesses in the U.S.?. 12 Design of the Study Objectives Design Semi-Structured Interviews Survey Questionnaire The Sample Non-response Bias Statistical Methods Used and Glossary of Terms Study Results Business-to-Business E-commerce: A Study of Greater Chinese and U.S. Electronics and Apparel/Textile Firms Introduction Definitions and Background Characterizations and Definitions of B2B E-commerce in the Literature Results of Previous Research Studies on B2B E-commerce Research Questions and Results Overview of the Political Entities, Industries, and Survey Items Included in the Study Political Entities Industries Survey Items Research Question 1: What Is the Current State of B2B E-commerce between U.S. and Greater Chinese Electronics and Apparel/Textile Companies? What Is B2B E-commerce Center for Advanced Purchasing Studies 3

3 B2B E-commerce Adoption by Industry and Entity Relationships between Customers and Suppliers B2B E-commerce is a Domestic Affair Summary of Research Question Research Question 2: What Are the Factors That Have Led to E-commerce Adoption and What Are the Perceived Results? Factors Leading to E-commerce Adoption Perceived Results of Using B2B E-commerce - Adopters Comparison of Perceived B2B E-commerce Results between Adopters and Non-adopters Other Managerial, Business, Institutional, and Cultural Considerations in B2B E-commerce Implementation in the U.S. and Greater China Summary of Research Question Research Question 3: What Recommendations Can We Provide to U.S. Companies Wishing to Increase B2B E-commerce with Businesses in Greater China? Activities That Would Encourage More B2B E-commerce in Greater China.. 39 Perceptual Differences among the Greater Chinese Entities Summary of Research Question Research Question 4: What Recommendations Can We Provide to Chinese Companies Wishing to Increase B2B E-commerce with Businesses in the U.S.?. 40 Summary to Research Question Conclusions Limitations and Suggestions for Future Research CAPS Research Business-to-Business E-Commerce: A Study of Greater Chinese and U.S. Electronics and Apparel/Textile Firms

4 Executive Summary Introduction The increase in globalization and the rapidly changing telecommunications industry have the potential to fundamentally change supply chain management by companies in the United States and abroad. Previous research has shown that the purchasing function controls over 60 percent of a firm s total costs of goods sold in many industries, and that many of the parts and raw materials come from international suppliers (Kaufmann and Carter, 2000; Leenders and Fearon, 1997). In a 1995 study, the United States spent about 14 percent of total purchase volume internationally (Monczka and Trent, 1995). Undoubtedly, that figure has increased substantially in recent years. Given that purchasing functions are increasingly taking on an international dimension, it is important to examine the degree to which electronic information exchange technologies are being used effectively to achieve the economic and strategic benefits of globalization and to ensure the uninterrupted flow of goods and raw materials from suppliers to their international supply chain partners. This study examines the degree to which B2B e-commerce systems are used by electronics and apparel/textile companies in the United States, Hong Kong, the People s Republic of China (PRC), and Taiwan. By investigating the use of B2B e-commerce systems across dissimilar industries and in different political entities 1 we will better be able to assess how different industrial environments, different cultures, and different governments influence the use of B2B e-commerce systems. Due to the relative newness of some B2B e-commerce technologies and given the disparate levels of technological sophistication of these two industries in different parts of the world, there is little consensus about which information exchange tools constitute B2B e-commerce or which factors lead to the development of effective international B2B e-commerce relationships. Our research is designed to answer these questions. Finally, little is known about what incentives would induce companies in the U.S. and Greater China (including Hong Kong, the PRC, and Taiwan) to invest in B2B e-commerce systems. To answer this question it is necessary to analyze the perceptions of and attitudes towards B2B e-commerce among all of the players in the global supply chain and to recommend strategies which have the potential to increase international trade through the effective use of B2B technologies. Objectives of the Research The results of this study should help purchasing managers understand the extent to which B2B e-commerce technologies are being used in the electronics and apparel/textile industries. In addition, the study examines the risks and benefits associated with B2B e-commerce systems, as perceived by U.S. and Greater Chinese firms, and provides recommendations for companies wishing to use B2B e-commerce tools effectively with their business partners in all four regions. To achieve these objectives, the study asks the following research questions: 1. What is the current state of B2B e-commerce between U.S. and Greater Chinese electronics and apparel/textile companies? 2. What are the factors that have led to e-commerce adoption and what are the perceived results? 1 Each of the political entities investigated in this study (the U.S., Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the People s Republic of China) has its own government and set of laws that affect the local business environment. Throughout this report the terms political entities and entities are used interchangeably. Center for Advanced Purchasing Studies 7

5 3. What recommendations can we provide to U.S. companies wishing to increase B2B e-commerce with businesses in Greater China? 4. What recommendations can we provide to Chinese companies wishing to increase B2B e-commerce with businesses in the U.S.? A combination of semi-structured interviews conducted with MIS managers or company CEOs in Taiwan and the U.S. and survey questionnaires sent to companies throughout the People s Republic of China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the U.S. were used to answer the study s research questions. In the following section we summarize our results and point to specific implications of this study. More specific findings related to each research question follow the summary and implications section. Following the executive summary we describe the design of the study in more detail and provide a more thorough discussion of the findings. Summary and Implications Our study has shown that B2B e-commerce is being used throughout the U.S. and Greater Chinese electronics and apparels/textiles industries. Throughout the study we have highlighted similarities and differences by entity, industry, and between adopters and non-adopters. The findings are summarized below: 1. There is relative agreement that active use of websites, ERP systems, CRM systems, and SCM systems all constitute B2B e-commerce tools but companies are much more likely to use and passive websites as tools for conducting business. As infrastructures develop, costs of technology decrease, and information technology (IT) personnel become more knowledgeable about different B2B e-commerce tools, we would expect to see use of more sophisticated tools emerge in Greater China. 2. B2B e-commerce is more likely to be used in electronics companies than in apparels/textiles companies and more likely to be found in the U.S. and Taiwan. Currently B2B e-commerce is likely to be found in industries and companies that have the funding and understanding of complex technologies. As technological infrastructure improves across entities and as IT personnel become more knowledgeable about B2B e-commerce tools, more companies in all of the studied entities will engage in B2B e-commerce. 3. Companies which have engaged in B2B e-commerce have much stronger relationships with both customers and suppliers ranging from basic understanding of their partners business, cooperation in planning and product efforts, use of longer-term contracts, and requirements that partners interact electronically. 4. Among our respondents, B2B e-commerce is still largely a domestic affair. This will change as common industry platforms are developed (as in the electronics industry in Taiwan) that enable companies from various political entities to participate in B2B e-commerce effectively. 5. There are a number of reasons that led to e-commerce adoption from it is the right business decision to being forced by industry pressures or government programs. These factors differ by entity and industry. This is an important distinction because we saw that companies that felt they had been forced into using B2B e-commerce had more negative perceptions of the B2B e-commerce results than companies from entities who voluntarily engaged in B2B e-commerce. 6. A variety of managerial, business, institutional, and cultural factors were important for adoption success and these varied by entity. B2B e-commerce adoption, like any large international business relationship, relies on business partners who understand the unique factors influencing companies in different political entities. Among Greater Chinese respondents, B2B e-commerce adopters were most likely to be found in companies where a large percentage of the top management team had studied in the West, the general manager traveled widely for business, and the MIS director was worldly in many areas of his/her life. 7. In the case of B2B e-commerce, U.S. companies should realize that Hong Kong companies are most concerned about doing business. They want to see clear signs that you will order their products, sign long-term contracts, and provide funding for B2B e-commerce. Companies from Taiwan would also like to see more products ordered and long-term contracts, but they are also concerned with developing close ties to your company. Providing funding and training is less crucial than understanding their circumstances and environmental constraints. PRC companies are intensely concerned with developing a long-term relationship built on mutual trust. They would like long-term contracts but also want close ties with your company and they need to know that they are respected. U.S. companies need to understand that Hong Kong, the PRC, and Taiwan operate in three different political, cultural, technological, and economic realms. 8 Business-to-Business E-Commerce: A Study of Greater Chinese and U.S. Electronics and Apparel/Textile Firms

6 8. Companies from Greater China should develop some competence in the areas of supply chain and customer relationship management. It is clear from our results that U.S. companies would like to engage in B2B e-commerce with Greater Chinese companies but are unlikely to do so unless there is a certain level of technological competence. Greater Chinese companies should leverage their governments interest in promoting B2B e-commerce by developing the infrastructure and skills necessary to attract U.S. and other international companies. In addition, Greater Chinese companies will need to overcome perceptions by U.S. companies that they have quality and on-time delivery problems (this is especially true in Hong Kong and the PRC). Finally, development of closer relationships with U.S. firms is likely to lead to B2B e-commerce. As was reported in our findings for Research Question 1, B2B e-commerce adopters had close working relationships with suppliers and customers. Greater Chinese companies should encourage the development of these ties. Research Questions Research Question 1: What Is the Current State of B2B E-commerce between U.S. and Greater Chinese Electronics and Apparel/Textile Companies? The results of our research suggest significant conclusions in four general areas about the extent to which B2B e-commerce technologies are being used by electronics and apparel/textile companies in the U.S. and Greater China. 1. What is B2B e-commerce? Which B2B technologies are being used most frequently? There is relatively little disagreement among respondents from different political entities and industries, or between B2B e-commerce adopters and non-adopters, about which technologies constitute B2B e-commerce tools. While most of the technologies listed in the survey were considered to be B2B tools, less complex tools such as and web pages to provide information to suppliers and customers were considered not to be B2B tools by a number of respondents. The most complex B2B tools, which make use of such technologies as CRM, SCM, ERP, and B2B exchange applications, elicited the highest number of I don t know responses, indicating that many respondents did not know what these systems are. In terms of actual usage of B2B tools, the most commonly adopted technologies were and websites for providing product and service information, and websites for taking customer orders, and order placing on suppliers websites. There were significant usage differences by industry and company size, with electronics and larger companies much more likely to use website-based technologies for interaction with their customers and suppliers. Larger companies were also more likely to use ERPprocess-to-ERP-process automation. Companies identified as B2B e-commerce adopters used all of the technologies listed to a significant degree. 2. Which companies are adopting electronic B2B tools? How does adoption differ by industry and entity? B2B e-commerce adopters are principally from the U.S.A. and to a lesser extent from Taiwan. Electronics companies are using more B2B tools than textile/apparel firms, and U.S. and electronics companies are using more sophisticated B2B technologies. In the case of the U.S. this is not a surprising result considering the head start which U.S. firms have had in the past decade in terms of access to high-bandwidth data communication networks and web-based e-commerce tools. Indeed, it appears that U.S. companies have had more experience with all e-commerce technologies and generally use more sophisticated technologies than their Greater Chinese counterparts. The newness of electronic B2B tools in the PRC and the more recent availability of reliable wide area data networks may explain the low rate of adoption there. Perhaps the most surprising result is the extent to which Hong Kong companies appear to be far behind their Taiwanese and American counterparts in adoption of B2B technologies. In the case of Taiwan, adopters are largely from the highly-automated electronics industry, and part of the adoption may be due to pressures exerted by their large U.S. trading partners as well as to incentives offered by the Taiwanese government to adopt electronic B2B systems. 3. How do B2B e-commerce adopters differ from non-adopters in their relationships with suppliers and customers? Companies that use B2B e-commerce tools have much stronger relationships with their customers and suppliers. They understand their business partners goals, planning and production efforts and business processes better than companies that do not use B2B e-commerce tools. These firms also cooperate more with their customers and suppliers in process and product engineering, tooling development, planning, technical assistance, and training. Center for Advanced Purchasing Studies 9

7 They have long term contracts with their business partners and require their suppliers to use B2B tools. These conclusions point to the increased levels of understanding and shared objectives which are necessary for successful B2B e-commerce relationships to take place. Companies that have invested in expensive and complex B2B tools obviously expect their supply chain partners to use their systems as well. Due to the extensive and widely dispersed supply chains in the electronics industry and the speed with which product changes occur, it is logical that electronics companies would be in the vanguard of B2B e-commerce adoption and would exert pressure on their partners to come on board. Companies that are in a dominant position in the supply chain have the ability to compel their suppliers to receive orders electronically through the suppliers B2B systems. Adopters are also more likely to cooperate with their partners due to the increased information sharing about business processes which occurs when advanced B2B e-commerce technologies are implemented. Finally, adopters are more likely to expect longer-term contracts with their trading partners in order to amortize the investment in training and technology which the adoption of a new system entails. 4. To what extent are B2B tools being used for international commerce between the U.S. and Greater China? Despite globalization in both of the industries examined in the study, it is quite clear that the majority of supplier-customer relationships for companies in all four political entities are with domestic trading partners. This is somewhat surprising because the industries were selected under the assumption that their supply chains would be extensively international. This trend of having overwhelmingly domestic supplier and customer bases carries over into electronic B2B relationships as well, implying that it is not the technologies which are driving supply chain practices, but vice versa. Research Question 2: What Are the Factors That Have Led to E-commerce Adoption and What Are the Perceived Results? The factors leading to B2B e-commerce adoption vary by industry, company size, and entity. Most of the results cited in this section are for B2B e-commerce adopters only. 1. What are the principle reasons for the adoption of B2B e-commerce technologies? The principle drivers behind B2B e-commerce adoption appear to be practical business considerations such as profitability and cost savings, changes in the industry, and knowledge of developments in information technology. For the most part, companies did not feel pressured by outside forces to adopt B2B. But there were some interesting differences among the entities surveyed. The most ambiguous results came from the U.S., where no single driver could be identified for the majority of respondents. It seems that U.S. companies adopt B2B technologies for a variety of reasons including cost and error reduction, industry forces, and technological developments. Companies in Hong Kong feel that they are being forced to adopt B2B by their customers, the government, and their suppliers despite a strong sentiment that B2B is a waste of time and money. No single driver could be identified among Taiwanese companies either, although it appears that larger electronics firms were strongly influenced by government policies favoring investment in B2B. PRC companies responded that industry changes, IT developments, and their survival convinced them to adopt. Larger companies generally claimed that B2B technologies were critical for their survival, and that their knowledge of developments in IT drove them to adopt B2B. Electronics firms also felt that their survival depends on B2B adoption and that it is a wise business decision to make, while apparel/textile companies felt pressured into adoption by government, customer, and supplier forces. 2. What are the perceived results of adopting B2B e-commerce? The reported results of B2B adoption varied markedly by political entity and by industry. The most positive responses came from the PRC, while Hong Kong companies were consistently less positive in their assessments. Surprisingly, results were mixed in the U.S., suggesting that the gains achieved by U.S. companies were less than those achieved in the PRC due to already high levels of quality and productivity. In Taiwan, only electronics companies were positive in their evaluations of B2B. Hong Kong respondents were less likely to disagree that B2B e-commerce was a waste of time and money than respondents from other entities. Companies with high annual sales had more positive assessments than smaller firms. Textile and apparel companies which have not adopted B2B were more positive than adopters. Among adopters, the specific results obtained depended on the entity and industry of the respondents. Electronics companies said that they 10 Business-to-Business E-Commerce: A Study of Greater Chinese and U.S. Electronics and Apparel/Textile Firms

8 were able to work more effectively with their suppliers generally and with their customers in the PRC and Taiwan due to B2B tools. They were able to decrease their inventories and error rates in the U.S., to increase process speed in the PRC and decrease costs in the PRC, Taiwan, and the U.S. Adopters in the U.S. said that B2B enables them to work more effectively with their suppliers in Hong Kong. B2B users in Taiwan increased the quality of their Taiwanese suppliers but were not able to work more effectively with their suppliers in Hong Kong and the PRC, to decrease inventories or increase processing speed in Hong Kong, nor to decrease costs in Hong Kong or the PRC. Hong Kong companies were able to work with more customers and to increase processing speed in Hong Kong and the U.S. PRC companies were not successful in working with suppliers in Hong Kong or the U.S. but were able to decrease inventory in Hong Kong and the PRC while decreasing costs and increasing quality locally. Among non-adopters the chief concerns were that B2B would cause security risks and would make business transactions too transparent. 3. Which managerial, business, institutional, and cultural factors are important in ensuring the successful application of B2B technologies? When asked what factors were essential to ensuring successful implementation of B2B technologies, responses differed significantly by political entity and industry. The most interesting findings suggest that businesses perceptions of what is important in other political entities tend to be quite different from those of businesses based in those entities. There were also results which suggest that companies whose top managers and IT people were educated in the West, travel abroad frequently, attend computer technology conferences, and read foreign technology journals are much more likely to have adopted B2B. A summary of the most significant results by political entity and industry follows. Generally, B2B adopters felt that face-to-face negotiations were essential to the success of their e-commerce relationships with partners in the U.S. and Taiwan. Top management was more likely to play a leading role in adoption by companies in Taiwan and the U.S., and adopters felt that the culture of the U.S. encourages B2B. Adopters thought that organizational hierarchy and power structures were threatened by B2B in the PRC and Hong Kong. Personal connections with business executives were cited as being important to B2B success in Taiwan and the PRC. Within the U.S., adopters felt that American culture and geography don t encourage B2B e-commerce and that there is considerable resistance to using it. They also felt that B2B is more likely to be implemented by top management and that previous business relationships are essential to successful B2B. Taiwanese companies using B2B technologies felt that their culture encourages adoption and that connections to government officials are not important despite the supportive role played by the Taiwanese government. They also felt previous business relationships with their customers and suppliers are important to the success of e-commerce. Companies within the PRC which have adopted B2B said that it was more likely to be implemented by young people and not by top management. Like their Taiwanese counterparts they felt that the government encourages B2B and that having previous relationships with trading partners is important to successful adoption. Strangely enough, Hong Kong companies said they felt that their geography did not encourage the use of B2B. Electronics firms using B2B mirrored many of the previously mentioned perceptions. They differed from their counterparts in the textile and apparel industries in feeling that face-to-face contacts, previous business relationships, and personal connections to other business executives are important to success. Research Question 3: What Recommendations Can We Provide to U.S. Companies Wishing to Increase B2B E-commerce with Businesses in Greater China? The most important finding is that the three entities comprising Greater China are quite different in terms of what would encourage them to do more electronic B2B with their American trading partners. The strongest incentives to encourage all Greater Chinese companies to adopt B2B technologies in their dealings with U.S. firms would be for those U.S. firms to order more products and services and to sign longer-term contracts. Apart from these two steps, each political entity differed in their suggestions for increasing trans-pacific B2B e-commerce. PRC companies were very concerned with developing closer relationships with their trading partners and with feeling that they were being treated with respect. Hong Kong firms also wanted closer relationships in addition to funding and technical assistance from U.S. firms. Taiwanese firms wanted closer relationships and respect but were not as interested in funding, training, or Center for Advanced Purchasing Studies 11

9 technical assistance. Interestingly none of the Greater Chinese entities cited a better understanding of Chinese culture as an incentive for doing more B2B with the U.S. Research Question 4: What Recommendations Can We Provide to Chinese Companies Wishing to Increase B2B E-commerce with Businesses in the U.S.? U.S. firms cited a number of factors which serve as incentives or disincentives for conducting electronic B2B with companies in Greater China. The most significant was technical competence in SCM, CRM, and ERP systems. U.S. firms have the perception that Taiwanese culture does not encourage B2B and that bribes are commonplace in the textile/apparel industry. Bribery was cited as a problem in the Hong Kong textile industry as well, in addition to difficulties in finding high quality suppliers. U.S. firms were negatively influenced by the political climate in the PRC and with the quality and on-time delivery of supplies. Exchange rate risk was cited as a negative factor in all three entities. On the positive side, Taiwan was perceived as having high quality suppliers and Hong Kong as being highly competitive. Clearly U.S. firms are unlikely to increase their electronic B2B interactions with Greater Chinese companies until perceptions change. The fact that there are currently some U.S. firms engaging in B2B e-commerce with firms from Taiwan and Hong Kong leads us to believe that perceptions will change and that U.S. firms will begin to increase their use of electronic supply chains to Greater Chinese companies over the next few years. 12 Business-to-Business E-Commerce: A Study of Greater Chinese and U.S. Electronics and Apparel/Textile Firms

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