The Internet and international marketing in small firms

Abstract: With the globalization of markets, small firms have become increasingly visible and new opportunities have opened up for them in the international arena. According to several researchers, the Internet can provide a low- cost "gateway" to international markets. However, the apparent simplicity of the Internet hides a great complexity, often underestimated by the small firm, and the question of how to use the Internet to positively influence their international marketing efforts remains unclear. Furthermore, research in this area is incomplete, especially the empirical research. The aim of the thesis has therefore been to find out how small exporting firms are using the Internet in their international marketing. Research questions have been posed covering the areas of level of Internet integration, changes in marketing activity, changes in market perception and the value that can be created for the small exporting firm by using the Internet. A qualitative study has been done through eight case studies on small exporting Swedish firms in which personal interviews have been conducted, with the aim to explore and describe the use of the Internet. The result indicated that small manufacturing firms active in export are not using the Internet to its full advantage. Still, all companies saw some value in using the media in their international marketing. In most firms, the Internet was mainly used to inform through the Web site, and communicate through e-mail, but a few firms also showed intentions to use the Internet for relationship building. These firms, which also had reached a higher level of Internet integration, also perceived more changes in their marketing activities, and in the way they perceived the market. Overall, among all firms, the Internet provided a higher value to the firm, in the form of faster and more efficient communication and information capabilities, and greater international reach with new international business opportunities.

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