Small businesses and the use of a market information system: an experimental approach

Maliszewski, Konrad (2021) Small businesses and the use of a market information system: an experimental approach. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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The ongoing digital revolution is redefining not only certain industries but also the wider society and economy. One of the major promises of the digital transformation for businesses is the increased capability of evidence-based decision-making, thus increasing the effectiveness of decisions and reducing associated costs. Data is one of the most important business assets, and the ability to incorporate it into decision-making is an essential ingredient for success. However, small businesses are inherently at a disadvantage due to their scarce resources and informal, often intuitive, management style. Not only do they lack strategic management capability and processes that facilitate evidence-based decision making but they also struggle with adopting and using information technology that is a necessary component of this. Nonetheless, they are the backbone of the economy and their survival is key for preserving thousands of jobs and the healthy functioning of the fabric of society.

This study investigates this general problem in the specific context of small food and drink producers supplying a major UK supermarket. The focus is on marketing decision-making and the use of a custom-built market information system. A behavioural lens was applied to the design of a theory-based intervention to increase system use. Environmental restructuring, which involved a change to the data presentation format, was identified as a viable intervention with a scope to make the system more adjusted to the specific context of this study. Two experiments were conducted to test the effectiveness of the intervention. First, a laboratory experiment with 154 students tested the impact of different data presentation formats on decision-making performance. Second, a 9-month long field experiment with 113 small food producers built on the findings from the laboratory experiment and investigated the scope for the change in data presentation format to influence actual system use behaviour.

The results of this study make a number of contributions to theory, method and practice. Broadly, the study demonstrated how behavioural analysis combined with design science and experimental methods can deliver impactful interventions amongst small businesses. Specifically, it revealed the causal effect between the data presentation format and actual system use behaviour. The importance of incorporating contextually relevant variables is also highlighted. Methodologically, the study highlighted the shortcomings in previous studies treating system use as a dichotomous variable and the reliance on reported usage instead of objective measures. Finally, the study resulted in an improved version of the market information system, which is now used by over 120 small food businesses to inform their marketing decisions. In this way this study has improved the usage of invaluable market information, which will help small businesses to become more competitive and better prepared for the digital revolution.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > Norwich Business School
Depositing User: Chris White
Date Deposited: 15 Dec 2021 14:32
Last Modified: 15 Dec 2021 14:32


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