IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The Diffusion of E-commerce at the Firm Level: Theoretical Implications and Empirical Evidence


  • E. Santarelli


As a specific institution of distributive trades, e-commerce displays similarities with retail stores and mail order companies. As well as providing theoretical support for the assumption that e-commerce is a way to sell certain goods and services at prices potentially lower than those of traditional distributive channels, this paper analyses its inter-firm diffusion among a sample of firms (mostly SMEs) in Italy. The paper has three main purposes. Firstly, it challenges the view of e-commerce as a “technological revolution”, by pointing out its nature as a cost minimizing marketing channel. In particular, it shows how, under certain circumstances, e-commerce is a source of transaction cost advantages analogous to those yielded by mail order business. Secondly, the paper identifies the circumstances under which e-commerce sales might achieve a significant level of penetration among those SMEs that would otherwise incur high costs in organizing a proprietary distributive channel. Thirdly, the paper employs a unique data set of Italian manufacturing, service, and hospitality firms (nearly 90% of them with fewer than 100 employees) to estimate a diffusion model based on the logistic curve. According to the estimates, by the fourth quarter of 2003 nearly 50% of the population of firms in the geographical area surveyed will have introduced e-commerce among their marketing channels.

Suggested Citation

  • E. Santarelli, 2001. "The Diffusion of E-commerce at the Firm Level: Theoretical Implications and Empirical Evidence," Working Papers 428, Dipartimento Scienze Economiche, Universita' di Bologna.
  • Handle: RePEc:bol:bodewp:428

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Michael, Steven C., 1994. "Competition in organizational form : Mail order versus retail stores, 1910-1940," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 269-286, May.
    2. Utterback, James M & Abernathy, William J, 1975. "A dynamic model of process and product innovation," Omega, Elsevier, vol. 3(6), pages 639-656, December.
    3. Audretsch, David B & Thurik, A Roy, 2001. "What's New about the New Economy?," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 10(1), pages 267-315, March.
    4. Klein, Lisa R., 1998. "Evaluating the Potential of Interactive Media through a New Lens: Search versus Experience Goods," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 41(3), pages 195-203, March.
    5. Luis Garicano & Steven N. Kaplan, 2001. "The Effects of Business-to-Business E-Commerce on Transaction Costs," NBER Chapters,in: E-commerce, pages 463-485 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Jonathan Coppel, 2000. "E-Commerce: Impacts and Policy Challenges," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 252, OECD Publishing.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:bol:bodewp:428. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dipartimento Scienze Economiche, Universita' di Bologna). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.