The few studies in South American developing countries that refer to the adoption of e-commerce in SMEs require knowledge of how this context is presented. The objective of this study addresses this need and seeks to determine the variables that influence the adoption of e-commerce in SMEs in Colombia. The measurement tool (IMAES) was applied using a digital questionnaire; 263 surveys were collected in SMEs and the data were analysed using the partial least squares methodology, validating tool and model. The results found that Colombian SMEs adopt e-commerce because of pressure from senior management, performance expectations, the competitive advantage it offers, and pressure from their customers. This is one of the first studies in the region that empirically analyses the adoption of e-commerce, as well as describing the theoretical framework for this line of research.


Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) are a key element of the revolution in the way in which business is carried out, especially as a result of the Internet as a medium coupled with its applications (Stathis, 2015). In addition to facilitating communication with customers, these technologies work as a channel for delivering value proposals to the stakeholders of an enterprises (Belvedere & Grando, 2017). Thus, it is relevant to indicate that the term e-commerce has been coined to account for the digital channels or media that facilitate the marketing exercise, as well as the personalised (or direct) communication before, during and after the sale. In addition, it is a channel that is not only accepted but required by customers, given its immediacy and time savings, as well as the inherent advantages of virtuality (He & Bakht, 2018; Yadav & Mahara, 2018).

In this context, the literature on e-commerce demonstrates that its mediation role offers differential competitive advantages to the enterprises that adopt it (Cecere, 2016), and especially to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) (Abou-Shouk, Megicks & Lim, 2013; Abou-Shouk & Eraqi, 2015; Alrousan & Jones, 2016; Chong et al., 2011; Pickernell et al., 2013) since it is a mechanism that extends borders. In addition, it allows personalisation of the service and attention to users and customers.

The literature that accounts for e-commerce in SMEs began with simple suggestions, such as minimising costs with the use of HTML language formats (Charlton et al., 2000), and then moved on to thinking about more complex issues, such as the evolution of the diffusion and adoption of this technology for the field (Al-Bakri & Katsioloudes, 2015; Ghobakhloo, Arias-Aranda & Benitez-Amado, 2011; MacHaria, 2009; Sparling, Toleman & Cater-Steel, 2007; Wilson, Daniel & Davies, 2008). In addition, previous research also reports on the evaluation of the effectiveness and critical success factors of the strategies (Hamad, Elbeltagi & El-Gohary, 2018; He & Zhang, 2010; Li, Feng & Lin, 2008; Molapo, 2014; Sanayei & Rajabion, 2009; Shah Azam & Quaddus, 2009; Wu et al., 2011). The strategic value and perceived barriers or obstacles have also been investigated (Abou-Shouk & Eraqi, 2015; Mbatha & Ngwenya, 2018; Saffu, Walker & Mazurek, 2012).

Scientific research on the adoption of e-commerce in Colombia, however, is scarce, and the models that have explained this context in other countries have not been tested. Likewise, there is a lack of studies related to South American realities: 80% of the productions found are distributed in Asian, European and African countries (Kwan-Chung & Ortiz-Jiménez, 2021).

In this scenario, it should be noted that, in Colombia, about 99% of companies are SMEs and they have been making efforts to present their websites in languages other than Spanish since 2011, perceiving the advantages of export technologies. They have also implemented e-commerce solutions in their export activities (Rojas-Berrio & Vega-Rodríguez, 2011).

Similarly, in the study by Osorio-Gallego, Londoño-Metaute & López-Zapata (2016), it was found that this type of enterprise showed an electronic commerce adoption of 60.6% by 2014 for uses such as supply purchases and financial and commercial transactions. However, while there are negative perceptions towards information security, implementation and management costs, there are also previous references indicating that entrepreneurs of this type of company are not unaware of the potential benefits (dos Reis & Machado, 2020; Hussein et al., 2019; Lim, Lim & Trakulmaykee, 2018; Mbatha & Ngwenya, 2018; Rojas-Berrio & Vega-Rodríguez, 2011).

Meanwhile, the Observatory of Digital Economy in Colombia (OECD, 2019) shows data on the relevance of SMEs to Latin America as comprising 60% of total companies, representing 70% of formal employment and contributing 50% of the Internal Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Similarly, for 2017, the Colombian ICT Ministry presents 98% Internet usage figures for these types of companies, of which 82% use the Internet as a channel to provide services and 30% to deliver them.

However, although it is true that the advance in Internet adoption and broadband use in Colombian companies is almost 99%, its use is mostly limited to basic actions such as intranet and the use of emails, denoting limited adoption of e-commerce (Parra et al., 2019). This is reinforced by Suárez (2020) which, from a compilation of technical reports of unions and institutions, identified the following weaknesses that SME managers find in e-commerce: low presence of SMEs in the digital ecosystem; low organisational culture around technological development and digital innovation; slow adaptation and development of technological skills; management of e-commerce technology platforms; lack of investment in digital technology; deficiency in training in the management of technological and digital tools; distrust of e-commerce (electronic fraud); cost overruns in electronic transactions; and normative and legal knowledge of e-commerce. Finally, the study by Sánchez-Torres (2019) showed that the high digital divide in this country negatively moderates the adoption of e-commerce.

Given the above considerations, it is necessary to more precisely examine the factors that generate the adoption of e-commerce in Colombian SMEs in order to guide actions that promote its adoption by all public and private agents.

The objective of this study is to determine the relationships between the factors that affect the adoption of e-commerce in SMEs in the case of Colombia since, although these companies use these channels, the level of penetration is not sufficient for the marketing challenges and the advantages that this method implies, and because there are few studies in the area. This approach will allow us to review opportunities for improvement and possible solutions in this sector. Thus, this study, through the empirical test of a model proposed by Sánchez-Torres & Juarez-Acosta (2019), will identify the relevant variables that affect the adoption of e-commerce in Colombian SMEs.

This paper is first composed of a summarised theoretical approach to this line of research. Then, the methodology and field work of the empirical study are presented. Finally, the results and conclusions are presented.


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