A Taxonomy of SME E-Commerce Platforms Derived from a Market-Level Analysis

Christopher P. Holland and Manuela Gutiérrez-Leefmans
International Journal of Electronic Commerce,
Volume 22, Number 2, 2018, pp. 161-201.


Small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) constitute a large and important sector of the U.S. and U.K. economies and e-commerce platforms have evolved that are designed specifically to help small business owners and entrepreneurs. Despite the popularity and importance of these digital platforms, there is a paucity of research in this area. This article contributes to theory by being the first study to map out the competitive landscape of SME e-commerce platforms in two markets using a theoretical framework and analysis that is based on business model and strategic group theories. In total, 144 platforms were analyzed using an online panel data methodology, which identified 32 leading SME e-commerce platforms in the UK and United States. These leading platforms were analyzed at the market level using cluster analysis based on strategic group theory and website content analysis. A taxonomy is proposed based on theoretical constructs derived from business model theory: value proposition, Web 2.0 sophistication, and revenue model. Five distinctive strategic groups are identified: information laggards, basic networking, advanced networking, advanced networking mature, and social media markets. The study further outlines managerial implications for SMEs, SME e-commerce platform providers, and external sponsors of the platforms—predominantly government organizations and banks.

Key Words and Phrases: business model theory, cluster analysis, e-commerce platforms, SME, strategic group theory, taxonomy, Web 2.0.