Introduction

E-commerce technology is now viewed as an integral part of marketing channels and distribution systems (Rosenbloom, 2004). Supply chain constituents are able to form digital links to share information, to buy, sell and distribute products or services and to transfer cash flow. An e-enabled supply chain is perceived as having many advantages: for example; increased business efficiency, enhanced information flows, improved transaction speed, wider geographical spread, increased temporal reach, cost reduction and competitive differentiation for e-enabled constituents (Hoffman et al., 1998; Zank and Vokurka, 2003). In order to fully realise these benefits it has been suggested that upstream members of a supply chain, such as manufacturers, might work with

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Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing 20/4/5 (2005) 187-199

e Emerald Group Publishing Limited [ISSN 0885-8624] [DOI 10.1108/08858620510603864]

distributors to overcome barriers to e-business (Zank and Vokurka, 2003). In addition, "the internet offers direct links with customers, suppliers and distributors ... [enabling] companies to bypass others in the value chain ... to dominate the "electronic channel" and thereby control access to customers and set terms of trade" (Walters and Lancaster, 1999, p. 800, original italics). Hence, e-commerce technology has the potential not only to enhance supply chain performance but also to change its structure and may even pose a threat to certain supply chain members.

The term "disintermediation" describes this bypassing process. Disintermediation occurs where the ultimate supplier of a good or service circumvents intermediaries and sells directly to the consumer or where a new intermediary emerges that employs a lower-cost distribution method (Evans and Wurster, 2000). One strand of e-marketing literature proposes that disintermediation will be widespread and electronic markets will automatically reduce the need for brokers (Gallaugher, 1999; Choudhury et al., 1998). Examples of disintermediation can be found in several industries, most notably travel, where trends exist towards consumers dealing online directly with providers of goods or services, or using newly-established online intermediaries, thereby by-passing

The research reported in this paper represents part of the "Pensions Online? Producer, Distributor and User Attitudes and Behaviour" project, which is being funded by the Economic and Social Research Council as part of its E-Society programme. Grant No. RES-335-25-0031.

Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing 20/4/5 (2005) 187-199

e Emerald Group Publishing Limited [ISSN 0885-8624] [DOI 10.1108/08858620510603864]

Tina Harrison and Kathryn Waite established "bricks and mortar" intermediaries (Scott, 2000). Drivers for disintermediation include the desire to differentiate and compete on the basis of reduced error, increased speed, reduced costs, increased geographical reach and increased richness of the product offering (Davenport, 1993: Evans and Wurster, 2000). An additional factor also might be the desire to serve a growing online consumer market when incumbent intermediaries are failing to develop online capability.

However, contrary to this position are studies that identify the importance and variety of functions that are provided by intermediaries which include specialised information provision, professional advice, customisation to consumers needs and reduction of uncertainty (Kimiloglu, 2004). Thus a company bypassing a distribution network built up over decades to pursue commerce in cyberspace is exposed to considerable risk (Ghosh, 1998). Zank and Vokurka (2003) in a survey of manufacturing supply chain constituents found that most companies perceive that the internet has positive supplementary impact on supply chain relationships. Therefore it is important to develop an understanding of the forces that are shaping e-business development within the supply chain. Co-ordinated and collaborative e-commerce development amongst supply chain members may increase effectiveness and strengthen linkages (Basch, 2000), but fragmented adoption might result in business inefficiency and weakened links between supply chain members. Business-to-business marketing practitioners need to understand the current and potential e-commerce requirements of their supply chain partners in order to maximise intended benefits and to ensure that e-commerce investment generates a return (Zank and Vokurka, 2003). Knowledge of the factors that are driving e-business capability amongst supply chain members will be of use in determining the nature, scope and need for any marketing support to facilitate adoption.

Although a wide range of e-commerce activities are distinguishable, including EDI, e-mail and Intranet use (Chau, 2003), this study focuses on the development and use of web sites. A web site is the mechanism that combines the sales and marketing functions that an intermediary undertakes on behalf of the supplier, therefore an intermediary web site is the interface between the supplier and the customer and is a supplier's route to the online market. Hence, this paper examines intermediary ecommerce development through examining the forces shaping web site development amongst intermediaries within an extended supply chain. This research uses Rogers' (1995) model of innovation as the theoretical underpinning for a survey of 5,000 financial services intermediaries and reports on the factors influencing web site development, the characteristics of adopters and patterns of web site usage amongst this group.

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