Is anybody home? The role of company websites for small building contractors in Sweden
Paper in proceedings, 2014
During the last decades, being visible on the Internet has been advertised as the solution to develop businesses. Among other benefits, it should increase profitability by enlarging the number of customers and accelerating processes and communication. Indeed by 2012, 92% of the Swedish micro, small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) had a website presenting their companies; the construction sector for once is no exception. Looking at SME building contractors we inquire into whether the announced potential of being online has been realized and, in particular if their relations to customers have improved. Referring to customer relationship management and e-business studies, we focus on 4 aspects of websites to assess their qualities: content, convenience, control and interaction. The material consists of a sample of 90 building contractors of the region of Gothenburg in Sweden. We have examined the companies' websites, checked their profile, contacted them by phone and carried out in-depth interviews with 21 of them. The results show quite diversified strategies and benefits of their use of websites. Updating the sites regularly or gaining customers seem to be the exception, and the uses of the web sites are so far rather rudimentary. If there is no surprise in the SMEs building their customers relationship on direct contact and local network, the passivity and lack of visibility towards new customers and business opportunity are nevertheless intriguing. Even more as the sector is facing a rather bad reputation in the public. Finally a close contact with clients is said to be one of the most important factors contributing to innovation which these SMEs acutely need to face the new energy regulations.