1.0 Introduction

The technology enabling e-commerce has matured sufficiently. The number of online retailers indicates society’s acceptance of ecommerce. There is however, still a great amount of progress that is being in these areas, both in terms of the technology being developed as well as in terms of the market penetration and method of employment. It is therefore an area that is rich in research topics. Because of the twin issues of maturity and rapid progress, it is very important that careful attention is paid when a research topic is chosen in this area. The research topic has to be relevant whilst not being in an area that is already well-known and in practice. This requires a significant amount of awareness of the state of research in ecommerce, both in terms of technology as well as about what is in practice. To help you prepare for your dissertation on e-commerce, this article provides suggestions on topics that cover the subjects of e-business, Internet marketing, e-commerce security, mobile e-commerce and e-commerce law.

2.0 Strategy
One of the most important things in any business is the unique selling proposition. This is no different in ecommerce. The platform alone (i.e. the Internet) may sometimes contribute to the USP, such as supermarkets allowing people to purchase goods online and provide delivery to their doors. But as the number of online retailers increases this may erode the USP that depends greatly on the platform. Possible e-commerce dissertation topics in this area are:

  • An analysis of e-commerce strategies for traditional organisations (Migration)
  • An analysis e-commerce strategies for new organisations
  • An analysis of e-commerce strategies for traditional organisations moving on to the Internet (Migration)
  • E-commerce strategies – Accident or design?
  • What are the components of a good e-commerce strategy?
  • An analysis of Internet branding strategies
  • How to obtain competitive advantage using technology
  • How to obtain competitive advantage using service in e-commerce
  • Internal business process and organisational strategy for change management
  • Business Process Reengineering – Myth or medicine?
  • An analysis of Internet business value creation strategies
  • Performance measurement of an e-business strategy (Case study)
  • E-business strategies for knowledge management – An analysis and evaluation
  • E-business strategies formulation techniques – Proposal for a new technique
  • An e-business strategy for a educational institution (Case study/Project)
  • An e-business strategy for an SME (Case Study/Project)
  • An e-business strategy for a B2B business.
  • An analysis of payment processing models

2.1 Marketing/Advertising for e-businesses
Marketing or advertising for an e-business is a very important part of the overall strategy for e-businesses. The development of Internet marketing techniques such as paid advertisements for keyword searches, banner advertisements and also the use of Web 2.0 applications that make use of social networks for advertisements, have all changed the way marketing and advertising operates. The amount of information available today has made it possible to carefully target customers based on profiles, networks, etc. A good knowledge of the mechanisms of the technology is required in order to take full advantage of the opportunities available. Suggested topics for your e-commerce dissertation include:

  • The importance of search engine rankings for e-commerce
  • Search engine advertisement strategy
  • Marketing strategy on the Internet
  • E-commerce Marketing Mix – Wholly online, or one foot in both worlds?
  • Pay-per-click vs. Pay-per-impression – A comparison
  • An advertising strategy for an e-business (case study)
  • Critical evaluation of an e-commerce company’s advertising strategy (case study)
  • Analytical Issues and empirical evidence of marketing strategies in e-commerce
  • Measuring e-commerce advertising success (case study)
  • Measuring e-commerce advertising success (proposal of a new technique/algorithm)
  • Measuring customer retention for e-commerce portals
  • Analysis of customer behaviour as an input for marketing strategy
  • What draws repeat customers to an online retailer?
  • Internet marketing for traditional retailers
  • Internet marketing for new (born on the Internet) retailers
  • Internet marketing – new strategy proposal

3.0 Security and Trust
Security and trust are extremely important issues in e-commerce. One of the major perceived threats of e-commerce is the issue of security. Security and trust threats come from two areas in e-commerce – threat from third party attacks on legitimate transactions between a retailer and the customer and threat from fraudulent retailers to customers.

3.1 Third party attacks
The threat of third party attacks is an ever-present one. Hackers may try to gain access to sensitive information stored in the web servers, such as credit card information, bank account details and even personal details for identity theft. Retailers have a legal responsibility to keep any personal details they collect safe. Technology such as SSL, firewalls, intrusion detection etc. are all used to secure the website from unauthorised access. Third party attacks are also facilitated by lax security from customers. Some e-commerce dissertation topics in this area are:

  • Critical evaluation of current technology enabling e-commerce security
  • Analysis of previous attacks and vulnerabilities that led to those attacks
  • Security vulnerabilities and possible attacks methods – firewalls
  • Security vulnerabilities and possible attack methods – SSL
  • The effectiveness of current intrusion detection technology
  • Critical evaluation of security policies of a website
  • Critical evaluation of the firewall policies of a website
  • Perception of security among the lay public
  • Educating the public about security
  • Encryption – State of the Art.
  • How effective is today’s encryption to prevent spying/snooping?

3.2 Trust
Trust is an important issue in e-commerce, because unlike real world transactions, the retailer is not present in person during the transaction. It is much easier for an entity to set up a website and an electronic payment processing system than a real world storefront. It is also much more difficult for customers to determine the authenticity of websites. This makes it very difficult to trust that the retailers are who they claim to be. Some of the topics you could research for your e-commerce dissertation in this area are:

  • Digital certificate, encryption and public key infrastructure weakness analysis
  • Trust models in e-commerce
  • Analysis of the effectiveness of trust-building mechanisms
  • Analysis of public perceptions of trust
  • Data privacy issues in e-commerce
  • Data Protection Act 2002 – Implications for e-commerce
  • Managing reputations online
  • How important is trust in e-commerce and how it can be built up?
  • Trust in e-commerce – Myth or Reality?
  • The antivirus business
  • The protection business – how effective is today’s antivirus software?
  • Adware vs. spyware – where is the line drawn?

3.3 Legislation
Legislation has also been enacted throughout the world to ensure that computer networks remain safe from external threats and attackers are brought to justice. In the UK, legislation such as the Computer Misuse Act 1990 and the Police and Justice Act 2006 help prevent and punish acts of computer security breach. Some e-commerce dissertation topics in this area are:

  • The Computer Misuse Act 1990 – Scope, definition, reach and effectiveness
  • The Police and Justice Act 2006 – Scope, definition, reach and effectiveness
  • Legislation protecting computer security in the UK – Adequate or not fit for purpose?
  • An examination of international legislation in protecting computer security.
  • How effective is legislation as a deterrent to computer attacks?

4.0 Usability
Usability is important for online retailers because their ‘shops’ are not physically manned. Customers have to browse the items for sale and make their purchase by themselves. The websites themselves therefore have to be very user-friendly; the layout and design should strive to achieve the balance between simplicity and presentation of all information. Technology has been employed to provide effective customer service, such as having 24/7 support over the phone, live chat on the e-commerce website, etc. The new generation of Internet applications, such as the semantic web, natural language search etc, collectively termed Web 3.0, holds great promise for progress in customer service in e-commerce. Some of the e-commerce dissertation topics in the area of usability are:

  • Critical analysis of current technology employed for e-commerce customer service
  • Potential Web 3.0 applications for customer service
  • Developing a new Web 3.0 application for customer service
  • Effectiveness of Principles of usability of e-commerce websites
  • XHTML/CSS – Helping usability?
  • Do W3C standards help promote usability?
  • Analysis of any one major e-commerce website (such as Amazon) from the usability point of view
  • The monetary impact of non-user friendly websites
  • Quantifying usability for e-commerce
  • Evaluating usability for e-commerce
  • Usability survey for one or more e-commerce website(s)

5.0 Mobile e-commerce
Mobile e-commerce is the next frontier in e-commerce. An increasingly networked and mobile world means that the Internet is no longer shackled to the desktop and a landline. It is now available in many mobile devices such as BlackBerrys, PDAs, etc. Savvy e-commerce retailers have been quick on the uptake, providing content and delivery mechanisms more suited to the new platform. There are various opportunities for mobile e-commerce, from profit-seeking through customers’ calls and texts to custom-designed applications for mobile platforms. Some e-commerce dissertation topics for mobile e-commerce are:

  • Wireless security for e-commerce
  • Exploring geographical boundaries of mobile e-commerce
  • Payment processing methods for mobile e-commerce
  • Custom e-commerce applications for mobile e-commerce
  • Analysis of mobile e-commerce business models
  • Usability of mobile e-commerce applications
  • Mobile client technology problems and bottlenecks
  • Mobile networks technology problems and bottle necks
  • User interface design for mobile e-commerce
  • Wireless networks capacity problems – Issues for mobile e-commerce
  • E-commerce application with wireless to wired interface
  • User identification for mobile e-commerce
  • Data security in mobile e-commerce
  • Revenue generation through mobile e-commerce

6.0 E-commerce and the law
Governments around the world have been slow to react to technology, not to mention e-commerce. Hence the online retailer can be thought to be making his way to the wild, wild west of the legal world in terms of e-commerce. Laws are generally made at the behest of lobby groups behind large profit-making organisations, and customers are generally left in the cold. Some examples of this are:

  1. The continued extension of the Copyright Act in the US which benefits the Disney Corporation and was enacted at their behest.
  2. Laws such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) which benefits the Recording Industry Association of America.

Some e-commerce dissertation topics in these general areas are:

  • The geographical boundaries of legislation affecting e-commerce
  • The impact of the DMCA on e-commerce
  • The impact of the American Copyright Act extensions on e-commerce
  • The impact of the Berne Convention on e-commerce
  • A review of UK legislation affecting e-commerce
  • Borderless crimes – can a computer crime be committed outside the jurisdiction of any country?
  • Sealand – a digital utopia?
  • Geographical boundaries – is a hacker safe in Sealand?
  • Legislation P2P networks – killing a few legitimate businesses to save the majority of other businesses?
  • P2P networks and e-commerce
  • Software patents – Repeatedly making money off the golden egg?
  • Pornography and e-commerce

Data mining is another area that has tremendous applications for e-commerce. Because a huge amount of information is made available through digital systems, and this information can be collated from various sources to glean more information than the individual would expect, customer privacy issues have come to the fore. Legislation such as the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Freedom of Information Act 2000 are aimed at protecting the interests of the lay citizen. Technology such as RFID tagging has further enabled data mining in an unprecedented scale. Some e-commerce dissertation topics in this area are:

  • The Data Protection 1998 – Implications for e-commerce
  • The Freedom of Information Act 2000 – Implications for e-commerce
  • Data mining – Legal and Ethical Issues
  • Data mining technology – the next frontier

 

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