Technology Adoption: Overcoming Adoption Hurdles in Your Business
While many wholesalers are investing in technology to eliminate order fulfillment inefficiencies and solve other operational challenges related to manual processes, many are still in the midst of a transition period common among new technology adopters. Although wholesale brands are already seeing measurable efficiency gains from new systems, a convoluted mixture of old and new processes (digital catalogs with paper catalogs, mobile order writing software and manual order submission via fax, email, and phone, etc.) is in many cases preventing these companies from realizing the full potential of their technology investments. Let’s take a look at how to overcome these technology adoption challenges for three key technologies wholesalers are currently investing in:
- Digital Order Writing
- Digital Product Catalogs
- B2B eCommerce
When it Comes to New Technology Adoption, Old Habits Die Hard
For many companies adopting new technology, the realities of implementation and behavior change can be a significant initial hurdle. In a recent survey of wholesale distributors, it was discovered that companies are struggling to achieve complete adoption across several new technologies designed to eliminate old, manual processes, including digital order writing, digital catalogs, and B2B eCommerce. For instance, while 32% of respondents are currently using order writing software sync to submit orders to their back office (i.e. having orders automatically sync from a sales representative’s digital order writing application in the field to back office systems), 64% of respondents with order writing software are still receiving some orders from sales representatives via email. The problem with order submission via email––along with phone, fax, and other manual methods––is redundancy. Orders received through these methods must be re-entered into back office systems by designated staff, creating a high-touch, delay-ridden order processing workflow that can adversely affect shipping speeds and order accuracy. Notably, 91% of wholesalers surveyed indicated that they still have a data entry process in place for incoming orders. In another example, many companies are using both digital catalogs (60%) and paper catalogs (71%), despite the fact that paper catalogs were ranked dead last when survey participants were asked what they believed sales representatives should bring into a customer meeting. These difficulties with adoption extend to the realm of B2B eCommerce as well. 44% of survey respondents have B2B eCommerce portals in place, and many are already seeing revenue growth and adoption among customers. Others, however, are not effectively engaging retailers to begin ordering online. 22% of respondents with B2B eCommerce platforms reported that the percentage of their customers actually using the B2B eCommerce platform was less than 10%. Also, among wholesalers surveyed with B2B eCommerce in place, a huge number are still receiving orders from customers via Email (84%), Phone (69%), and Fax (60%).
How to Encourage Technology Adoption in 5 Steps
So what can businesses do to ensure adoption of new technology amongst both internal teams and their customers (in the case of B2B eCommerce)? It’s important to remember that when it comes to making these transitions, it’s not only about making the investment, it’s about seeing it through. Here are some steps you can take:
1. EMPHASIZE SIMPLICITY.
It’s crucial for any new software to have a simple and user-friendly interface. It may seem obvious, but if your employees and/or customers have to work to figure out how to use something that’s supposed to be making their lives easier, it has already failed. Before you even get into discussions about adoption, be sure that you’re properly vetting any new software solution. Can your not-so-tech-savvy people use it easily? How much training will it require?
2. ACTIVELY INVOLVE STAKEHOLDERS IN THE DECISION-MAKING PROCESS.
When you’re making these decisions, actively involve the people who will be using and benefitting from the technology, be it your sales reps for digital order writing software and digital catalogs, or your customers for B2B eCommerce. For instance, you can have sales reps try out order writing software at a trade show and then ask for feedback. On the B2B eCommerce side, you should involve your retailers on the front end by by asking about their ideal online ordering experience. Find a core group of your most trusted customers and involve them. Also make sure the stakeholders throughout your company understand the efficiency gains you expect to see, as well as the anticipated ROI. These are all ways to get buy-in and support once you are fully implemented, because everyone has been involved since the beginning.
3. PLANT SEEDS EARLY ON.
We’ve said this before on the blog, but resistance to change is often caused by the sudden, seemingly forced imposition of that change. Let your reps know that a new order writing method is coming down the pipeline, and tell your retailers that they will soon be able to place orders with you online. This way, there is not only time to build a sense of anticipation, there is also a period during which they can ask questions and prepare for a new way of doing things. It also gives you the opportunity to really communicate the value of any new technology.
4. USE OTHERS’ EXPERIENCES TO YOUR ADVANTAGE.
Don’t underestimate the power of success stories in getting buy-in. Find a rockstar sales rep who is making more money now that they are using order writing software and digital catalogs, and tell your other reps about her to get them to switch over. Or better yet, have the rockstar tell the story herself. Tell your retailers who aren’t using your B2B eCommerce portal about how much easier your other retailers are finding this new way of ordering from you.
Sometimes, providing a 10% discount for a retailer to place their first order through your B2B eCommerce portal is what it takes to get the deed done. You can also hold contests to see which of your sales reps can write the fastest order with your new order writing software. It will encourage everyone to learn the system.
At the end of the day, you will not realize the true efficiency gains of using new technologies if you don’t push for comprehensive adoption. It will be enormously beneficial to do this hard work on the front end, because it’s much harder when you are trying to navigate a messy state of half-adoption. Wholesalers must remember that transforming business processes is not just about acquiring new technology. It also involves an adequate investment of time and effort to make a smooth and complete transition. This blog post features just a few insights from our recently published Wholesale Technology & Sales Survey Report. To get more information on the current state of the wholesale distribution industry and how you stack up to the competition, you can download the entire report for free here.