The need for speed : A study of how a new digital tool can affect B2B relationships

Detta är en Uppsats för yrkesexamina på avancerad nivå från Umeå universitet/Företagsekonomi; Umeå universitet/Företagsekonomi

Sammanfattning: The technological development that we have seen in the last decades has resulted in a more digitized business environment and affected industries from an innovative and competitive perspective. The digital transition is an ongoing process and it creates opportunities and challenges for businesses globally. Digital transitions can have consequences for different aspects within a company, from the top management all the way to their customer relations. This study is concentrated on the latter, namely customer relations in a business-to-business context within the sportswear industry. The purpose of this degree project is to develop a deeper understanding about how perceived usefulness of a new digital tool affects the behavioral intention to use it based on a relationship marketing perspective. The study specifically investigates key account managers in a business-to-business context from the sportswear company Athics. By investigating perceived usefulness of 3D Virtual Prototypes by the key account managers’ behavioral intention to use, we managed to explain whether this technology would be accepted or rejected by the managers. None of the key account managers had previous experience with 3D Virtual Prototypes. The degree project had a qualitative method where we interviewed eight key account managers from the product division Athics Footwear through semi-structured interviews. The study takes a deductive approach. The ontological and epistemological stances are interpretivism and constructionism. After reviewing the literature on relationship marketing and technology acceptance model, we formed a conceptual model to get a deeper understanding of their relation to each other. This model was reconstructed once the empirical findings were analysed due to new findings. The revised model contributes to research on relationship marketing and technology acceptance. The findings show that Athics key account managers have a positive attitude towards using 3D Virtual Prototypes and intend to use it once Athics implements this new technology. They believe that 3D Virtual Prototypes can affect relationship strength directly and perceive it as useful in creating long-lasting relationships with their business-to-business customers. However, the study’s result shows that relationship performance will only be affected by sales performance. Implying that 3D Virtual Prototypes can still be perceived as useful but from a different cause. Moreover, the study’s result shows that by implementing 3D virtual prototypes customers will get more involved in the process of developing a shoe. Therefore, we consider customer involvement as a new finding and an important factor in relationship marketing when implementing a new digital tool. The key account managers perceive the digital tool to be more useful towards larger accounts due to their innovative and collaborative side. Smaller accounts are more challenging since they express a more conservative mindset by being less collaborative and perceive innovations as a higher risk. 

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