A comprehensive framework for the adoption of techno-relationship innovations : Empirical evidence from eCRM in manufacturing SMEs

Abstract: Information Technology (IT) plays a significant role in today business competition. A prominent role is that it helps a firm to manage relationships with customers effectively. Adoption of appropriate technology can lead the firm to greater business competency, improve its business performance, and ensure it retains its competitive advantages. While there is a rich body of literature on IT innovation adoption and implementation, research on the adoption of IT innovation that is specifically intended to perform relationship marketing functions is scant. The problem in this research is to address the lack of a research framework for examining the factors influencing the adoption of techno-relationship innovations. The existing adoption models are insufficient in properly explaining which factors are involved in the adoption decision and which factors are more important, and are especially insufficient with regard to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).The aim of this study is to develop a comprehensive research framework used for exploring the factors affecting the adoption of techno-relationship innovations and to apply this framework for empirically investigating the adoption of electronic Customer Relationship Management (eCRM) applications in manufacturing SMEs. This study proposes the term ‘techno-relationship innovation’ and defines it as a technology-related idea, process, method, product, or service that is intended to perform relationship marketing tasks and which is perceived as new to an individual or a firm. The developed research framework contains 20 potential determinant factors covering four contexts: individual, technological, organizational, and environmental.This study was conducted through survey research and the sample was drawn by means of systematic sampling technique. The empirical data were collected by using self-administered questionnaires and the data analysis was based on 508 manufacturing SMEs in Thailand. The analysis was based on multivariate statistical techniques including t-test, factor analysis, deiscriminant analysis, and cluster analysis. The findings reveal interesting insights into understanding the adoption of eCRM applications by manufacturing SMEs.The Key Influential Factors (KIF) model is proposed summarizing the conclusions of the study. It indicates what factors in what contexts should be given more or less attention. From 20 factors, the analysis indicates that 12 factors are important factors that should be given high priority. They are Compatibility, Industry Pressure, Customer Pressure, Subjective Norm, Attitude, External Support, Perceived Advantage, Observability, Perceived Relationship Marketing Functionality, Technological Expertise, Perceived Easiness, and Financial Resources. Five factors have the capability to discriminate between eCRM adopters and non-adopters but their discriminant powers are weak so they receive second priority. They are Competitive Pressure, Innovativeness, Business Experience, Governmental Encouragement, and Internet Experience. The other three factors appear insignificant but they should not be completely ignored when encouraging the adoption of eCRM applications. Thus, these three factors receive third priority. They are Size, Trialability, and Self-efficacy.Furthermore, the eCRM adopters are classified into three groups: basic adopters, moderate adopters, and advanced adopters. The inference is that the basic eCRM adopters are uncertain whether eCRM applications are really needed for business success. In contrast, the moderate and advanced eCRM adopters require different attention which is related to maximizing the advantages of eCRM applications. This classification offers solid information for market segmentation purposes in the eCRM industry.Study implications are acknowledged. A comprehensive research framework is proposed suggesting 20 potential determinant factors involved in examining the adoption of techno-relationship innovations. This research framework provides a tool to marketing researchers in conducting further research. Empirical investigation leads to the KIF model that offers guidance to government and private agencies in properly encouraging the adoption of eCRM applications and their relevant components among manufacturing SMEs. Moreover, the study’s limitations and suggestions for further research are provided.