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Mitigating resistance to change in e-commerce transformation for SMEs

03 Sep 2021. 14:29
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  • SME maturity
    Scope to digitize
    1. Digital organization

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Identify the barriers and challenges you may face in the digital transformation of your SME, and how to address them.

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Pill about how to mitigate resistance to change in the e-commerce transformation of SMEs.

Importance of e-commerce

E-commerce has become a key tool for SMEs to enable their digital transformation and with this, their modernization and adaptation to both new consumer habits and the new reality. 

According to the 2020 e-commerce study made by Iab Spain, 7 out of 10 Internet users shop online with a shopping frequency of 3.5 times a month and an average expenditure of 68 euros per purchase. 

The main factors that drive Internet users to buy are, specially, the offer and variety of products, convenience, and price. Other major aspects are the variety of payment methods and shorter delivery times. 

The 2021 annual study of e-commerce of IEBS School, concludes that 87% of Spanish e-commerce companies ensure that their turnover has increased and, considering their forecasts for 2021, 76.1% plan to increase it.

E-commerce in Spain exceeded 12.800 million euros in the third quarter of 2020, 2.5% more than the previous year, according to the National Commission for Markets and Competition

These data show that e-commerce is booming and is a perfect partner for SMEs, providing a great opportunity for them to adapt, expand and make themselves known globally. 

However, in this context, there is often a certain resistance to change in organizations, which slows down, and sometimes prevents them from adapting to this reality at an adequate pace. That is why it is increasingly necessary to gradually adopt actions to encourage the incorporation of digital technologies in companies.  


Internal Barriers

Among these difficulties that may appear, we can find the lack of communication between collaborators that can cause misalignments in the task’s elaboration. During the whole digitization process, sometimes internal barriers that can complicate the transformation appears. Therefore, it is vital to incorporate new actions and work dynamics, such as the use of collaborative technological tools, creating open spaces to give and obtain feedback, which can promote and boost internal communication in an agile way among team members, improving productivity, efficiency and motivation of the teams.

Lack of resources and difficulties in carrying out the digitization process is another common problem within the organizations.

It is possible that part of the team does not correctly understand the change decision and the beginning of the digitization process, which can cause internal conflicts.

In addition, it is desirable that the change occurs gradually involving all parties concerned, clearly articulating the benefits and reasons for the initiative, and thus mitigating resistance to change.

Finally, it is recommended to establish short-term wins (or short-term goals) that will allow us to monitor the transformation progress over time. This will help us to balance the expectations of professionals and the organization by showing what we are getting from it, and the rewards of continuing with the change process.


Human barriers 

While executives in large companies often discuss transformation plans and roadmaps for technology implementation with their teams, human barriers to transformation remain largely unaddressed. 

One of the human barriers that can appear is the employee’s inertia not to make changes within the company. Therefore, It is necessary to communicate to employees that current success is no guarantee of future success and they should provide clearly articulated reasons for making the transformation an aspirational vision of the future. In addition to having a communication strategy that informs them of all the digital transformation process progresses, it is important to involve professionals in the process so that they feel it is their own and understand that it is made for and by them.

Another obstacle that can arise is the employees' doubts about the possibility of the change process taking place. They are people who do not believe that their leaders are capable of implementing such changes. In this sense, the figure of the leader is essential to generate a favorable change environment to lead by example and make the whole team be convinced of the importance of change by promoting and driving it. In this way, change management considers relevant to train leaders in tools and skills that allow them to lead by example, motivating and inspiring their teams. 



As we have explained, the transformation to e-commerce is part of the organizations’ digital transformation roadmap. In this context, Forrester points out some of the challenges that executives must face when taking the challenge of digital transformation.

  1. Be at the front line in changing consumer, business, and employee’s needs. 
  1. Drive your technology team in a strategy that guides the growth of the business. 
  1. Increase pressure on delivery speed while maintaining safety, cost-effectiveness and operational stability. 
  1. Obtain budget to implement the technology and innovation process. 
  1. Acquire, develop, and retain talent. 


Taking this into account, some of the most relevant factors when implementing the digital transformation process successfully in companies are: 

  • To count on with suitable employees in the top management team and experts in some areas of digitization. 
  • To develop digital skills in employees for a better company management in the future. 
  • Provide employees with the necessary tools to work with the new methodologies. 
  • Update the tools used by the team on a daily basis so that they can perform their tasks in an optimal way.
  • To maintain frequent communication through digital methods.
  • To increase the professionals’ interpersonal relationships through organizational dynamics that foster a sense of teamwork and belonging.
  • Promote workshops and training on digital transformation to equip staff with the necessary skills.


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