Like many manufacturers out there, you may be asking just how important it is for companies like yours to develop…or even expand…their digital commerce capabilities. In short, very. According to Digital Commerce 360, “B2B eCommerce sales for manufacturers grew year over year by 6.7% to about $458.7 billion from $430 billion in 2019.” They add, “B2B eCommerce is quickly becoming a critical strategy for many manufacturers, according to the 2021 B2B Manufacturing Report.”
Let’s face it, there is increasing pressure in the manufacturing industry for companies to reduce cost, expand profitability and—maybe most importantly—improve their customers’ experience. As the end of 2020 approached, many were asking themselves just how to do that.
According to Gartner®, “Disruption is driving digital transformation in the manufacturing industry.” In other words, the companies that are armed with digital solutions are disrupting the old business models, forcing companies who are not so progressive to adopt newer digital ways themselves. Again, according to Gartner:
“36% of heavy manufacturing CIOs whose enterprise had recently experienced some type of disruption said that operating cost competitiveness had fallen behind.”
Think about it. As 2020 progressed, it became clear that business was not going to move forward as usual. Due to the pandemic, retail businesses had to quickly figure out how to move most if not all of their transactions to a digital platform if they weren’t there already. Manufacturers began to face the same challenges. According to Karie Daudt, Senior Commerce Consultant at Perficient, “While some businesses continue to struggle, we are seeing some industries grow and flourish during these challenging times. So as demand continues to increase in specific markets, the results from COVID-19 are driving the need to invest in digital channels and look for more ways to satisfy their customers and market demand.”
So what are the benefits of leveraging digital commerce for your manufacturing business? Beyond the obvious case of simply selling online, other opportunities and benefits can be achieved.
Grow Your Sales / Reach New Markets: Digital marketing allows manufacturing companies to more quickly grow, but also easily reach markets previously unavailable.
Improve Repeat Business: Via a digital commerce system, companies can make the reordering process much easier for customers. And customers like ease.
Deploy Direct Sales Staff Differently: A digital system takes some of the pressure off of direct sales staff, thereby allowing you to utilize their skills elsewhere.
Sell Complimentary Products: When using digital marketing you can more easily see patterns in customer orders. You can then use that information to combine product offerings to others.
Before you fully dive into searching for your new eCommerce strategy, you’ll need to first think about a few key points.
Start with existing problems or challenges: Are there already challenges in your manufacturing process? You’ll need to start there. Make sure you acknowledge those challenges and make sure any eCommerce solution you choose can address those first.
Address the ongoing needs of your business: Then, address the ongoing, everyday needs of your business. What’s working for you? What do you want to keep the same? Again, make sure any B2B eCommerce solution you consider can handle the transition.
Think about future needs: Make sure you think about the future. Where do you want your business to be in a year? Five years? Make sure any B2B eCommerce for manufacturers solution is able to follow you into the future. Think flexibility.
Get the team onboard: And finally, make sure all departments are involved. Listen to their needs and ideas. After all, you want everyone to be on the same page so your transition to an eCommerce for manufacturers storefront is a success.
And remember, this goes for those looking to expand an already existing eCommerce system as well. When expanding, you still need to think about what problems are occurring in your current system. What do you want to move towards? Do you have any new members on your team with new ideas? Once you’ve thought about and answered those questions you can start to tweak your existing digital system.
Remember, your manufacturing business is, well, yours. So make sure any solution you consider can be adjusted and/or reconfigured as your needs change. Although there are certain aspects of a digital commerce solution that basically look the same for any company—the technology, processing, data, and security aspects—there isn’t ‘one way’ for each manufacturer. Make sure you discuss all of your needs and concerns when looking for a solution.
Also, as we mentioned in our article, “eCommerce for Distributors: 4 Things You Need to Get Right,’ the first thing you need to understand is the fact that you’re not going to get it right the first time. Remember, that first launch of your storefront is not the end of the process. But getting your storefront live is essential so you can start to learn, change, improve, and grow.
Once you’ve figured out your challenges and current and future needs, it’s time to build a storefront…or find someone else to do it for you. Although our article mentioned above was written to distributors, there are a few things that are as important if you’re a manufacturer.
Your product. Now more than ever digital platforms allow for customization. Which is perfect for highlighting products that are high sellers. Consider offering discounts for these products. Or even subscriptions for them. Remember, this is an area that will help you convert first-time customers to long-term customers.
Speaking of customers. You most likely already have a customer base. Use it. Think about what products they buy most and make it easier for them to do so. Again, subscriptions, discounts, etc. Let your customers know you’re there for them.
As mentioned above, you can put together a storefront that will work for you by yourself, but you should also consider how eCommerce solutions like our B2B eCommerce Kickstart can work for you. Kickstart makes it easy for B2B manufacturers to establish an eCommerce web and customer portal, to quickly start selling online. And it can be adjusted or reconfigured as your needs change. With the right strategy behind you, you’ll be able to set up a flexible system that lets you sell exactly how you want. One that grows over time to continue supporting your company.