2 Common Misconceptions in Digital Commerce for Manufacturers

When it comes to manufacturing, continual improvement has always been a common theme on the factory floor. But what about about the sales floor? How are you continually improving your customer experiences? How does your sales, support, and marketing operations look compared to your top competitors? To outpace your competitors and see continual growth it goes beyond being in the right market, offering excellent products and services, or simply being the lowest cost producer. This is because as competitors find increased mobility and expanded access to knowledge these once differentiators are quickly disappearing. Continually improving your sales, support, and marketing processes start with taking a look at your buyers and overcoming two common misconceptions around digital commerce for manufacturers.

  1. “If we are going to be successful in digital commerce, we need to create something new.”

It is obviously not possible to create something completely new and “transform” a long-standing sales and support process, which is a common misconception and fear when manufacturing companies approach digital commerce and digitally maturing their organizations sales, support, and marketing pillars.  What you can do is create something new by leveraging something known, which Echidna refers to as “experience-evidence”. So what is known and how can manufacturers leverage it to strike the right balance between digital and human interaction in their complex customer relationships? The key is to understanding their buyers journey. By breaking it down and allowing that to play an integral part in commerce and digital maturity strategy you will be able to prioritize, identify gaps, and create a stronger roadmap for your digital commerce future.

3 Core Areas in B2b Customer Journey Mapping:

  1. Your relationship with the buyer. Many of your relationships are long-term, with recurring sales that can be worth millions of dollars. This makes reordering a very important journey to understand and review, whereas goods in B2C are more often bought on a transactional basis.
  2. More individuals are involved in the buying process. Generally multiple people from various departments are involved in your ordering process- from design, evaluation, negotiations/terms, logistics, and more. The whole process can require decisions by 15 to 20 people, just to make the transaction happen.
  3. Customization is more widespread in manufacturing. Mentioned earlier, relationships take on a whole new meaning in your industry and customization to accommodate the customer is one of them. When designing an eCommerce experience, it requires in depth understanding of this variable.

To tap the potential of an improved customer-experience program, manufacturers need to understand the profitability of their customer base and address the pain points in their buyers journey with different measures that fit the financial, as well as strategic profile of the buyer segments. Companies mostly serving a few big customers can use entirely different journey designs than those serving thousands of smaller customers. Most companies will need to design journeys that accommodate both ends of the size spectrum. As a result, the strategic task is now putting in place different journeys and methods of tracking levels and triggers of satisfaction. Using what you already know (your buyers), will empower you to further digitally mature your organization and create a superior digital commerce experience that can evolve. If you completely transform, your buyers might not recognize you anymore. Continual optimization and innovation is key to success in the present and ensuring you are future ready.

  1. “Technology will solve and be our complete digital commerce solution.”

Echidna’s CTO, Mike Pierce, explains this common misconception further saying,

“To realize the incredible advantage that technology can provide, we have to first understand the business it will empower.  We need to study how our organizations operate and how our customers engage with us. It is only by understanding the people and processes that propel our businesses forward that we can know the right technologies to empower their success.”

Breaking down functional silos and focusing on cross-functional collaboration is crucial to success in B2b digital environments. Having talented technologists is imperative, but you should also have B2b digital strategists and user experience experts on your side to align all pillars of the organization to ensure both business and technology requirements are met.

Beyond implementing the technologies, digital commerce is about identifying opportunity for the greatest business impact to really change the dynamics.

That is why your digital commerce strategy should not be limited to technology issues such as creating a mobile app or migrating to the cloud. Instead, digital commerce should create a roadmap of how the company can and should do business differently as the technology evolves.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The nature of how manufacturing companies sell is changing with millennials entering the roles of purchasing agents and corporate buyers. This purchaser is about simply getting things done, not wanting to make a phone call to place orders or obtain a quote. Pivoting commerce within the manufacturing industry is complicated by both business process and technology, as there are many approaches and options. The true goal, whether stated or not by an organization, should be to maintain its B2b heritage while coupling B2C processes and solutions to add multiple points of value to all constituents.

 

Download the 2018 Consumerism of B2b Report

© 2017 Echidna