With COVID-19 acting as a catalyst, customer expectations have and will continue to rapidly evolve in manufacturing. And while this sector is later to step into eCommerce, more manufacturers are going all-in when it comes to getting started.
While eCommerce channels open up a whole new world of benefits, carrying out these efforts continues to be a top business challenge for manufacturers. Changing existing channels, harnessing data to better predict what customers want, and segmenting what is typically a massive amount of SKUs can seem daunting. For companies to thrive in the digital space, it’s important to navigate mindfully, set a solid foundation, and understand their customer behaviors.
In order to achieve the ambitious goals many manufacturers have for eCommerce, it requires fundamental changes in operating and business models. Before jumping into eCommerce, consider several things to get the most out of your investments.
This is just one of the many things that set manufacturers in eCommerce apart from traditional retailers. Some products can easily be purchased online, while others may be researched online and ultimately purchased through another sales channel. Deciding which products to carry for sale online and which ones need to stay “old-school” with in-person sales can be a highly complex undertaking.
At Echidna, we work with our clients to examine their product portfolios and create an online platform that has well-categorized product data, easy purchasing functions, and full customer support. This starts with segmenting SKUs according to whether they require little to no interaction of a team member or not. Depending on the complexity of any given product paired with the information you are able to offer online will help in putting SKUs in these two buckets. This initial assessment can seem time-consuming but will set the stage for how your marketing and sales teams may need to evolve and what new digital roles your organization will require. From there, manufacturers can start examining customers ' journeys in order to mimic industry-leading eCommerce offerings we are all used to.
After deciding what can and can not be sold online, you are able to move into customer journey mapping. How do you build an eCommerce experience with the functionalities customers have come to expect?
B2B customers are B2C customers after they clock out for the day. They expect fast and personalized digital experiences while at work, just like they get at home. This means looking at products and considering configuration choices, including visualization, richer content, and features like order history, product tracking, and inventory availability for starters.
Being able to deliver on customer experience gives your company access to big benefits. From capturing the data on their needs and preferences, you can better leverage and form stronger customer relationships. Your marketing team can harness this data to target more personalized campaigns and your whole team will gain a new perspective of not only customers, but distributors based on how they are interacting with your site.
Consider adopting AI which can begin to move your business from reactive to proactive. By anticipating customer preferences and needs you will gain a whole new level of loyalty from customers and will also see smarter innovation.
Heading into eCommerce forces manufacturers to think through the relationships of existing distribution channels and the impact their eCommerce platform will have on them. Conflicts are likely to happen but can be managed with ease if discussed head-on.
Shifting channel dynamics will pose certain questions to answer:
Changing existing channels does pose a certain level of risk, so it is important to navigate this pragmatically.
Despite the challenges involved, there are clearly incentives for companies to pursue evolving digital sales and marketing. Done correctly, building out these channels opens up new opportunities from lowering cost-to-serve, increasing customer loyalty, and gaining a true competitive advantage.
Remember, not everything can be done at once. Echidna works with our manufacturing clients to carry out their eCommerce programs in incremental steps, by capturing the initiatives and adding incremental possibilities of value along the way. Whether you are just starting to strategize what eCommerce means for your business or you are well on your way, but experiencing hurdles, contact us to start a conversation.