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Digital Transformation in Manufacturing: What, When & How?

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Industrial transformation is always driven by changing customer preferences. Prior to the digital eCommerce setup, manufacturers served their clients via phone, fax, or email. They tried to strengthen frontiers with the limited but extensively used mediums without losing customer loyalty, especially when the world experienced the fourth wave of the industrial revolution: digital commerce. 

Historically, the manufacturing sector wasn’t the first vertical to jump on this bandwagon. 

But when a visionary decided to challenge this status quo, they ignited a B2B digital eCommerce revolution. In the arenas of B2B manufacturing, this rampant change was brought upon by Amazon and its fantastic ideology of accumulating all the B2B manufacturers on one online portal. 

It wasn’t like the traditional manufacturing sector enjoyed a good reputation. It was already fighting competition from all sides- online distributors and marketplaces, large retailers, group purchasing organizations, manufacturers, and national distributions. However, the entry of Amazon into this tense industrial genre just escalated and accelerated strategy implementation that would otherwise have taken a decade for market adoption. 

And with that, modern B2B consumers changed as well. They no longer dwell on a single sales channel, online or offline. Surrounded by an array of options, a dynamic set of needs, and increased time pressure, it has become mandatory for B2B manufacturers not just to witness the eCommerce digital commerce revolution but be a part of it. 

If you want to ace B2B manufacturing, this guide dives deep into its nuances- from new customer expectations to essential steps for running digital commerce operations.

Why did manufacturers need an eCommerce solution in the first place?

Over 41% of B2B eCommerce buyers complete a purchase at least once a week. 

Over 58% of B2B buyers purchase 25% or more of their products online.

And lastly, eCommerce sales growth is 1.7x faster than the overall growth rate for all distributor sales. 

See where we’re getting at?

Today’s B2B eCommerce customers want to control their experiences online. They need self-serving capabilities and a transactional website. And when they engage with your web store, these customers need accurate information, be it inventory-related, product details, order history, etc. They should be able to receive such knowledge as and when required. 

b2b ecommerce

A B2B eCommerce platform solves a myriad of purchasing issues faced by the consumers, such as:

  • unavailability of products 
  • insufficient or inaccurate information
  • lengthy purchase cycles
  • lack of personalized content
  • lack of proper customer service channels
  • inability to ship to multiple locations
  • lack of customer-friendly purchasing options

These are just some bottlenecks, a cause of suffrage for the B2B manufacturing industry. A digital commerce platform not only reforms the manufacturing unit but also readies it for future movements. With eCommerce’s innate capability and your B2B manufactured product’s power, you can fulfill modern consumer needs and lead the digital race.

There is a drastic change in the B2B buyers too!

Industrial metamorphosis transpires due to the ever-changing needs of customers. However, in this case, there was one more stimulant- the pandemic. 

The global pandemic cast a heavy toll on the B2B manufacturing companies, with over 35.5% facing supply chain disruptions. 

Such adverse situations prompted manufacturers to explore new procuring, purchasing, and selling ways. In particular, it required them to dive deep into digital commerce. 

In 2020, the global manufacturing and distributing sales grew only 1.5%, to $17.5 trillion. However, the B2B digital sales grew by an unbelievable 10.9%, $9 trillion. That’s a massive gap between the B2B and B2B digital sales. 

And it makes sense considering that a good part of current B2B buyers are tech-savvy millennials. Since the B2C has already enriched their user experience with smooth and seamless online transactions, they expect the same from B2B manufacturers and suppliers. 

b2b ecommerce platform

Millennial or not, online websites are not enough to woo the B2B buyers. They lack the X-factor that defines a user’s buying journey. And that something is personalization. Most B2B buyers want to engage with manufacturers and suppliers offering user-friendly services, comprehensive B2B capabilities, flexible solutions, exceptional experiences, scalable performances, and personalized pricing. They want information regarding quote estimation and other customization opportunities across multiple channels 24/7. 

In fact, 64% say that they might immediately switch to a buyer offering such prospects. 

Such demands require an integrated eCommerce solution available whenever and wherever customers need them. Thus, a B2B eCommerce platform is the best bet manufacturers have to survive and thrive through this paradigm shift. 

How B2B eCommerce benefits the manufacturing industry?

As per studies, by 2051, over 41% of revenue garnered by B2B manufacturers will be from digital commerce solutions, be it a business selling to other business consumers or directly to the end customers. Further researchers

predict B2B eCommerce to reach $1.8 trillion by 2023.

It is a staggering number for manufacturers to embrace, particularly when there are thousands yet to find the right web solution, let alone delve into digital commerce’s deep waters. However, one aspect that is crystal clear for B2B manufacturing companies is that eCommerce will be a prominent income source in the years to come. In no way should B2B manufacturers let go of such a profitable and futuristic opportunity. 

Apart from the said monetary gains, there are other ways eCommerce tends to benefit the B2B manufacturing space. 

Access customers directly

The direct-to-consumer business model has well-served the B2C brands, but now, it can also assist the manufacturing industry. B2B manufacturing businesses can sell products via their website over the distributors, hence saving the commission, you would have spent otherwise. 

Approaching customers directly:

  • Increases profit margins
  • Lets you exercise higher control over brand representation
  • Strike balance between optimum pricing and discounts offered
  • Derive consumer insights to enforce personalization
  • Elevate customer loyalty through retention campaigns

Without a doubt, one of the most significant advantages of having a B2B eCommerce website is customer data analysis to procure actionable insights for better decision making. Consequently, you can employ those acumens in your sales and marketing strategies, or you can communicate with the customer for feedback and incorporate the same into your product development process.

Allow innovation

Knowing your consumer’s shopping patterns adds value to your manufacturing and supply chain. Feedback received from your customers regarding equipment functioning can help modify your product ability in a manner that suits their needs. It functions as a unique value proposition for your B2B manufacturing business. 

At every step of the process, from procurement to after-sale support, you can improve your services to introduce better delivery schedules, improve warranty, extend installation and training assistance. It also helps you know your popular product, and then you can pitch those to a more expansive customer base. 

What’s more, you can move beyond geographical boundaries and sell your products to global customers. Not only does it strengthen your operations, but it allows you to modernize as per the customer trends. 

Follow a scalability approach

For a scalable industry vertical like B2B manufacturing, it is significant to invest in resources that can accommodate the growing demands without requiring any migration or system upgrades. With a B2B eCommerce website, you’ll experience a surge in processing orders. However, to ensure steady profits, you need to fulfill business growth without needing more distributors or sales reps. Equipment requirements without customization can be instantly sold to the buyers. 

With a robust B2B eCommerce solution, you can tap into new markets or even sell cross-border. Considering that in 2019, internationally sourced products conquered 43% of the total spending on industrial goods, it is a lucrative opportunity for the B2B manufacturing industry.

Improve process efficiency

For B2B sales reps, there is nothing more frustrating than contacting a client for payment clearance. 

However, in the case of an active eCommerce solution, since customers directly shop from the website, it massively reduces the time spent by sales reps on product pitching and manual invoicing. More so, with automated payments and recurring billing for EMIs or regular reorders, the process becomes efficient and hassle-free. 

In the long run, it streamlines account and invoice management, giving your staff and sales reps their much-deserved peace of mind. 

Educates consumers about the brand

With distributors disguised as the middle man between manufacturers and consumers, it is usual for the latter to have little or no knowledge about the former. As per Google, over 58% of B2B industrial manufacturer buyers research a product online before following up with a brand. That is why you need to SEO-optimize your eCommerce website to receive higher traffic from organic searches for brand or product-related queries. Once you have a web page ranking on Google, it will familiarize more buyers who’ll then explore your product range. 

Unlock the power of data analytics

Data analytics is a potent weapon, and eCommerce transformation provides you an opportunity to use it for your benefit.

A digital commerce website opens avenues to gain plentiful customer data that you can employ to derive insightful information, boosting CX and sales. Over time, these insights help better product manufacturing processes as per customer recommendations. B2B Manufacturers can use data analytics to:

  • Personalized product recommendations as per order history. As a company, you have an extensive product catalog that you’d want to share with your customers. You can tailor this file depending on the segment, customers, and other external factors with personalized product suggestions.
  • Dynamic pricing as per customization required or order history. If a customer has a bulk order, you can adjust your pricing to make maximum profits while closing the deal at a price that they’ll accept.
  • Allow upselling or cross-selling propositions depending on the recent purchases conducted. An ERP B2B eCommerce platform will enable customers to look for connecting parts, thereby improving customer service and efficiency.
  • Offer configuration and product matching that differ in shape, size, and color. It means customers can customize the products as per their requirements without requiring any help from the support department. It saves your and a customer’s time.

These benefits help realize the potential of digital commerce as-a-service in today’s rapidly changing economy. It unlocks possibilities related to automation, optimization, and profound transformation, adopting new business models that allow the small, medium, and large manufacturers to accomplish their business goals.

Wrapping It Up

In the B2B manufacturing industry, digital transformation is an ongoing process. Today’s trends will become tomorrow’s old news. But once you’ve laid the foundation of digital transformation in manufacturing, it will simplify your task of leveraging futuristic technologies, hence driving efficiency and innovation to your processes. 

To achieve your B2B manufacturing goals., wholesale change isn’t required. Start slowly and grow from there. The key is to forge a strategy that allows you to step into the world of digital commerce, realize its benefits, and use it to take your next step forward.

But that isn’t even the only segment B2B manufacturing needs to work on! 

Maximize Profitability, Quality, and ROI for Manufacturing.

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