E-commerce continues emergence as game changer for manufacturers

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We are constantly hearing about emerging technologies disrupting and reshaping the way industries connect and engage with their consumers. Whether it’s Amazon’s complete disruption of the brick and mortar consumer experience, artificial intelligence or even the advent of digital photography, advances in technology can change an industry rapidly and irrevocably.

Those companies that are ahead of the curve often thrive while those lagging behind often remain there until they are no more.

According to Forbes, “Private technology investments by non-tech Fortune 500 companies increased 149% between 2013 and 2016, according to CB Insights. Furthermore, tech investments by non-tech companies are on stride to exceed those of tech firms for the first time, and 51% of Fortune 500 investments in private technology companies have come from non-tech corporations in 2017. This marks an increase from 29% three years ago.”

Well-established, legacy enterprises across the spectrum of industries are investing heavily in staying ahead of the technology curve to maintain relevancy and their position in the market.

The manufacturing industry is not immune to disruption or the simmering urgency to embrace technological innovation to not only survive this period of change but also to thrive because of it.

One such technology that manufacturers are starting to embrace is e-commerce. A digital transformation is underway in the manufacturing industry, as e-commerce platforms are deployed to better serve consumers that increasingly operate exclusively in the digital realm.

Why e-commerce makes sense for manufacturers

According to the website Sana, some 68% of B2B buyers already purchase goods online. Just as Amazon made shopping online easy and reliable, therefore significantly reducing a consumer’s need and desire for brick and mortar shopping experiences, e-commerce is transforming B2B goods purchasing into a more consumer experience driven process.

Industry Week puts it this way: “B2B buyers are still proactive, but instead of pouring through catalogs, thumbing through Thomas Register, and making phone calls, they turn to search engines and manufacturer websites. The self-serve model they love for B2C is driving their behavior on the job. Manufacturers and suppliers that reward these buyers with an online experience that includes eCommerce will earn their loyalty.”

The blurring of the lines between B2B and B2C is changing the manufacturing ecosystem in profound ways. A multi-channel approach that includes robust, user-experience focused e-commerce technology is critical to winning over buyers that are increasingly purely “digital natives”.

Self-service is the new name of the game

Manufacturers that stubbornly rely on email, paper catalogs and other antiquated sales and market methods will surely fall to the wayside.

Manufacturers adopting digital marketing and sales platforms with e-commerce capabilities is not a “nice to have”; it is rapidly becoming a must.

The commercial buyer expects your company to deliver a user-experience that is seamlessly self-service. This means they desire to buy directly from the producer and not through re-sellers or distributors or middle-men.

E-commerce technology and the digitization of the commercial buying experience empowers direct sales, simplifying the user experience while generating invaluable data about your consumers, their needs and buying habits.

E-commerce is not out of reach, even for smaller manufacturers.

According to the online retail magazine Apparel, “In 2013, U.S. small and mid-sized e-commerce companies accounted for $76.76 billion, and analysis by e-commerce technology provider Bigcommerce and consulting firm Sagence predicts that the SMB e-tail market will surpass $100 billion in 2015 — more than the global revenues of Amazon and eBay combined.”

E-commerce apps like Shopify, BigCommerce and Magento are well-know e-commerce platforms that provide robust digital capabilities useful to manufacturers seeking to adapt to the new B2B sales reality. You can check out a review of e-commerce products here.

It’s All About Multi-Channel Marketing and Sales

Adopting e-commerce capabilities that give the new B2B consumer what they want how they want it is just one aspect of evolving with a rapidly changing manufacturing environment.

Deploying a multi-channel approach that includes both traditional marketing and sales (email, printed catalogs, resellers and distributors) and digital platforms (integrated e-commerce, automated/digital marketing, CRM, data analytics and websites that are their epicenter) is the only viable way to maintain your market share.

Forbes believes many manufacturers are falling behind because of intractable, outdated business philosophies: “The problem is that many businesses aren’t investing in digital platforms because of old-school attitudes, dated processes and overly cautious corporate cultures.”

The overall benefits of e-commerce adoption
  • More direct contact with your customers empowers a better user experience
  • Consumers and customers will remain loyal if you meet them where they live-digital natives expect the brands they buy to meet their user experience needs
  • Market expansion-your ability to sell is no longer anchored to geography or your sales team’s availability. Your platform is accessible to all, online
  • Increased scalability and customization-e-commerce platforms are flexible to meet new market demands and customizable to specific audiences
  • Increased efficiency-automation and self-service create a lower cost per sale and frees your team to do what they do best
  • Stronger brand awareness-modernizing your digital footprint, including e-commerce adoption, can do wonders with search results, increasing your brand awareness and audience
  • Increased order accuracy-fully automated e-commerce significantly reduces human error and therefore should improve customer satisfaction
  • Data analytics-most e-commerce apps, especially when they are integrated into more robust digital technologies, including CRMs, enable your team to continually improve the marketing and sales process via the real-time analysis of customer feedback and behaviors
  • Increased sales-with an expanded market, customizable user-experiences, better analytics and direct customer interaction, stronger sales numbers should follow

Mark Bartlett, chief experience officer at FPX, sums up the importance of e-commerce adoption in the manufacturing sector nicely in a recent online article: “B2B ecommerce for manufacturers is an integral part of the industry and is a necessity for success. Customers now prefer to have the entire process streamlined and automated, so they can see what's happening and the status of their order or service in real time. This all means manufacturers, distributors and businesses alike need commerce sites with functionalities that support and exceed the customer demand, providing a seamless and customer-oriented purchasing experience.”

If you are a manufacturer seeking to adopt a stronger digital footprint, including the integration of e-commerce technology, we can help. We’ve helped several manufacturing companies adopt online direct sales platforms that have greatly benefited their bottom line. Reach out. We’d love to chat and see how we might be able to help.

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