In this 6-min read, our e-commerce for manufacturers mini guide helps to demonstrate the value of a unified solution by uncovering common issues you may face in the manufacturing industry.
For many businesses, the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns acted as a catalyst for digital change. In something McKinsey refers to as ‘The Quickening’, many businesses had to cram a decade’s worth of digital transformation into just three months in order to maintain their day-to-day operations. That’s fine if you’re running a desk-based business that’s largely compatible with remote working, but what happens on the factory floor?
Despite industries catapulting forward in terms of their digital capabilities, a lot of manufacturers are still struggling to uncouple themselves from offline / manual legacy processes. By falling behind the curve, manufacturers are risking their partnerships and putting relationships with their customers under strain. The thing is, while it’s often seen as too complex a challenge, e-commerce doesn’t have to be complicated for manufacturers.
What does e-commerce mean in manufacturing?
E-Commerce allows manufacturers to embark on a ‘direct to customer’ business model that does away with the need for brick-and-mortar stores, allowing them to experiment with their offerings and target customers with greater agility.
It represents a complete shift toward digital processes and channels, usually driven by consumer trends and behaviours. If manufacturers get hung up on using phone, fax, or email to deal with their customers, they’re quickly going to see lower engagement and less custom. Today’s customers, both in the business and consumer world, want the ability to self-serve, find information, check stock, receive notifications about new products, get delivery updates, and more - and that’s before they even consider the ability to make transactions online. E-Commerce for manufacturers is about more than selling; it’s about creating an entire customer experience.
What are the benefits of e-commerce for manufacturers?
With the right e-commerce solution in place, manufacturers can completely transform their customer experience from the ground up, making it easier for customers to engage with them online, find the information they need, and ultimately make a purchase. Here are just some of the ways in which an e-commerce platform for manufacturers can improve customer experience and increase sales:
Most manufacturers will have an extensive catalogue for their customers to search through so that they can find what they need. But of course, the prices for products can vary depending on the customer, sector and other factors such as lead times and delivery. With an e-commerce platform, prices and products can be personalised dynamically by inviting customers to create an account. With their data securely stored, you can be sure they’re always seeing selections and prices that are relevant to them when they visit your website.
Customers should know that your sales team is always on hand to assist, but more often than not customers are happy to configure their products to their own requirements (if they have the ability to do so on your website). By allowing customers to select their size, shape, colour, and other specifications, you’ll free up sales representatives to secure new business rather than processing manual orders.
- Attract new customers
Gone are the days of knocking on doors and cold-calling businesses. Today’s customer prefers to carry out research online and do business on their own terms. That means your online manufacturing business needs to be easy to find, accessible, and highly engaging. Choosing the right e-commerce platform can ensure that you have a strong online presence, attract the right kinds of customers, and stay ahead of the competition.
- Accounting and customer management
Data is an inevitable by-product of e-commerce transformation. By harnessing this data in the right way and turning it into valuable insights, manufacturers can say goodbye to spreadsheets and physical ledgers, and automate many of their manual accounting processes. This will feed directly into contact management capabilities, allowing you to strengthen your client relationships through predicting their needs and fulfilling them more quickly.
Considerations when selecting an e-commerce platform
Moving complex manual operations online might seem daunting, but with the right e-commerce platform in place, manufacturers stand to gain a lot with relatively minimal disruption. By shifting some of your processes online and handing control to your customers, you’re actually streamlining your services and making things less complex.
The only challenge then is to ensure your e-commerce channels are tightly linked to the rest of your business. Advanced’s Manufacturing Software, for instance, will ensure that your e-commerce functions work seamlessly with every other part of your business, from stock control and accounting, to payroll and contact management. Altering product data within the Manufacturing Software will automatically update the e-commerce side of things, dramatically reducing the amount of work it would otherwise take.
If you’re a small to medium-sized manufacturer, and you’re interested in harnessing the potential of e-commerce as we emerge from the pandemic, find out more about our Manufacturing Software.