Electronic commerce (or e-commerce) is the method of buying and selling over the internet, as opposed to (or in conjunction with) having the traditional presence of a physical shop.
It has never been more important for manufacturing SMEs to adopt an e-commerce strategy. In this ever-changing world, not doing so could leave you languishing behind the competition.
Whereas a more embracing approach could be the catalyst for transformative and monumentally positive results.
Benefits of e-commerce for manufacturers
Adapting to COVID-19 changes
The decline of physical shops was a trend that was already in full swing, even before the seismic events of the past 2-3 years. This was likely a result of the constant improvements seen in online shopping, and the convenience that comes with that technology.
The pandemic accelerated this trend at a pace that many businesses struggled with and the financial fallout will be felt for many years to come.
New social norms and consumer buying habits has meant that selling directly online has been a silver bullet for many companies trying to find a route to salvation post-COVID-19. For some, it’s possible that it may be the only method of thriving going forward too, at least in the short-term.
Reaching more customers
Even if you’re not ready to start distributing to an international audience, having an online presence at least ensures you can reach beyond the boundaries of your own locality.
The scope for the number of customers you can reach is almost unlimited, as anyone can find your online store. Conversely, only a very select portion of buyers will find your physical premises.
Your e-commerce store can be operational 24 hours a day, allowing for more sales to take place, and without the need for extra manpower. Someone could make a purchase on your platform at midnight, and the system would take care of it.
This goes to show that a large part of your sales process can be automated, because a website doesn’t require the same level of governance that a physical space does.
Exposure for all of your products
You may have buyers who purchase the same items every time they engage in a transaction with you. But these customers may be completely oblivious to the full extent of your inventory.
Having a website with an e-commerce function ensures that your entire catalogue gets a chance in the spotlight. This could open a whole new stream of revenue, as you may have certain pieces of stock that rarely sell, simply because they’re not visible enough.
Better understanding of existing customers
Another benefit of e-commerce is that you can arguably understand your customers to a greater degree, thanks to the kind of insights that are accessible on systems such as Shopify (one of the most well-known e-commerce platforms).
It’s easier to analyse exactly what consumers are buying, when they’re buying it, and other preferences. Which in turn allows you to give a better service (as you can cater to their specific needs).
You can also provide a more customisable product set. When purchasing online, customers can select unique specifications (such as different sizes, shapes, colours, etc). This in turn allows you to see the exact requirements for each buyer.
Gaining access to the benefits of e-commerce could result in substantial growth, thanks to an increase in sales.
The idea of growing too quickly might be a source of anxiety for many small manufacturers. No company wants to be over-extended, or to operate above their own means.
But remember that an e-commerce system largely automates the online sales aspect of your activities. All you then need to figure out is how to connect the e-commerce function to the rest of your business, in order to scale up in a completely smooth manner.
The implementation of Manufacturing Software would achieve exactly that. By automating a large chunk of your operations, the very real risk that comes with fast growth is nullified.
How to link e-commerce to the rest of your business
The adoption of Manufacturing Software is a proven way to link your e-commerce platform to every other component of your business (including accounting, payroll, stock control, CRM and more).
Manufacturing Software and e-commerce systems can communicate with one another when something important changes.
If you alter a product price or description in the Manufacturing Software, this will update accordingly on the e-commerce side of things. If a customer makes a purchase via the e-commerce platform, this is then fed back in the other direction, instantaneously updating the inventory levels and generating a sales order.
The system can make bold predictions regarding what will be needed going forward, based on previous activity. It can also order new materials when stock levels drop below a certain threshold, which subsequently removes the threat of making an online sale when you are out of stock.
The automation of these repetitive tasks frees up a lot of time for employees to focus on more value-adding activities.
If you’re ready to harness the true power of e-commerce, take a more detailed look at our Manufacturing software solutions market page.