We’ve all heard the mantra “the customer is always right”, and never has that been truer than in today’s consumer-centric landscape. The customer experience is now the driving force behind business innovation, and companies in all sectors are building their products and services in a way that meets the ever-changing expectations of the modern consumer.
The customer experience used to be something that only bricks-and-mortar stores (or basic online outlets) had to be concerned with. It was regarded as part of the ‘service wrapping’ to buying a product. Today, however, with personalisation more or less expected, and vendors attempting to do more and more to please their customers, manufacturers are slowly being turned into customer-centric organisations themselves.
So, let’s take a look at some of the factors influencing customer expectations, and crucially, how your business can capitalise on them as part of a customer-centric approach. We’ll also look at how cutting-edge software can help you, as a manufacturer, to harness B2C trends and service elements to improve interactivity/engagement with your business audience.
Why are manufacturers shifting to a customer-centric approach?
As we have already touched on, the commercial world has shifted to put the customer very much at its centre. This is in no small part due to how sophisticated the customer journey has become, with new touchpoints emerging to give customers more control over their purchasing experience.
From smartphones to smart speakers, customers are becoming accustomed to shopping on their own terms, in something that some marketers have dubbed The Amazon Effect. According to Marketing Week, around 50% of consumers today regularly use at least four different touchpoints on their buying journey (from picking up the phone, to hopping onto a website’s live chat). This is no doubt due to a shift in daily habits and routines as our lives become more intertwined with technology (even more so since the start of the pandemic).
This translates into business purchases too. As the shopping experience continues to become more convenient, presenting your business customers with even more options in terms of how they research your products and interact with you as a seller. It stands to reason that product customisation would be next on the list. After all, personalisation and customisation are a core part of the B2C retail experience they see in their everyday lives.
This is causing manufacturers in almost all sectors to rethink their approach. Instead of bulk producing standardised products for a particular set of specifications, products are now being manufactured in a way that allows them to be configured to varying degrees, depending on the product and the customer’s needs. Manufacturers that can bend with their customers’ requirements are more likely to retain them (and to compete for new ones).
What are the benefits of meeting customer expectations for manufacturers?
This shift from a B2B to a B2C-oriented model might not seem natural for manufacturers, but it has untold benefits in today’s customer-centric landscape. Here are just a few of the benefits that arise from changing your strategy, to better meet the needs of customers in manufacturing:
Increased time to market
Personalisation used to involve a lengthy retail cycle, with the development of a product locked in weeks or months in advance to fulfil a bespoke order. Today, manufacturers can present customers with numerous options at the point of purchase that can be rapidly actioned before dispatch, giving them a huge competitive advantage.
By keeping up with the trend toward personalisation themselves, manufacturers remove the risk of their products being chopped and changed by third parties, ensuring quality and control from the factory floor to the end-user.
The more customisable options manufacturers include, the more customers they’re likely to attract. They’ll also be able to more easily reinforce their MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price), ensuring maximum return for their goods.
Using technology to harness elements of B2C as a manufacturer
There’s a lot to consider when it comes to catering more directly to customer requirements. Manufacturers are unique in that they’re dealing with a customer base that’s also very business-oriented.
Those customers will be looking to make informed and considered purchases with potentially complex requirements (that span multiple orders at scale). So beyond innovating their development capabilities and processes, manufacturers will also need to think about ways to present configurable options to customers, with the use of an online storefront, and the help of a robust and agile e-commerce solution.
At Advanced, our Manufacturing Software provides businesses with this capability and more, allowing a predominantly B2B company to embrace a customer-centric approach. The system helps to put your online sales into autopilot, by seamlessly connecting your e-commerce platform with your production, stock control and financial processes.
If you’re a small to medium-sized manufacturer, and you’re interested in harnessing e-commerce as part of your B2C strategy, be sure to read more about our Manufacturing software.