As a manufacturer, you know what is best for your business and you only want to help grow your brand. Understanding the intricacies of the marketplace and how it may change in the future is vital to ensuring that your company stays ahead of any competitors. Adapting to current technological advancements is one way generate growth opportunities, none of which is as important as getting to grips with B2B eCommerce, something which has the capability to greatly transform your manufacturing business for the better.
What is B2B eCommerce?
B2B eCommerce should be a crucial part for all businesses, and eCommerce for manufacturing companies is no different. Essentially, what this phrase stands for is business to business electronic commerce and this refers specifically to online transactions that occur between businesses.
AI in B2B eCommerce
AI solutions are now widely implemented across eCommerce platforms and are much easier to use and apply to your business than has ever previously been the case. According to studies, more than 60% of businesses have used AI tools relating to eCommerce since 2017, all of which is a significant increase from 2016 where just 38% were using the same tools. Of these businesses, over three quarters claim that through using AI in eCommerce, they have seen marked improvements to both their marketing and sales processes.
Incorporating AI to your eCommerce branding strategies can be something as simple as testing a tool that recommends potential products to customers and then generates email suggestions to them through machine learning processes, streamlining the entire system in a highly targeted way. However, one of the major benefits of experimenting with different AI tools and strategies in relation to your manufacturing business is that you can then expand your AI budget where necessary in order to explore different options in order to improve the quality of the customer experience you can offer as well as grow the overall number of eCommerce sales you are generating.
How to Create an Intelligent B2B eCommerce Strategy for a Manufacturing Business
Manufacturers need to embrace B2B eCommerce to remain competitive in the ever-growing global digital economy. With just a few well-conceived and well-thought-out strategies in place, a number of manufacturers’ winning formulas for growth in B2B eCommerce will be created in no time at all and a whole new world of opportunities for your manufacturing brand will open up before you.
eCommerce in manufacturing is a concept that is only going to continue to grow in the coming years. Attitudes within the sector are changing and there is a general consensus that both manufacturers and distributors alike will begin adapting to this shift and B2B eCommerce manufacturing strategies will become commonplace.
Build Your Presence Online First
In making the shift to online, many manufacturers have difficulty deciding where to concentrate their resources and how best to create an intelligent strategy. However, increasing your online presence for customers who want to buy directly is one consideration that should be at the forefront of your plans because by making desirable products available on a number of marketplace websites, it means that you are creating sales options across multiple different channels, increasing the likelihood of driving more conversions.
Website Engagement Is Critical
It also should go without saying but if you are looking to have a strong online presence, then your website or trade portal must be highly engaging and easy to use. Establishing and maintaining a well-designed website is necessary regardless of your industry or sector and should display everything you have to offer. Each of your inventory stock items should include quality images, relevant specifications and product details, giving customers all the important information they would need when looking to make a purchase.
Digitally listed goods and inventory stock should be searchable and accessible at any time so customers can check availability and dispatch information in real-time with a great level accuracy. Your eCommerce site for your manufacturing business should be responsive across all devices, laptops, tablets and mobiles. In fact, with the growth in mobile commerce only expected to continue rising exponentially, investing heavily in mobile technology for digital commerce is something that you can’t go wrong with.
Best Practices in Manufacturing B2B eCommerce
The right eCommerce platform will support digital marketing efforts and integrate with other business solutions but what are the main benefits and the best practices it can have for your manufacturing business?
- Access to New Markets: Scaling into new territories and new markets is made a whole lot easier and cost-effective when you choose to focus on eCommerce. Essentially, the main reason for this is that it just costs less and the results are much simpler to keep track of. This increased market reach and overall greater brand awareness that can be created will ultimately yield a higher number of sales possibilities down the line.
- Greater Efficiency: eCommerce can help to greatly improve back-end efficiencies. An effective eCommerce solution can easily integrate with your ERP, CRM, PIM and any other of systems you use. If it doesn’t integrate, it’s really pretty redundant. This is why it’s vital to plan for integration during the platform selection process itself, in order to maximize the potential of incorporating eCommerce.
- The Customer Gets Put First: It’s not just on the back-end that you’ll see improvements, any and all forward-facing operations can benefit greatly from eCommerce as well. With customers able to order online, check the status of existing and future orders whenever and wherever they want, everything becomes much more streamlined. No longer will time be wasted time taking orders and answering order status questions over the phone or via email which clogs up the whole process. With this being freed up, your customer service and sales teams can focus on nurturing leads, building relationships and offering impeccable customer service which can only help to encourage repeat business.
- Improvements to Shipping: Digitising the freight process will let you focus on getting orders out of your warehouse, off the loading dock and into the hands of customers. As an extra added little bonus, you will have probably eliminated the need to rekey any data into an outdated order system which reduces the likelihood of shipping errors occurring.
- Ease of Innovation: Experimenting, innovating and conceiving of new ways to improve your manufacturing business is made much simpler by incorporating B2B eCommerce strategies. If you have a concept for an improved product, it allows you to act on your visions, undertake analysis and alter your approach over a short period of time all to give your customers what they want. As an example, if they want you to focus more on the importance of sustainability in retail, eCommerce will give you the flexibility to offer this or anything else they desire easily.
- Scalability: Effective application of an eCommerce strategy in manufacturing will enable your organisation to grow and scale much more easily. This will allow you to meet increased market demand and tackle any possible customer needs by opening up new sales channels and always being able to reach exciting markets.
It can seem difficult for manufacturing companies to stand out from the crowd due to the nature of the products and services they are offering, but the ones that do, reap the benefits many times over. So let’s take a look at some that have implemented digital eCommerce into their strategies successfully and the takeaways you may be able to apply to your own business.
- Caterpillar: As a leading supplier of machinery that builds, destroys, and can basically handle everything in between, Caterpillar Products are well recognised around the globe. However, they are one of the few manufacturing brands that are able to utilise social media to leverage their eCommerce platforms. Despite it being challenging for industrial companies, they have garnered a strong following on social media and Youtube where they regularly post product demos, maintenance how-to’s, and examples of their equipment performing strange tasks. These garner millions of views and it is a savvy way of displaying product versatility in a memorable way.
- Shapeways: As a company specialising in 3D printing and manufacturing, Shapeways utilise their blog as a way to drive information, interest, and future sales based upon the high quality of their content. It shows them to be a trusted company and is a way to display the level of their work across their digital platforms as they set themselves up to be industry leaders in a growing market.
- General Motors: General Motor’s incorporation of eCommerce is a major contributing factor as why they remain one of the top automotive companies globally. This includes customised messaging to in regards to targeting potential customers across different markets, something which is made incredibly easier by using eCommerce platforms. The level of personalisation in their approach allows them to be incredibly precise and specific, enhancing credibility as they look to further solidify their strong market position.
- Volvo: Another leading car manufacturer, Volvo is beginning to focus on offering its users a true omnichannel experience. By understanding that more and more people are wanting to search, view and purchase across different platforms, the Swedish automobile company is testing offering direct internet sales of its cars in different countries as an immediate response to this growing trend to drive increased sales. Volvo’s online features include the ability to have a vehicle valued before trading in and online credit verification which concludes with an e-signature. Buyers are also able to observe how any selected add-on options or engine upgrades change their monthly payment at the click of a button enhancing the user experience.
More and more manufacturing companies are rapidly moving towards incorporating eCommerce strategies. Those manufacturing brands who achieve a successful application of eCommerce in manufacturing stand to have a competitive advantage who are living in the past. Looking to the future, it appears that this eCommerce approach will only be taken further the relevant technology improves.
This is because the benefits are just too good to ignore, namely that an intelligent eCommerce strategy will:
- Give you access to new markets
- Improve scalability
- Make innovation easier
- Offer improved efficiency
- Improve shipping functionality
and, most importantly, give your customers what they want. However, it can be difficult to know where to start when wanting to create, upgrade or streamline your eCommerce site, companies like Appnova have years of industry experience in helping brands design for a fully operational and successful eCommerce website.