How manufacturers can win with e-commerce

Joakim Gavelin
30 October, 23

As is the case with many business processes, the pandemic was a game changer for e-commerce manufacturers. COVID-19 put the pressure on for manufacturers to elevate their digital commerce offering, taking it beyond a simple web store and a few digitally accessible catalogues.

Traditionally, manufacturers faced long selling cycles, relied heavily on face-to-face interactions, and dealt with complex ranges of specialist products. And this, combined with the fact that very little of manufacturers’ revenue comes from e-commerce, meant that many manufacturers had little interest in developing their e-commerce channels.

A digital sales wave is now starting to take over as digitalisation of customer and supply chain interactions and market share of digitally enabled products continue to grow. According to a survey among decision makers at manufacturers, digital enablement is expected to increase product sales (44 per cent), improve customer loyalty (43 per cent), and improve customer insights (41 per cent). To avoid being left behind by the competition, manufacturers need to tap into the e-commerce momentum and build for the future.

So how can manufacturers use the power of e-commerce to win?

Ensure the buying journey is frictionless

Making the e-buying experience as frictionless as possible is key in promoting online ordering. Thankfully, the vast majority of B2B decision-makers now favour digital self-service or remote human contacts as data shows that nearly 70% of B2B inquiries are now conducted on a smartphone, which means that creating mobile-friendly websites is critical.

Even the most passionate supporters of online shopping, however, will be turned off by a website that loads slowly, makes information difficult to access, or makes it difficult for users to quickly follow the status of their orders.

Checkout and payment procedures are a major part of the customer experience as 17% of cart abandonments occur as a result of a difficult or drawn-out checkout process. To manage purchase orders, organisational approvals, one-click ordering, and immediate payments, manufacturers need to implement effective online workflows, ensuring that all implementation and post-sale obligations are clear to buyers through the procedure.

Build a true omnichannel experience

The onslaught of data and new digital channels have drastically altered the B2B buying process. This gives manufacturers more opportunities than ever to win over clients and close deals. In the coming years, businesses hope to move up to 60% of their sales online. However, in order to get this outcome, they must first develop a B2B omnichannel strategy.

Before making a purchase, B2B buyers typically interact with companies at eight different touchpoints. Consistency and quality of experience are given top priority in a solid B2B e-commerce strategy across all touchpoints. That includes all online shops, markets, social media platforms, and really any other way that customers interact with businesses. This will encourage a “sell everywhere” approach.

When considering omnichannel strategies, consistency of information is crucial. Getting the correct data in front of the right audience is essential whether developing a direct online sales channel or the so-called “Ro/Po” where customers use websites for research prior to an offline sale. Only then can manufacturers promote an e-commerce experience that is genuinely multichannel.

Develop interactive content and tools

The truth is that some products are simply much more complex than others. These difficulties in manufacturing were formerly resolved by specialised, face-to-face sales. Nowadays, manufacturers need to utilise guided selling with the most up-to-date visualisation tools on the digital shelf, such as 3D configurators, virtual photography, drawings and diagrams, ROI calculators, and video tutorials.

Customers may find it easier to match products and item qualities thanks to these technologies. By doing this, self-service transactions may be supported, and conversion rates can rise.

Another excellent method to up the e-commerce game is to offer personalised content gateway. According to a recent study, 86% of B2B buyers felt overloaded with content. Equally, nearly 40% of respondents to the same survey claimed the information still left them with unanswered questions. The amount of content noise can be greatly reduced by using a personalised portal as it guarantees the delivery of the appropriate information at the appropriate time and may even encourage post-sale opportunities like cross-selling and up-selling.

Provide accurate product information

Even the most eager customers may become disenchanted if the product information is outdated, difficult to find, or incorrect. In fact, according to a study of UK-based decision-makers, 26% of them think the “biggest obstacle” to choosing a reliable supplier is erroneous product information. Manufacturers may find it difficult to establish remote customer interactions without clear and accurate information being freely available.

Keeping track of all the moving pieces in a large, dynamic, or complicated product ecosystem can be challenging. Fortunately, an efficient product information management (PIM) platform can help in maintaining control as all product information comes from a single source.

Implementing a PIM platform such as inriver ensures that all product content will be accurate and consistent across all channels. Each digital touchpoint will be optimised for conversion thanks to features like product data syndication (PDS) and digital shelf analytics (DSA), which are game-changing capabilities.

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