eCommerce for manufacturers is more critical than ever. But before you launch an eCommerce platform, it’s important to talk to your customers, commit to an architecture, organize your data governance, and prepare for change.
As a manufacturer, having a viable digital channel where your partners, sales reps, and customers can digitally interact with and purchase your products is a necessity. Buyers are demanding that manufacturers are easy to do business with, or they will take their business elsewhere. On the other hand, reward them with an elegant and easy-to-use interface, and they will increase their spend with you up to 30%, per a McKinsey study.
Armed with this information, it’s tempting to go out and purchase an eCommerce solution for manufacturing from a leading provider. However, before you take that important step, you must do four critical things first. These four steps are an important part of a manufacturer’s eCommerce strategy, ensuring that you’ll actually meet goals of retaining customers, increasing revenue, and boosting sales team productivity.
Let’s break down the four steps of how to launch eCommerce for manufacturers successfully.
1) Talk to your customers and design the right experience.
“There is never no design, just bad design,” is a favorite saying of Kelly Rader, VP of Digital Experience at Object Edge. She is right. You can leverage an out-of-the-box template or ask your developers to just implement features, but you’ll practically guarantee that your customers won’t leverage your platform.
That’s because customers and developers don't think the same. Consequently, solid B2B eCommerce for manufacturers makes sure designers leverage the voice of the customer to properly define and design key customer workflows before developers get to them.
With 81% of marketers saying they anticipate competing for customers based on Customer Experience alone in just 2 years’ time, CX-driven designs are more important than ever.
2) Pick and commit to an architecture ideology.
Chances are you already have a technology architecture in your organization. However, there is also a good chance that it is not the ideal architecture to quickly deliver optimal experiences to your buyers.
In 2021, many organizations are committing to a MACH architecture (Microservices, API-first, Cloud, Headless) as it provides the most flexibility to achieve the modern needs of IT teams. The good news is that you don’t have to convert to MACH in one fell swoop, and can take a crawl-walk-run approach to moving towards MACH.
The MACH Alliance, of which Object Edge is a member, provides excellent literature on how you can move towards such an architecture.
3) Organize your data governance.
Before you can begin configuring eCommerce solutions for manufacturers, you’ll need to make sure that your data is ready. Not only do you need to have access to the data, but it will need to be organized to deliver the experiences you designed during step one.
Typically when developing ecommerce strategies for manufacturers, you’ll need to focus on the following data sets:
Product (includes inventory and images) data
Attributes in each one of these data sets will need to be identified, organized, and exposed in the ‘right’ ways in order to optimally meet the needs of your buyers.
4) Prepare your organization for change.
If you’re preparing a manufacturer eCommerce site launch for a large organization, you’ll have multiple lines of business, each with stakeholders who have different wants and needs that your eCommerce business will need to satisfy. Accordingly, exploring how new technology needs to be integrated into your lines of business is something that you’ll have to consider before, during, and after you launch a new platform.
Stakeholders from across the organization will need a continuous stream of input into the requirements. Their operational teams will need to continuously validate that those needs are being met, and that they are in alignment with changes mandated by their own internal projects (and there will be changes!).
Ensuring that stakeholders are continuously contributing to requirements, being updated about the program, and having expectations set and reset based on changes throughout the organization will be key.
eCommerce for manufacturers in no small undertaking. Before you launch (or relaunch) an eCommerce platform, it’s important to talk to your customers, commit to an architecture, organize your data governance, and prepare for change.
While implementing eCommerce in the manufacturing industry can seem overwhelming, the advantages of eCommerce for manufacturers far outweigh the costs.
In fact, 39% of manufacturers report overall revenue growth thanks to launching an eCommerce channel, and 38% say it improves business performance.
Additionally, customers are increasingly expecting manufacturers to offer eCommerce, with 75% of B2B orders now occurring online.
Rohit is a forward-thinking eCommerce evangelist, especially focused on re-energizing the B2B sector and merging the old disciplines with new technology opportunities. He is passionate about delivering profitable growth through people-driven digital transformation. Watch his talk on digital transformation.