The recent global pandemic accelerated the shift in B2B buyer preference for buying online. Your customers experienced the convenience of online shopping with online retailers like Amazon, Media Markt, and Fnac. If they can buy an advanced electric car online in their personal lives, why can’t they buy industrial equipment, vehicles, or complete manufacturing solutions and the matching spare parts online?
The reality is, they can—and it’s becoming a necessity instead of a trend. Leading manufacturers have already done this. As you are reading this article, you probably are looking to do that too. In this article, we will tell you what you should look out for to get the best commerce solution for your business.
Accelerate your solution search with this Commerce Software Requirements Checklist. Use it to see what Commerce features your business needs, and what to focus on in your vendor search.
Typical features of a modern Commerce storefront for manufacturing
Manufacturers can use Commerce capabilities to offer customers 24/7 self-service access to their business. This allows them to browse, get information, and buy from one platform—making the buying experience as painless as that offered by any B2C online retailer. This process is much faster than asking for and receiving an outdated catalog and consulting a sales representative to start a long transaction cycle.
With Commerce, customers simply log on and explore your online catalog of complex products, solutions, spare parts, and consumables. Once they know what they need, they can select, configure the products according to their requirements, and check out—ending the transaction on the same day. If they require assistance, they can send an online inquiry to your sales rep with just a few clicks and your specialists can take over from there.
This level of convenience can also be extended to your partners, dealers, or distributors. They can easily perform the same functions, while the system automatically calculates and applies the appropriate discounts, markups, and currency exchange based on their location or company.
Providing 24/7 self-service access to your business also means the latest innovations can appear in front of customers and partners in minutes instead of weeks. Customers or partners who buy can also register equipment directly with you. This is an example of commerce excellence.
And the best way to offer it while maintaining a highly efficient sales process is to use one platform. This single source-of-truth approach means your commerce strategy becomes highly manageable, while customers and partners retain control and transparency in every transaction they have with your manufacturing business.
The features we mentioned above are just some of the key functionalities a Commerce portal for manufacturers should have. Your business may have unique requirements. In our Software Requirements Checklist, we added all the typical features that leading manufacturers ask for.
Here is that list of primary features your manufacturing-focused Commerce portal should have.
|Storefront Design Tools & Theming||Product & Services Catalog||Product & Solution Data Management (PIM)|
Promotions & Discounts Management
|Recommendations / Personalization|
|Guided Selling||Visual Product Selection / Configuration||Purchased Products / Installed Base View|
|Configure-to-Order for Products and Solutions||Price & Cost Calculation Engine (ERP Pricing)||Account / User Management|
|Shopping Cart Management||Inquiry & Quote Checkout||Checkout Management|
|Shipping Options & Handling||Payment options||Post-Order Management|
|Dealer Portal||Internationalization||Security & Workflows|
|Website Integration||Quotation / CPQ Integration||CRM Integration|
|Customer service Integration||Omnichannel enablement|
Commerce for manufacturing simplifies the buying process and makes it available to customers 24/7
Our Commerce software requirements checklist also includes granular features your business may need
Identify the goals your Commerce portal should achieve
Finding the right Commerce platform for manufacturing can be a challenge. One-size-fits-all commerce solutions often require extensive consultation and customization to meet business needs. Often they also cannot integrate with a manufacturer’s existing systems—and, most severely, their ERP. To find the right solution for your manufacturing business, you would need to be clear on what your future solution needs to achieve.
- Do you want to simply provide an online catalog?
- Or do you want to instantly push innovations to your customers?
- Do you want to give partners and dealers easy access to your product information?
- Or should they have access to your entire complex portfolio?
- Do you want to offer customers the option to inquire products or solutions?
- Or do you want to offer self-service configuration and buying?
Once you narrow down on your goals, you can identify the key features that make your Commerce platform a potent new sales channel that can increase your revenue.
Here are the powerful business outcomes a Commerce portal, part of a powerful Digital Sales Platform, can deliver:
Offer a shorter path to deal completion
- 24/7 self-service product configuration and transactions
- Guided selling to help customers identify and buy faster
Fully manage global sales channels
- Offer automatically calculated, margin-protected prices and discounts
- Instantly push out innovations and promotions across a global salesforce
Provide a powerful new sales channel
- Provide customers and partners with access to all products and services
- Automated matching parts and consumables suggestions based on the install base
Find a best-fit Commerce solution for your manufacturing business by identifying your business goals
Who are the Commerce users in your manufacturing business?
A Commerce solution can accelerate sales for your business and increase the efficiency of your global sales teams. However, it is not exclusively a tool just for the sales team. Marketing teams can use it to push out promotions in minutes. The product team can pilot new products or upload sales relevant documentation. Customer service can potentially upsell or cross-sell spare parts and consumables.
Identifying the users, roles, and departments that benefit from your Commerce solution early on can help you define a much more suitable Commerce solution for your business. At the same time, your digitalization approach, budget, and goals can be more focused.
List of departments that could benefit from an advanced Commerce software built for manufacturing
A Commerce solution that powers your entire digital sales strategy
In parallel to identifying the potential users, manufacturers should also strategize on how to expand on the potential of their Commerce solution. In manufacturing, Commerce can be more than just putting your products on sale through a web store. You have digital marketplaces for that. With your own online portal, you can offer customers unprecedented access to your business and effectively bind them to your business.
A manufacturing-focused Commerce store can embed other sales acceleration tools such as a configure-price quote (CPQ). For manufacturers with complex products and solutions, that means your customers can easily log on to your portal, and configure—even in 2D or 3D—what they want to buy using always-accurate configuration models and prices that might even come from your ERP directly. This capability can also be extended to your distributors or partners, who can configure and sell just as quickly. With a CPQ, you can streamline your entire sales process and save a significant amount on the costs of sales.
For example, machine manufacturers can let customers select a base model in their online sales portal which will be submitted as an inquiry. Sales can now work on the specific requirements and add-ons, finalize the configuration and provide a fully customized proposal within a day.
Having your Commerce portal synced with customer relationship management (CRM) capabilities help your sales team gain deep insights into customer buying behavior. With a 360-degree view, your sales will see what models and variations the customer typically buys, and how often they buy consumables. This can help sales create individualized, perfect-match offers when they engage customers. Sales Management can do precise demand planning and forecasting based on real-time data. And peaks and valleys in production utilization can be balanced through special offers and discounts.
In summary, manufacturers are implementing Commerce to empower customers to buy on their own terms. But when Commerce is part of a complete digital sales platform manufacturers can benefit along the entire customer lifecycle, steer production costs and even optimize supply chains.
Define your manufacturing Commerce requirements
Our checklist is put together with a focus on optimizing the end-to-end sales process. Working through the checklist will help you need to find your individually required Commerce features. It also helps you to identify additional capabilities needed to fully transform and align your sales process with your customer journey.
Some useful questions to ask yourself and your team when building a Commerce requirements list
Some questions to ask when refining your Commerce requirements list:
- How can it improve your current sales, after-sales, and channel sales processes?
- Can it be scaled according to your growth strategy?
- Is it easy for your typical customers or partners to use?
- Is it easy to maintain from your IT, or even better, the business side?
- How will it improve the customer buying journey?
- Is the Commerce function enough to help you reach your goals? (hint: it’s only part of the solution)
Send a Commerce feature compliance list to potential vendors
After asking critical questions about your Commerce initiative's goals and identifying the users, it’s time to define a selection team. This team would include decision-makers and users alike. The teams—like sales, customer service, after-sales, or marketing—that use the Commerce portal most should have the most input on ranking features.
Once you have concluded what is most important to your business, you can quickly turn your requirements list into a compliance document and send it to potential vendors. Based on their replies, you can create a shortlist, and the selection team would then narrow down their choices and start negotiations. Keep an eye out for transparent pricing and business conditions to avoid being locked into a solution that may not deliver the promised results. Once the preferred vendor has been selected, the team would proceed to get buy-in from all stakeholders.
Conclusion: A careful Commerce software vendor selection pays off
Once you have selected your vendor—one that should ideally be a trusted digitalization partner—the next step of your digitalization journey can start. From here on, an implementation team should be assigned. This team would then start collaborating with the vendor to implement your digital sales solution. Your digitalization partner will help you maintain clarity on the expected ROI, fully map out your implementation approach, and guide you on the evaluation process.
The right partner with manufacturing expertise and experience will understand what digital sales success for your business looks like. They will be able to draw on their knowledge to guide you along the path to digital maturity.
To get a head start in your Commerce selection process, download our Software Requirements Checklist, and select from our pre-built Commerce feature list. This list is based on manufacturing industry standards and covers the needs of most manufacturing companies. We know that Commerce is only one piece of the puzzle in your sales digitalization. That is why the checklist also includes features and capabilities for CPQ and CRM—key components in an effective digital sales solution for manufacturers.
With this checklist, you can strategize on how to digitalize and align your customer journey and sales process. And meet your customers where they are, every step of the way. If you would like to have a deeper conversation about your challenges and digital sales requirements, you can always book a no-obligation consultation with our experts. We will be more than happy to walk you through how a modern sales solution built for manufacturing can help your business.