2020 is coming to an end, and we happily accept that. The COVID-19 pandemic made this an especially challenging year for manufacturers with strained revenues and resources. On the other hand, economic challenges have forced businesses to reinvent business models and innovate faster than ever. 2021 lies ahead of us, and it presents opportunities, not just for recovery but unprecedented growth.
Drawing from our year-long experience working with manufacturers in different sectors around the globe, here come our top trends for industrial sales in 2021.
Trend 1: Make B2B Sales as agile and responsive as B2C
As B2B decision-makers grow increasingly consumerist in their demands, the pressure on manufacturers builds up. The Amazon-Effect is not a new trend, but one that Covid-19 intensified. Manufacturers, with all their complexities around specialized products, demanding quotes, and entanglement of sales channels, services, and supply chains, are the last ones to yearn for more pressure. But ultimately, even the most traditional industrial businesses are being pulled into digital landscapes to meet this demand.
Capturing on-point customer requirements and offering best-match customized industrial products in a short amount of time is just the beginning of a complex customer journey. A flawless customer engagement from RFQ to delivery and beyond is becoming the new norm in customer expectations.
According to PWC, an astounding 86% of B2B buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience. Walker even predicts that customer experience will overtake price and product as a key brand differentiator. Manufacturers that leverage end-to-end digital sales processes with fully connected data sources can monetize the massive potential that this new customer expectation level presents. Be it through massive gains in sales efficiency, eliminating costly errors, or the newly found agility in responding to customer needs.
Trend 2: Evolve Customer Experience in direct and indirect sales channels
Before the pandemic, B2B buyers were just beginning to adopt digital touchpoints. With the rapid decline of face-to-face customer engagements, more than three quarters of buyers AND sellers say they now prefer digital self-serve models. Amidst quarantine orders and shuttered offices, this trend was born from forced safety precautions. B2B buyers are now voluntarily opting for the convenience and efficiency of these self-serve options, at least at some point in the buyers’ journey; when researching products, placing orders, arranging after-market services, and buying spare-parts.
That also means that along the complex and lengthy customer journey in manufacturing purchases, the buyer also touches non-digital channels. Sellers must find ways to integrate data from all channels – be it through direct sales, partners, distributors, or e-commerce – into one single source of truth to delight their customers.
In their 2020 report, PWC states that omnichannel investments have risen from 20% to more than 80%. Leading manufacturers are focusing on providing a consistent customer experience regardless of the channel. Retaining customers, winning new ones, and selling profitably was and always will be a challenge for manufacturers. One that can only be faced with a robust digital strategy that includes all channels.
Trend 3: XaaS offerings revolutionize the manufacturing go-to-market
Anything-as-a-Service (XaaS) is now a go-to operating model for delivering IT services, which is promising higher customer retention, and recurring revenue. But how can manufacturers turn this business model into a sustainable revenue stream? For industrial sellers, XaaS can range from essential services to complete ownership of the customers’ output.
What if you couple skyrocketing demand for self-service options in B2B engagements with the technological opportunities of XaaS? To differentiate and win the competitive race, more manufacturers are transitioning to innovative selling models.
Industrial After-Sales services and products such as support, repair, maintenance, or the supply of spare parts and consumables in an XaaS model, allow manufacturers to build a strong connection with customers throughout a product’s life-cycle. But it can be so much more. Offering After-Sales products through e-commerce channels also proves to be an effective source of new leads and a low-risk way to expand into new regions and markets.
Our advice to Manufacturers in 2021
The Covid-19 crisis fuels a massive increase in digital adoption and a rise in consumerist expectations in the B2B field. Industry-specific technology platforms present new opportunities to reinvent manufacturing sales, win and delight customers on a new level and grow the business sustainably. Manufacturing leaders that commit to digitalizing their sales can reap the rewards in the form of significant competitive advantages.
Can we offer personalized advice to you to help shape your 2021 strategy? Contact our experts for a free consultation!