In B2B manufacturing, speed is key to closing deals. Customers are not willing to wait too long for a quote, repair machines, or replenish consumables. Any delays can send your customers looking for alternative solutions to address their needs fast. Customers and partners now expect self-serve capabilities. They want to buy your products on their terms, whenever they want.
How your customers expect to buy today:
- A personalized self-serve buying experience, where only the most relevant options are visible
- Interactive 2D or 3D product and solution visualization powered by the digital tools you use
- The ability to configure and buy using real-time prices and automatically applied discounts
To empower customers and partners with these buying options, manufacturers are increasingly turning to eCommerce solutions—a game-changing technology for the manufacturing industry. However, many of these initiatives fail to deliver the expected results—higher revenue.
3 reasons why B2B manufacturing businesses are not using eCommerce to its full potential
Manufacturers need to keep a lookout for these common barriers to eCommerce success
Download our Digital Sales Software Requirements Checklist to find out what features a winning eCommerce software for manufacturing should have.
Implementing eCommerce with “just a website” approach
- For manufacturers, eCommerce needs to be more than just a website that customers browse and buy from. This approach works for retail businesses with standard products and fixed prices. However, many manufacturers deal with much more sophisticated products. For example, equipment, machines, vehicles, technology, or custom components are configurable and come with a large variety of options. Having complex products and solutions means your eCommerce site needs to consider them and offer your customers a way to configure, buy, and get it delivered via your web portal.
Simply getting IT to extend your current website with bare minimum eCommerce functionality is not enough. That’s because your eCommerce store has the potential to be a powerful sales channel. It can be more than just a host for your online brochures or a channel for taking orders. It can be a digitized version of your business that customers and partners can access your manufacturing expertise from. It can also be a source of data that gives you insights into what your customers want and identify opportunities for upselling and cross-selling.
Wrong goals lead to wrong tools and wrong outcomes
- Simply having an online store is not going to improve revenue magically. In some cases, the reverse is true. There is a risk of spending large amounts on a general-purpose website that prioritizes aesthetics over function. In other words, an eCommerce store that looks impressive but does not help their business sell their complex products and solutions. When that happens, manufacturers can end up with an expensive online catalog—the wrong outcome. To make matters worse, integrating necessary features and tools to an existing eCommerce store could cost the manufacturer even more in terms of time, cost, and lost opportunities.
To avoid such a scenario, manufacturers need to be clear about the goals they want to achieve with their eCommerce store. Do you want to enable self-serve aftersales buying so you can lower the cost of sales and free up sales to hunt for the most profitable or strategic deals? Do you want your global sales channels to be equally consistent, productive, and efficient through sales automation? Do you want to provide an easier buying experience with advanced 2D/3D visualization tools? These are just some possibilities that manufacturers can pursue with their eCommerce strategy.
Sales is not involved in strategic eCommerce decisions
- Leading manufacturers use turn-key solutions to roll out their online stores quickly. With the right vendor, this can help achieve go-to-market goals fast. But manufacturers need to ensure the right-fit minimum viable product capabilities needed for end-to-end selling. For that, your eCommerce store needs to consult the sales team and ask this question: “How can our eCommerce portal help you sell better?” Ecommerce needs to have the right tools integrated to support sales goals, or it could end up competing against the sales team.
If there is competition, direct sales and the eCommerce portal can work in siloes. Instead, eCommerce should empower sales with automation that lifts the burden of manual work from them. With eCommerce, customers can find information or complete straightforward aftersales transactions without having to interact with sales. They can also configure products and solutions according to their needs before finalizing the quote with sales. In short, eCommerce should help sales sell more while giving customers the best buying or post-purchase experience.
So what does eCommerce success look like?
For manufacturers, eCommerce success is highly dependent on integration with the ERP and other digital tools that the business uses. When integrated with the ERP, it can reflect real-time pricing, discounts, and exchange rates across every region—whether through direct sales or channel sales. With CPQ integration, customers access true self-serve configuration and buying capabilities. Integration with a CRM, and the business gets a full 360 overview of their online and offline buying behavior. Simply put, having an integrated eCommerce portal gives customers 24/7 access to your business and its capabilities and gives your business direct access to your customers.
Get an easier way to reach and sell to customers
Just because the business day is over doesn’t mean you can’t sell. Thanks to globalization, there will always be a customer that wants to buy something from your business. They might have an urgent need for a particular spare part or consumable or are based in another part of the world. With an eCommerce portal, your business stays open even when physical doors are closed. The 24/7 self-service access that your customers now expect from their vendors. At the same time, manufacturers can reach their customers whenever they want. New products or promotions with a “BUY NOW” button can instantly be in front of customers, taking your go-to-market speed to a new high.
Self-serve capabilities make it easier for your customers to buy from your business
An eCommerce portal for manufacturing can even integrate with your digital tools. Manufacturers with highly complex products can even enrich their online catalog with 2D or 3D visualizations so customers can easily see and identify the products they want. Customers can also configure products according to their specifications or switch to intelligent Guided Selling so that the system can suggest the right configurations and add-ons for them. Once the configuration is done, they can buy it right away or send an inquiry with their exact requirements. All that’s left for your sales team to do is finalize the deal.
Manage your global sales network from one platform
An integrated eCommerce platform can help sales become more productive and efficient. But the possibilities don’t end there. The same benefits can also be extended to your partners, dealers, and distributors. They simply log in to the portal—the front-facing part of a Digital Sales Platform—and they get instant access to a personalized interface with the sales tools, prices, discounts, latest innovations, and promotions that they can use to sell better.
An eCommerce portal lets manufacturers manage and empower third-party sales
Integration with your ERP also lets your third-party sales network perform essential services for the customer. They can easily track orders or register equipment for customers with just a few clicks, just like your direct sales. With an embedded CRM, your Digital Sales Platform lets you harness eCommerce data, so your partner managers get full transparency and control over the partners, dealers, and distributors. It can help make your B2B eCommerce strategy easy to manage and easily scalable.
For manufacturers, aftersales can be a significant revenue stream. Leading manufacturers also position aftersales as a pillar of their customer service to maintain or improve customer retention. For customers, buying spare parts and consumables and asking for services through your eCommerce portal is easy, available 24/7, and convenient—a true business differentiator throughout the manufacturing industry. A portal that is integrated end-to-end also lets customers:
- Choose parts and consumables that match or complements their installed base
- Get real-time prices and preferential discounts that never eat into margins
- Access offers customized according to purchase history, region, or deal status
Aftersales can not only increase revenue, but it can also become a pillar of your customer service
An eCommerce built for the manufacturing industry also considers how transactions happen throughout the industry. Customers can opt for Online Payment—configure or select, pay and go—or the Request for Quote option. Online payment is an automated way to close deals, while the Request for Quote option helps spark meaningful conversations with the customer. Sales can use this opportunity to improve on the system-generated solution or upsell and cross-sell the latest innovations that customers may not be aware of. In summary, aftersales eCommerce can help free up sales to proactively engage the customer.
- Extend your products, solutions, and services to the global market
- Manage a complex web of partners, dealers, and distributors
- Provide customers and channel sales 24/7 access to the business
- Speed up go-to-market of innovations and promotions
- Uncover opportunities by acting as a channel for inbound leads
Your eCommerce portal is the face of the business and its sales process. It not only needs to look good; it has to be intelligent as well. It needs to be smart enough to know who is browsing your online store and what they want to buy. It needs to suggest the most appropriate products and give the most attractive but margin-protecting discounts. To achieve all of these benefits, eCommerce needs to be integrated with other digital tools. Manufacturers need to realize they’re not buying an eCommerce portal; they’re buying a complete digital transformation of their go-to-market approach.
Through integration with CPQ, your eCommerce portal offers customers powerful self-serve buying. For sales and partners, they get to bring your entire business to every customer engagement and finish off the meeting with a feasible quote instead of a promise to send one. With a CRM, the entire system leverages deep customer insights to enable a personalized experience for every user who logs into the portal. It can be intelligent enough to know what the customer has bought before and offer the best-match upgrades, spare parts, and consumables.
That’s end-to-end sales efficiency in a single, easy-to-maintain, and cost-effective platform. With it, your business can successfully digitalize the entire sales process with just one initiative. It delivers sales efficiency and accuracy, which leads to reduced costs. Lower costs lead to a competitive advantage that helps your business increase revenue. The benefits are inter-connected, and your business becomes much more competitive when serving the market.
This inter-connectivity of benefits is a distinct advantage of a Digital Sales Platform. If you have any questions, book a no-obligation consultation with our manufacturing sales experts to understand how our Digital Sales Platform is built to elevate manufacturing sales. If you would like to take the next step towards sales digitalization, you can download our Sales Digitalization Requirements Checklist to find out more about the digital sales features your business needs.