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September 13, 2019

B2B eCommerce, Manufacturing & Industry 4.0

Piers McEwan
Piers McEwan
Content writer at Vaimo
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The manufacturing industry is in the midst of a monumental period of change. Just as the Industrial Revolution transformed manufacturing in the late 1700s, the Digital Revolution has caused some changes of its own.

In this article, we'll be exploring the role of B2B eCommerce for the manufacturing industry in the face of this revolution and the start of Industry 4.0.

Here's what we'll be covering:
  • What is Industry 4.0?
  • Customer Expectations
  • Expanding to new markets
  • Internal business efficiencies 
  • The power of data for eCommerce success
  • Direct to Consumer (D2C) sales

Industry 4.0

At the core of the current disruptive phase in manufacturing lies ‘Industry 4.0’. Industry 4.0 combines cyber-physical systems, the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing and big data to create ‘smart factories’—a new way of manufacturing.

Industry 4.0 is the new frontier for manufacturers. It’s here and it’s not going anywhere.

So, to stay ahead of the curve and to stay afloat, it’s up to manufacturers to keep up the pace. To remain competitive, manufacturers must embrace new technologies and ways of working. Without doing so, they’ll be left behind.

But when looking at the data, it’s clear that a significant portion of the manufacturing industry is not yet prepared. Research from McKinsey found that only 16% of manufacturers had an Industry 4.0 (or digitalisation) strategy in place and that of those, only 24% had assigned clear responsibilities for delivering it.

In this time of unprecedented change, B2B eCommerce has the power to help manufacturers thrive. The Digital Revolution and Industry 4.0 may have changed the rules when it comes to how businesses operate, but B2B eCommerce is the tool to help you remain competitive.

ecommerce and industry 4.0

Customer Expectations

Thanks to digital technologies, customer expectations are at an all-time high. And the goal posts are constantly being moved by companies that are reshaping the customer experience (think Apple or Amazon). The B2B customer today is no different to their counterparts in the B2C environment. After all, they interact with the Amazons of the world and are used to frictionless and hassle-free purchasing experiences. So when they purchase from you, they want the same. In fact, they expect the same.

But if you are running on legacy systems, with little to no automation, then the customer experience is already being compromised. Those manufacturing companies that can offer customers a digital self-service platform—one where they can check order status, previous orders, stock inventory and product information, and much more—will be the more attractive option.

It’s crucial also for attracting business in the first place. Indeed, 68% of B2B buyers are reported to have conducted their own research online rather than speaking with a sales-rep and over 70% of buyers find purchasing online more convenient. To be found by a potential customer, it's crucial that you have an omnichannel digital presence that showcases your brand and products.

Customers expect an automated, personalised, real-time and streamlined purchasing experience. Without undertaking some form of digital transformation within your organisation, it won’t be possible to offer this on the scale required for long-term success. 

Learn how Vaimo delivered a digital commerce solution for BAUHAUS Sweden,
increasing its B2B revenue by 290% over the course of 2 years.

iphone-mockup-bauhaus

 

Expanding to new markets

Scaling your business is easier and more cost-effective when you have a digital platform in place. As your product catalogue grows, reliance on manual manipulation of product data is not only inefficient but it has the potential to lead to risks further down the line. A scattered and messy source of product information could also dissuade you from embarking on your expansion plans—as the task can appear so daunting and complex when done manually.

B2B eCommerce and the integration of PIM (Product Information Management) will allow you to quickly and efficiently scale up your offerings. With all your product information under one roof, and benefitting from a number of automated processes (such as content translation), you’ll be in a stronger position to take products to market at speed. The efficiencies you can gain will allow your business to be more agile, more proactive and, ultimately, more ready to offer greater numbers of products at more locations, maximising the potential for growth in the process.

 Learn more about expanding your business to new locations with our new B2B International Expansion guide here!

international-expansion

 

Internal efficiencies

A B2B eCommerce platform can speed up your order processing, reduces errors and ultimately saves your business unnecessary losses. Just think, without a B2B portal, your employees will need to navigate a number of different systems in the sales process. Information on current stock will be in one place, whilst delivery updates and product information will be elsewhere. Part of the information is on this spreadsheet but the missing information is in the spreadsheet in another department...

Not only does this lead to frustrations for your workforce, as they grapple with conflicting information and are forced to wait on their co-workers for updates, but it has serious knock-on effects for the service experience of your customers.

Eliminating these steps, through the adoption of an eCommerce platform, can dramatically speed up your order processing. This leaves your customers with a great user experience and your business with improved cash flow.

A job that once took 3 people a whole day to complete is now done with the click of a button.

Learn more about Vaimo's suite of eCommerce integrations that we deploy to make your business more efficient. 

 

Dig into data

The availability of data is a game-changer in terms of how businesses conduct their operations. B2B eCommerce means that manufacturers have no excuse for not having a comprehensive analytics tool. It’s never been easier to measure and evaluate marketing campaigns, sales, products, inventory, and engagement. Google Analytics and Google tag manager are both free and offer fully featured for eCommerce tracking. Going one step further and integrating analytics with an ERP solution will give even more valuable data that you’ll be able to leverage to provide your customers with a more personalised and engaging experience.

And if you want to dig that bit deeper into the data then there's Google Analytics Enhanced Ecommerce. This powerful tool provides you with better, more comprehensive insight into the shopping behaviour of your visitors. Based on your visitors' actions, such as visiting a product page but not adding anything to cart or making a purchase, you're able to create segments and retarget these visitors. Working proactively with your data and leveraging everything that Google Analytics Enhanced Ecommerce has the power to transform your conversion rates and revenue. 

To learn more about the specific functionalities of this tool and how Vaimo's Strategy and Consulting Team can help you get started see our below Accelerate article!

Google Analytics EE - Vaimo Accelerate

 

Direct to Consumer Sales

With the growth in digital commerce, manufacturers now have the opportunity to sell direct to consumers. Just decades ago this would would not have been possible without extra brick and mortar stores, but technology has changed everything.

Selling direct to consumers holds a number of benefits over going through a middleman. Most notably, you have full control of the branding, marketing and messaging that accompanies your product. And secondly, you are not placed in a physical environment alongside your competitors—at a store it may well be your product on one side of the aisle and your competitor’s on the other. But in your own online store, it’s just you.

B2B ebook


Engaging directly with your consumers does not necessarily need to represent an entire change in your strategy. Rather, it can form an extra sales channel for you to promote your brand and communicate directly with your end-users. This way, you’ll be able to harness the power of eCommerce to provide exemplary purchasing experiences, driving up customer lifetime value in the process!

Need more help? Vaimo has put together a B2B eBook on how to take your business online. Download it to start on your road to success.  

 

At Vaimo, we help brands, retailers and manufacturers across the world to drive success in digital commerce. If you're wondering what to prioritise next on your eCommerce journey, or need help with beginning your digital transformation, then get in touch with our team today.