Ecommerce manufacturing is a paradigm shift in ecommerce and how manufacturers not only take their products to market but how they interact with their distribution channels. Regardless of whether your business is a manufacturer, or a distributor, a one-size-fits-all ecommerce approach just doesn’t fit.
The globalization of ecommerce, and the juggernaut that the Chinese economy has become, manufacturing ecommerce and supply chains have been turned on their heads. Thanks to Internet technology, these manufacturers are building relationships with users of their products that mimics a B2C approach and have the access to suggest alternatives to the product these consumers were previously buying.
Trends in B2B Buying and Selling
In a whitepaper published by commercetools titled, Pivotal Trends and Predictions in B2B Digital Commerce in 2023, the authors suggest 7 trends that will lead to incremental innovation within B2B commerce as traditional B2B relationships between buyers and sellers change.
The paper describes factors impacting change such as, “...the increased number of digitally native Generation Z entering the workforce and millennials taking decision-making positions. B2B buyers are also consumers exposed to sophisticated eCommerce experiences in their personal lives, raising expectations that, when purchasing items on behalf of their employers, they can do so in a frictionless and personalized fashion.”
But how is this manifesting itself within the marketplace?
83% of B2B buyers prefer ordering or paying through digital commerce
74% of millennial B2B buyers changed vendors for an improved consumer-like buying experience
73% of B2B buyers want a personalized B2C-like experience
72% of B2B buyers are eager to purchase across channels
66% of B2B buyers prefer remote human interactions or digital self-service rather than a one-to-one sales conversation
Resulting in a 250% increase in B2B mobile ordering
If you’re not convinced that the paying field is changing, or may have already changed, keep reading. Here are what commercetools shares as insights from B2B players across multiple industries and how they see the landscape evolving.
New-to-digital B2B firms debut composable commerce
First off, if you’re not familiar with the term “composable commerce” you’re probably not alone. Composable commerce is a development approach that takes best-of-class commerce components and combines, or “composes” them into a custom application build for a specific business' needs. Basically a customized system based on the business capabilities your business needs.
The authors believe B2B players that have currently been married to very manual processes and siloed backend systems will migrate to this “composable” systems approach. In other words, they will focus on automating and modernizing their backend systems while moving from an on-premise to a cloud-native platform to make it easier to scale.
Product discovery is a priority
For companies with large catalogs of products and roughly 70% of B2B buyers doing online research to find what they need, making their products more “discoverable” will remain a priority across the digital maturity spectrum.
Focus on data quality
Capturing accurate data throughout the customer journey is a challenge, but the need for accurate and reliable information can't be overstated. It’s expected to see B2B companies reorganizing the data they have on customers and products to enable upselling and cross-selling. Better analytics to unlock more relevant and usable data will be the focus.
B2B sales face an overhaul
Digital sales haven't replaced people but are accelerating the evolution of B2B sales. Sales teams will increasingly focus on a more strategic and advisor-like roll as many things like filling out quotes or taking orders are automated.
The role of business practitioners grows
The predicted trend is that marketing and product managers will have a better seat at the development table when technology is being developed to meet customer needs.
D2C expands further—with a caveat
Many manufacturers will consider D2C (direct-to-consumer) a new revenue stream. However it’s also predicted that “...many B2B firms with plans to go D2C may find it difficult to execute this strategy if they have a distinct commerce platform for each business model; that means missing out on crucial data synergies across products, catalogs, inventory and checkout, and extra costs spend with disparate platforms.
The B2B customer experience will be redesigned
This makes complete sense when you consider that all of us experience an almost seamless buying experience today in the B2C marketplace. The rise in B2C ecommerce has taught us nothing if not that an easy and intuitive model for purchasing online makes a huge difference. B2B customers will have to model the B2C experience or become irrelevant.
Game-Changing Benefits of Ecommerce Manufacturers
With the above trends in mind, let’s consider some of the benefits of this paradigm change for both the manufacturer and their customers.
Customers can configure the products they want online: Customers can configure and match products with different features and characteristics within an ecommerce platform. This means that your customers can customize products to their requirements without the help of your sales or support department.
Easy spare parts visibility: When manufacturing is connected to an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platform, it allows you to match spare parts with more complex products that may have been purchased. This makes it possible to avoid compelling your customers to search for any spare parts they need, but will provide easier access to them.
Sell your complete product assortment: Adding a B2B web store to your sales channel makes it easier for your customers to see what else you have to offer and learn about new products, including alternative products.
Attract new customers: Since your customers are searching online before they make a purchase (much like B2C customers), a strong online presence, optimized for the search engines, means your products will show up in search results.
How to Use Ecommerce for Manufacturing
Your customers have a lot of options when they look for solutions to the problems your products help solve. The more you can learn from B2C ecommerce, the better for your business. Here are a handful of things you should consider.
Revamp your website to be more engaging: Offer a B2C-like experience for your B2B customers. The goal is to turn your website into an easy-to-navigate interactive and transactional website.
Get your sales team on board: Empower them with digital tools that will help them better communicate with your customers. Remember, a digital experience isn’t competing with your sales team, it should be designed to help them consult and advise rather than go through the mechanics of writing up sales orders, checking inventory, etc.
Personalize your online catalog: Customized online experiences and personalized recommendations drive a lot of B2C ecommerce. Incorporate that into your online presence.
Update product information in real time: B2C sites allow customers to see detailed product information and availability—your website needs to do the same thing. Your customers enjoy this level of real-time data on Amazon and they expect the same thing from you.
Don’t run away from marketplaces: If there are industry marketplaces in your niche, you should be there. Amazon, Walmart, and dBay marketplaces have been very effective at enabling small B2C businesses to play with the big boys.
If there is one takeaway from this article it would be to model your manufacturing ecommerce environment after what has been proven to be successful for businesses catering directly to consumers.