A Guide to B2B eCommerce for Manufacturers
For a long time, manufacturers successfully avoided the online selling space. But with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, things changed.
The disruption of supply chains and widespread uncertainty cast a heavy toll on the manufacturing companies. The fluctuating demands and restricted access to resources further made it challenging for businesses to sustain their production and revenue.
Being forced to look for leaner ways of operations, the manufacturing industry finally joined the digital commerce bandwagon.
In this article, we’ll discuss the role of eCommerce in manufacturing along with its applications and impacts on B2B manufacturing businesses.
What Does eCommerce Look Like for Manufacturers?
To put it simply, eCommerce for manufacturers is a strategic tool that comprises various touchpoints to facilitate seamless customer experiences online.
A manufacturer eCommerce website optimizes the different stages of the customer journey — be it awareness (problem identification), consideration (solution exploration), decision-making (supplier selection), and relationship building (customer service and referrals) — using non-linear touchpoints to fulfill various customer expectations.
For example, it enables customers the ability to order customized products, receive personalized content, and select and shop from the entire catalog without having to contact the sales rep in person.
Additionally, the website integrates with a wide array of systems to help manufacturing businesses with their operational needs and workflow management.
Why Do Manufacturers Need eCommerce?
Today’s B2B customers want to be in control of their shopping experiences. Digital channels provide them with self-serving capabilities along with improved visibility of their online journey.
As a result, customer behavior is evolving towards a growing preference for digitalization. In fact, according to a report[ii], 1 in 3 buyers would be persuaded to choose a vendor based on its ability to place, pay for, track and return orders online.
Therefore, B2B manufacturers are increasingly going digital. With the help of an eCommerce web store, they are able to offer customers better access to product information, easier product and price comparison, and round-the-clock support for any queries and orders.
This has resulted in a faster buying process with improved customer satisfaction that leads to higher revenue. A report suggests that the global B2B eCommerce market is expected[iii] to reach USD 20.9 trillion by 2027. Hence, adopting eCommerce is a wise move for manufacturing businesses to leverage this exponential growth.
Benefits of eCommerce for Manufacturers
There are several advantages of using eCommerce for the manufacturing industry. Listed below are a few of them:
Higher Visibility and Brand Awareness
An eCommerce store offers manufacturers improved visibility of their processes, including inventory management, order tracking, bills & payments, etc. On the customer front, it increases the business discoverability through search engines that help manufacturers to market their products effectively.
Improved Workflow Efficiency
Using an eCommerce store helps you streamline your operations by automating several time-consuming tasks. This, in turn, enables you to refine your processes and save time and resources that can be used for other core business activities.
Direct Access to Customers
Today, nearly 90%[iv] of buyers are turning to online channels to identify new suppliers. An eCommerce store helps you build a solid online presence with which you can directly communicate with your prospects. This allows you to acquire new customers easily and efficiently.
Ability to Offer Complete Catalog
Being in the manufacturing space you might have a huge range of products. With the help of an eCommerce website, you can display the complete product catalog to your customer base at one place. What’s more, you can configure them to offer different price lists and catalogs to different customer groups.
Enhanced Scalability and Opportunity to Innovate
By processing orders digitally, an eCommerce store increases your bandwidth for business. You can sell to customers faster with easier upsells and cross-sells. Additionally, by gaining insights into customer habits, you can prioritize your business components for optimization and develop a unique selling proposition (USP).
Factors to Consider for B2B eCommerce Store
An engaging eCommerce store is a key to attracting customers for B2B manufacturers. But to create this online store, you first need to take care of the following factors:
Audience and Their Needs
Unlike B2C, B2B companies cater to a small and sophisticated audience base. Their users have a specific set of needs that you must address in order to turn them into customers. Conducting preliminary market research can help you gain a better understanding of them.
- Analyze your competition
- Determine suitable industry channels
- Identify key steps in the customer lifecycle
- Map out the pain points of your customers
- Brainstorm ways to alleviate customer problems
Type of Products
Besides audiences, the type of product you manufacture and sell would also affect the type of eCommerce store you should have. There are two types of product categories:
1. Out-of-the-box instant online purchase.
2. Sold in-person/via sales reps with customizations.
For the first category, you can create a D2C (Direct-to-consumer) store with a variety of features such as product listings, easy search and filtering, product descriptions, and pricing, to facilitate quick and hassle-free purchases.
For the second category, you can build a regular website that displays all your products and brand information to help customers find and get in touch with you.
Creating an eCommerce Store for Manufacturers
Now that we know why an eCommerce store is important for manufacturers, let’s delve into how to build a stellar online store for your manufacturing business.
Select Suitable eCommerce Platform
For your eCommerce platform, you can either go with an out-of-the-box eCommerce solution or develop one from scratch depending on your business requirements. However, make sure the platform you choose has all the features needed to ensure seamless workflows and exceptional end-user experiences.
To learn more about the must-have eCommerce website features, check out this infographic.
Implement UI/UX Best Practices
The eCommerce store must align with your customer journey to facilitate better decision-making. Here are several UI/UX best practices you can follow:
- Offer intuitive navigation and quick search tool
- Simplify checkout and allow guest checkouts
- Add high-quality multimedia content
- Suggest recommendations based on customer preferences
- Provide an easy way to connect with support agents
- Direct customers towards additional details and comparison tools
Additionally, you must avoid some common UI/UX mistakes that can potentially ruin your overall eCommerce customer experience.
To learn more about how to optimize UI/UX in eCommerce, check this blog post.
Offer Detailed Product Descriptions
B2B purchases often include multiple stakeholders and are highly rational. Hence, there is a greater need for detailed product descriptions based on facts and figures instead of emotional tactics. Your product copy should be clear and crisp with minimal jargon to make it easy to understand for everyone.
Integrate Marketing Automation Tools
Since B2B manufacturing stores involve multiple touchpoints, it’s best to integrate them with automation tools for marketing. These tools help track customers’ behavior and trigger actions to personalize buyers’ journeys. This will help build deeper and long-term brand-customer relationships and nudge customers to complete their purchases.
To learn more about how to supercharge your eCommerce store with marketing automation, check out this blog post.
eCommerce Is the Future for Manufacturers
As manufacturers have varied customers, product configurations, and ordering requirements, a robust eCommerce store is the solution to deliver on all levels. It’s not just a way to digitize your B2B business but also futureproof your operations and better serve your customers to boost business growth.
To learn more about B2B eCommerce development for manufacturers, just drop us a line at [email protected] and we’ll take it from there.