In the contemporary business landscape, major players such as Nike, Audi, and Siemens are refining their smart factory solutions with full automation. These innovative leaders have not only questioned established norms but have also sparked a genuine revolution within the manufacturing industry.
However, amidst the swift transformations in production methods, certain manufacturers, particularly in the B2B realm, may be neglecting the necessity for digital transformation. This oversight is crucial; given that B2B (business-to-business) buyers now demand online experiences comparable to those found in B2C eCommerce.
This is where manufacturer eCommerce becomes pivotal.
A manufacturer, defined as a company that converts raw materials into marketable goods and distributes them to customers, wholesalers, or distributors, requires a specialised approach to eCommerce. Manufacturer eCommerce is tailored to the distinct needs of manufacturers and distributors, aiming to optimise business processes and enhance overall efficiency.
As a manufacturer, the decision to venture into the realm of eCommerce can significantly amplify your reach; streamline operations, and open doors to new opportunities. To guide you through this transformative journey, we present a step-by-step manual for launching your very own Manufacturer eCommerce Platform.
An Overview of eCommerce for Manufacturers?
eCommerce for manufacturers is a dynamic landscape that has undergone significant transformations in recent years. Traditionally associated with retail, the manufacturing sector is now actively embracing online platforms to enhance efficiency, expand market reach, and meet evolving customer expectations. Manufacturers are no longer limited to conventional B2B transactions but are increasingly adopting B2C elements, creating a seamless online experience for customers. The digital shift involves the implementation of robust eCommerce platforms tailored specifically to the unique needs of manufacturers and distributors. This includes optimising product listings, streamlining supply chain processes, and integrating secure payment gateways. Manufacturers are also leveraging eCommerce for direct-to-consumer sales, enabling them to connect with end-users and build brand loyalty. The evolving landscape of eCommerce for manufacturers reflects a strategic response to the changing demands of the market, positioning them to thrive in the digital era.
Advantages of Manufacturers Having an eCommerce Site
Manufacturers having an eCommerce site can reap numerous benefits, contributing to increased efficiency, broader market reach, and enhanced customer relationships.
- Global Market Access: An eCommerce site enables manufacturers to transcend geographical boundaries, accessing a global market. This expanded reach can lead to the discovery of new customers and business opportunities beyond traditional markets.
- Higher Profit Margins: Selling directly to consumers through an eCommerce platform allows manufacturers to preserve higher profit margins by eliminating intermediaries such as distributors.
- Customer Relationship Strengthening: Direct interaction with end-users fosters stronger customer relationships. Manufacturers can gather feedback, address concerns, and tailor offerings based on customer preferences, contributing to increased satisfaction and loyalty.
- Data Collection and Personalisation: eCommerce platforms enable the collection of valuable customer data. This data can be leveraged for personalised marketing, product recommendations, and a tailored shopping experience, enhancing customer satisfaction and engagement.
- Brand Control: Manufacturers can exert greater control over how their brand is represented online. This ensures that the brand image aligns with the company’s values and goals, fostering a consistent and positive perception among customers.
- Optimal Pricing and Discount Strategies: eCommerce platforms provide manufacturers with the flexibility to implement optimal pricing and discount strategies. This adaptability is crucial for staying competitive in the market.
- Efficiency and Automation: Digital processing of orders, automated inventory management, and streamlined checkout processes contribute to increased operational efficiency. This, in turn, allows manufacturers to allocate resources to core business activities such as marketing and customer support.
- Scalability: eCommerce facilitates scalability by expanding the bandwidth for processing orders without the need to attract more distributors or hire additional sales representatives. This scalability is vital for accommodating business growth.
- Market Diversification: Manufacturers can tap into new markets seamlessly through eCommerce. This diversification reduces dependence on a single market, providing a safety net against regional economic fluctuations.
- Enhanced Brand Awareness: With the majority of B2B buyers conducting online research, having a strong online presence is essential for brand awareness. SEO optimisation and a robust online platform help attract new customers and establish a competitive advantage.
- Complete Catalogue Showcase: eCommerce platforms allow manufacturers to showcase their entire product catalogue online. This includes personalised products, with the ability to configure prices as needed, ensuring comprehensive coverage for prospective customers.
- Data Analytics for Informed Decision-Making: Access to customer data provides manufacturers with valuable insights. Leveraging data analytics enables informed decision-making, including personalised product recommendations, real-time pricing adjustments, and strategic up-sell/cross-sell opportunities.
The adoption of an eCommerce site by manufacturers is a strategic move that extends beyond online sales. It encompasses a holistic approach to business, enhancing operational efficiency, customer engagement, and market competitiveness in the rapidly evolving digital landscape.
Effectively Utilising eCommerce in Manufacturing
Effectively leveraging eCommerce for manufacturing involves a strategic approach aimed at enhancing operational efficiency, expanding market reach, and fostering stronger customer relationships.
- Strategic Platform Selection: Choose a suitable eCommerce platform tailored to the unique needs of manufacturing. Look for features such as scalability, inventory management, and integration capabilities that align with your business requirements.
- Comprehensive Product Listings: Present detailed and compelling product listings with high-quality images and comprehensive descriptions. This not only attracts potential customers but also helps in effectively communicating the features and benefits of your products.
- Secure Payment Gateways: Integrate secure payment gateways to instil trust and confidence in customers. Security is paramount, and ensuring safe and seamless transactions contributes to a positive online shopping experience.
- Optimised User Interface: Develop a user-friendly interface with responsive design and intuitive navigation. Mobile optimisation is crucial to cater to a diverse audience, providing a seamless and accessible online shopping experience.
- Digital Marketing Strategy: Implement a comprehensive digital marketing strategy to promote your eCommerce platform. Utilise social media, content marketing, and email campaigns to generate awareness, drive traffic, and engage with your target audience.
- Customer Support Integration: Integrate robust customer support features such as live chat and a detailed FAQ section. Responsive communication channels are essential for addressing customer inquiries promptly, and enhancing overall customer satisfaction.
- Analytics and Data Utilisation: Regularly monitor analytics to gain insights into customer behaviour, popular products, and overall platform performance. Use this data to make informed decisions, refine strategies, and optimise the eCommerce platform continuously.
- Direct-to-Consumer Sales Focus: Embrace direct-to-consumer sales to connect with end-users. This approach eliminates intermediaries, providing manufacturers with greater control over pricing, promotions, and brand representation.
- Innovation through Customer Feedback: Encourage and gather feedback from customers, especially end users. Insights from customer feedback can inform product enhancements, modifications, or the prioritisation of certain features, fostering innovation.
- Efficient Order Processing: Streamline order processing through digital automation. This reduces manual workload, minimises errors, and allows manufacturers to efficiently handle a high volume of orders without in-person contact.
- SEO Optimisation: Enhance search engine optimisation (SEO) to attract new customers. Given that a significant percentage of B2B buyers prefer online research, having a strong online presence is crucial for brand awareness and attracting new clients.
- Data-Driven Decision-Making: Leverage customer data for data-driven decision-making. This includes personalised product recommendations, real-time pricing adjustments, and the implementation of relevant up-sell/cross-sell strategies.
Effectively using eCommerce in manufacturing is a multifaceted strategy that involves careful consideration of platform selection, customer engagement, and data-driven decision-making. By implementing these strategies, manufacturers can unlock the full potential of eCommerce, driving growth and success in the digital era.
Key Considerations for Establishing an eCommerce Store for Manufacturers
Determine Your Audience and Understand their Requirements: In contrast to B2C, B2B brands cater to a more limited audience with highly specific requirements. Knowing who your ideal buyers are, their locations, and how you can best meet their needs should form the foundation of your online store.
Initiate preliminary online market research:
- Evaluate the competition.
- Analyse the provided shopping experience.
- Identify the primary sales/marketing channels for your brand.
- Study the typical sales cycles within your industry.
- Recognise key steps in the customer lifecycle.
- Map out the essential stages in the sales cycle.
- Outline the primary pain points your target audience encounters at each stage.
- Generate ideas to address these challenges through digital means.
Following this, transition to the virtual planning stage by mapping the primary customer navigation paths on your website. Involving a UX/UI designer at this juncture is beneficial. The objective is to visualise how a potential buyer will navigate through the site and determine features that can facilitate a smoother progression.
Choose the Items You Intend to Offer for Sale on the Internet: While not all B2B products are suitable for online sales, especially those needing customisation, it is essential to establish a specialised product catalogue. You can categorise your products into two groups:
- Available for immediate online purchase.
- Sold in person or through sales representatives.
For the first category, you can develop online experiences akin to B2C, incorporating:
- Listings of products available online.
- User-friendly filtering and search options.
- Instant pricing information.
- Comprehensive product descriptions.
- Appealing photos and/or 3D models.
Build Your Online Retail Store: Utilise a variety of ready-made B2B eCommerce solutions like BigCommerce to streamline the development process. Rather than starting from scratch, leverage prebuilt core eCommerce features, visual design tools, plugins, and integrations to construct your online store. This approach not only saves time but also reduces pre-launch expenses.
Selecting Your eCommerce Platform: As you embark on your search, you’ll discover numerous B2B eCommerce platform providers. To refine your choices, consider your business priorities and essential features, seeking platforms that align with your needs. Creating B2C-like experiences for B2B buyers is crucial, and BigCommerce caters to both B2C and B2B merchants. It provides native B2B functionality for Plus, Pro, and Enterprise plans, accommodating hybrid businesses with the flexibility to offer different price lists or catalogues to customer groups.
BigCommerce stands out with enterprise B2B sales features, seamless integration with POS and ERP platforms, and B2B-specific payment features, offering a more adaptable alternative to competing SaaS platforms and a quicker, more straightforward option compared to legacy solutions.
Choosing Your Store’s Theme: Most SaaS eCommerce solutions include a theme library featuring free and premium designs for easy customisation. An effective B2B eCommerce theme should offer intuitive navigation, SEO benefits, advanced product listing features, a responsive, mobile-friendly experience, and simple no-code customisation along with advanced in-code changes.
Explore a lineup of B2B eCommerce website designs to gain insights into the possibilities of using a premade theme.
Picking Your Store’s Design: Align your overall store layout with your typical customer journey. Optimise standard eCommerce design elements like the homepage, product catalogue, product listing/landing pages, and checkout form to facilitate the buyer’s decision-making process. Implement essential UX best practices:
- Invest in longer page content and microcopy for key products.
- Direct buyers towards extra information and tools for comparison.
- Provide an easy way to connect with a sales rep or support agent.
- Display integration, compatibility, and regulatory information prominently.
- When fixed pricing is challenging, offer pricing scenario models or a calculator tool.
- Prompt buyers to self-sort into the right segments through progressive navigation, questionnaires, and short quizzes.
Writing Your Product Descriptions: B2B decisions are rational and often involve multiple stakeholders. Focus on facts and figures in your product descriptions rather than emotional marketing tactics:
- Prioritise clarity over wit.
- Highlight key product features, benefits, and standard/regulatory information.
- Explain and illustrate different product use cases, walkthroughs, and demos from other customers.
- Minimise jargon, including the most crucial product specs, and provide additional details in downloadable product sheets.
Get in Touch with an Agency Partner: Finally, you might consider having an eCommerce agency readily available to assist with minor website enhancements, problem-solving, and the integration of new extensions. Alternatively, if you choose a B2B eCommerce platform such as BigCommerce, we have an extensive network of proficient partners and agencies familiar with the platform. They can provide support for design, development, and SEO requirements.
Launching your Manufacturer eCommerce Platform is not just about entering a new market; it’s about embracing a transformative tool that can propel your business to new heights.
If you’re planning on launching your manufacturer eCommerce platform, hurry and get in touch with an expert at 18th DigiTech today!