Manufacturer eCommerce: Why You Should Care
In recent years, manufacturers and wholesale distributors have been expanding their eCommerce efforts to sell directly to their B2B customers online. In fact, a 2013 study by manufacturing industry analyst ThomasNet indicated that 62% of manufacturers say their websites will have the biggest impact on securing more business. Clearly, B2B eCommerce is a growth strategy for many manufacturing businesses. So why are manufacturers making these investments in such numbers?
Why Manufacturer eCommerce Matters
1. Better access to customers
With B2B eCommerce, manufacturers and their wholesale customers no longer need to rely on in-person meetings, emails, and phone calls to reach one another. Manufacturers can have a direct line of communication with their retailers and other customers online.
2. Meeting B2B customer expectations
Most B2B buyers––in their roles as regular consumers––have grown used to the convenience of finding the products they want to buy online. B2B eCommerce technology allows them to purchase from manufacturers using familiar tools and user experiences and provides a level of service that they have come to expect.
3. More customer data
With an online channel, manufacturers can gather more information about their customers purchasing habits and behavior. A B2B eCommerce platform can provide rich customer information and loads of data about what the customer has purchased in the past, what they searched for, and what they may be interested in purchasing in the future.
4. Reduced administrative costs and better order accuracy
Since customers enter orders themselves, there is less likelihood of orders being entered incorrectly by sales or customer service reps.
5. Increased sales
By making it easier for customers to do business with you 24/7, a B2B eCommerce platform can increase overall sales and even encourage inactive customers to begin placing orders once again.
6. Better customer relationship management
In traditional B2B sales, sales can be a very high-touch process. Even if the customer needs to place a simple reorder, your sales rep may have to drive out for a store visit. This often leads to very transactional relationships with customers, which isn’t ideal. With B2B eCommerce, however, your customers can place reorders independently, allowing your sales reps to concentrate on having more strategic conversations with customers and building stronger relationships.
Best Practices for Success with Manufacturer eCommerce
To maximize the benefits that the B2B eCommerce channel offers to manufacturers, there are some critical best practices to consider, including:
Integrate, Integrate, Integrate
It’s critically important to ensure that your eCommerce solution is integrated with the rest of your business systems. Imagine all orders coming in through your B2B eCommerce channel getting immediately synced with your ERP system for fulfillment. This is just one of the benefits of a seamless integration.
Make It Mobile
B2B eCommerce is swiftly following in the footsteps of the B2C marketplace in the move towards mobile commerce. According to Usablenet, roughly half of B2B vendors are already offering mobile commerce, and about 78% of B2B vendors plan to add a mobile commerce channel in the near future. That means that in order to be competitive, mobile will be an important part of your manufacturer eCommerce strategy. This doesn’t mean simply making a mobile-friendly site––giving your customers the ability to order from a native mobile app will be important.
Seize Marketing Opportunities
A B2B eCommerce portal can serve as an online destination point for email marketing efforts, just like in B2C. You can notify customers of promotions, newly available content, etc. and stay in constant contact with them––outside of trade show season and store visits. Is your manufacturing company making the move to eCommerce? We’d like to hear about your experiences in the comments.