Manufacturers, like the rest of the global economy, are continuing to move into the B2B e-commerce market. According to recent research by B2BecNews, over 40% of manufacturers have already set up an e-commerce platform while 70% of the remaining manufacturers plan to go live with a site in the next two years. For most of these companies, a move into the e-commerce market will have both downstream and upstream impacts.
For manufacturers, this makes moving into the B2B e-commerce universe a daunting task, but with a sound strategic business plan and accompanying technology blueprint, the way forward can be simpler than many companies imagine.
Here are some trends for 2019 that are informing manufacturers as they move into the e-commerce space.
Integration with Client Systems
Integration into existing systems is a key driver for any new online venture. Most large manufacturing firms already have deeply entrenched core processes, including: the management of cash, raw materials, and production capacity, etc. Therefore, the impact of any additional transactional processes from online endeavours will need to be taken into account before rolling out an e-commerce solution.
Fortunately for manufacturers, e-commerce designers are not unitaskers purely focused on developing a solution in a vacuum, but have developed a wide array of tools (mainly via APIs) that are designed to integrate their solutions into pre-existing systems. These APIs allow developers to customise their software in a way which facilitates a more seamless and productive integration, such as:
- Product Information Management: Aautomatically capture vital product information from any compatible site or database.
- Logistics API: Integrate into client-side systems, enabling the automatic calculation of freight rates as well as the creation of tracking codes.
- Currency Exchange: Provides automated, live calculation of exchange rates, which can be instantly converted into all prices and rates on the platform, across multiple currencies.
- Transactional Processing: Auto-generation of sales and transactional paperwork along with a direct upload into the internal platform of the customer’s choice.
Digital transformation is increasingly dependent upon mastering customer experience. Most customers are knowledgeable, experienced users who will require a personalised approach, one that takes into account individual company requirements for payment, contract and product information details. B2B sites juggle many streams of complex information and actions, all of which need to be integrated into a seamless, intuitive experience.
Over 70% of B2B buyers say they would switch suppliers if the overall digital experience was better with another organization.”
Although potential e-commerce clients crave a great experience, they may not always know how to communicate what one looks like until they use it. This is why e-commerce designers are prioritising customer experience as part of any new design and brand strategy. An user’s connection to a platform needs to be simple, organic, responsive and emotive. It needs to be one which conveys familiarity, surprise and, above all, trust.
These principles form the essence of effective design. Although these concepts may seem obvious and simple, it's only with close interaction and personalisation that software firms can create solutions which deliver an optimised and effective customer experience.
In order for an e-commerce platform to handle the appropriate amount of activity for a given market, it must be able to match capacity to resource in a way that accommodates the dynamic nature of growth. Too often, e-commerce platforms are implemented to match static capacity models, rather than allowing for cyclical patterns, regional influences and external, global economic forces.
The best e-commerce platforms are quick to react to these external influences while also delivering tangible revenue streams. There isn’t a silver bullet solution to these issues, but, generally speaking, successful e-commerce sites are mobile friendly, capture user behaviour data for analytics, and are ready to expand and contract as business conditions change.
Manufacturers will need to have a sound organisational strategy in place if they want to take full advantage of the global reach of an e-commerce site. Understanding their own likely growth trajectory, as well as having a sound risk mitigation plan are crucial to delivering a robust, effective platform
Other Factors to Consider in 2019
Some other major factors are going to be at play in 2019, including:
- Trade policy updates (Brexit)
- Updates in last mile delivery
- Content personalisation via self-service modules
- Continued increased role for mobile devices
2019 is shaping up to be a massive year in the B2B e-commerce space for manufacturers. As more and more businesses enter into the fray, they will need to look at the factors we’ve outlined above in order to fully realise the benefits of their digital strategy.