The large-scale global prevalence of the Internet has spawned exciting new avenues for businesses looking for new customers. This also means that industrial manufacturers have unprecedented opportunities to reach their end customers in new and novel ways.
The past decade has seen countless manufacturers turn to e-commerce for everything, from essential communication with buyers to comprehensive collaborations with stakeholders. These relationships are driven by companies looking for ways to increase sales and end-buyers seeking the personalized experiences that only ecommerce websites can offer.
And the results are promising. Statista surveyed 600 B2B decision-makers to determine that 11% of the manufacturers and 10% of distributors generate 81% to 100% of their revenues online via B2B selling sites.
However, this also shows that the transformation is slow. Most manufacturers still primarily serve clients via phone, email, or even fax, and they risk losing the loyalty of these customers who now increasingly prefer digitally-driven buying opportunities.
It is also of concern that nearly 70% of manufacturers don’t have a comprehensive digital strategy to propel their e-commerce adaptation.
With the rise in modern technology and IoT, B2B customers are actively using their smartphones and other channel to maximize speed, convenience and price for all their retail purposes. So this comes as no surprise that manufacturers and businesses alike must compete to build an online presence to adhere to the need of online customers.
Let’s find out why manufacturers are still reluctant to indulge in e-commerce even though the numbers are in favor.
Why Do Manufacturers Shy Away From Ecommerce Platforms
It is important to understand that the online business requirements for a manufacturer are quite different from a purely whole-goods sales scenario.
The manufacturer won’t just have to build a website. They’ll also have to consider any aftermarket parts requirements, rental fleet issues and a range of other revenue and expense opportunities. These factors must be considered when creating a comprehensive e-commerce plan.
It already sounds quite overwhelming, doesn’t it?
So, of course, the natural reaction here is to balk at the idea of taking the business online, delaying the decision for as long as possible.
Here are some fundamental issues that contribute to the delay in manufacturing implementation of e-commerce:
Challenges Related To A Unique Product Base
Implementing a B2B e-commerce system for wholesale goods is easy enough, but when you bring aftermarket parts and prefabricated assemblies into the mix, there seems no easy way in.
For example, selling farming equipment online is easy, but selling thousands of parts to hundreds of businesses globally can be difficult. You’ll need to invest in an Enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to streamline procurement and supply chain operations while also managing everyday ecommerce processes.
Unfortunately, many manufacturers fail to build an effective ERP system with appropriate information on each product variant. This incomplete data means that customers can’t find what they are looking for, effectively rendering their ecommerce platform useless.
Setting Up E-Commerce Platforms Is A Costly Endeavor
An off-the-shelf e-commerce platform seems too attractive an option to let go of because many manufacturers are unable to bear the high costs of creating bespoke e-commerce websites that incorporate different payment methods.
Adding the payment feature to an e-commerce website involves careful consideration of the solution provider. Is your site going to offer a one-click authorization for payment? Is it going to be a simple payment system or will you support recurring purchases? Does it offer fraud security as well as secure virtual terminals?
Additionally, the more payment options your e-commerce platform offers, the better the customer service. According to the Paypers Payment Method Reports, non-cash transactions amounted to $41.8 billion out of which 71% of these transactions were made using big-tech e-wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay.
So make sure that your ecommerce platform incorporates these and other payment options and also offers favorable payment terms to bulk buyers.
However, integrating different payment methods on your website can be quite costly. Setting up a payment gateway requires manufacturers to pay a certain setup fee. For every order that is processed, there is a specific transactional limit that has to be met. Some gateway payment services may charge manufacturers a transaction fee if a certain consumer order or transaction value isn’t completed.
Moreover, the relevant software should also be updated regularly to keep your site compatible with future payment offerings. The inability to do so may result in a failure to accept credit card payments and decreased customer satisfaction.
Fears About The Security Of Business & Client Information
To boost their online sales and brand presence, manufacturers and retailers use many innovative technologies that improve sale conversions, offer better customer service, or use search analytics tools. However, one of the most struggling E-commerce areas is providing a safe, secure and fraud-free shopping experience.
Without the right security measures in place, your consumer’s private credit card details are prone to be at risk. E-commerce websites are also flooded continuously with unknown IP addresses often caused by a manipulation of IoT devices (DDoS Attacks). For example, during the 2018Cyber Monday sales, E-commerce websites experienced a 109% increase in DDoS attacks and malware.
Secondly, credit card fraud remains the most common cyber-threat faced by online retailers. In 2018 alone, a staggering $24 billion were lost due to fraudulent credit card transactions online. With cyber-crime so high, customers are afraid to sacrifice their personal information to shop online when they can have a safe and secure in-store experience. The 2019 Survey on Global Security and Trust shows that 49% of people are wary of shopping online due to a lack of trust and appropriate online security measures.
However, it’s not only the consumers that get affected by cyber-crimes. The Economic and Forensic Crime Survey of 2020 shows that companies have lost around $5 million in stolen data while others have lost $100 million, making cybercrime a high-profile threat. Well-known organizations like Target, AT&T, and eBay have all been victims of security breaches, losing the personal information of millions of customers, including their social security numbers.
And of course, each time a company’s data is sacrificed, online shoppers’ trust decreases.
Worries Of Cart Abandonment
One of the significant problems that e-commerce businesses face is the abandonment of shopping carts. Studies show that an estimated 21% of all shopping carts are abandoned because customers find the checkout process too long.
What e-commerce businesses have to understand is that a lot of consumers don’t really intend to buy when they visit an online store. Sometimes just adding products to a cart is a way for them to bookmark products they are interested in as they continue with their research. While other times consumers add up products in their cart, especially when it’s on sale, in fear of them running out. Mostly though, consumers abandon their carts due to the additional costs of tax, shipping and delivery that they will have to incur on their order.
A survey by Baymard Institute showed that out of a total of 1,700 shoppers, 59% of people abandoned their carts at checkout because they weren’t ready to make a purchase and 37% of people stated ‘making an account to proceed to checkout’ as one of the reasons for cart abandonment.
Even though laying off additional costs can be one solution for e-commerce manufacturers to curb this problem, free shipping often means that retailers and manufacturers will have to compensate for it out of their own pockets, which isn’t feasible.
Why Manufacturers Must Go Digital With E-commerce Sales
Consumers want convenience above all else. If you can give them instant and easy access to your goods, there is no doubt that they’ll engage with you and buy from you willingly.
Besides, you won’t need to work with 3rd party retailers and distributors. Today’s internet offers you the ability to go direct-to-consumer (D2C) and miss the middlemen altogether.
Research shows that e-commerce in the manufacturing industry is likely to show an upward trend in D2C (manufacturer to consumer) markets. The study also shows that 41% of the revenue derived by manufacturing industries will be solely from online sales by 2051.
Going D2C offers exciting new opportunities to engage directly with your prospective buyers, so you can get a better understanding of their evolving needs and deliver accordingly. You can create personalized experiences and offer them up on competitive pricing since you no longer have to worry about paying the middleman.
Besides, D2C manufacturers who also use an e-commerce platform can easily compete with the industry bigwigs when it comes to sales – as long as they have an innovative marketing strategy propelling their vision to success.
Let’s explore a few more ways in which a shift to online retail can help manufacturing businesses:
Greater Customer Base
E-commerce allows manufacturers the opportunity to showcase their products on an online platform that is accessible to a wide variety of audiences all over the world.
There is nothing wrong with not going the D2C route and working with third-party retailers to get their feet wet in the ecommerce waters.
The availability of a global platform with various products from different brands, quick order confirmation, and shipping makes it easy not only for consumers to shop for international brands but also for manufacturers to offer value to their global customer base in a unique way.
There are many examples of strategic online ventures that have garnered brands and manufacturers a global online presence through collaborating with E-commerce platforms. Amazon and eBay can showcase your products in up to marketplaces worldwide, including Latin America, Europe, and significant parts of Asia. These platforms also help international customers with their region-specific pricing, shipping and customer service.
Before the rise of E-commerce, manufacturers were held responsible for catalog printing, managing warehouse workflows, order processing, and other operational and distribution methods.
However, with the advent of internet-based technologies and digital platforms, many consumers prefer to shop online from the comfort of their homes. This ease allows manufacturers to build online stores to reduce their businesses’ operational and administrative costs.
In traditional brick-and-mortar stores, business owners have to consider rent, electricity, and maintenance bills – but these expenses aren’t an issue for online stores.
Moreover, receiving and processing orders in a physical store is more expensive than doing so in an online store. For starters, web integration enables a higher quantity of orders to be processed in a shorter time using less staff and resources. Placing orders through the web also allows manufacturers to separate high-quality orders and ensure the safe delivery of customer’s demands.
Because customers are responsible for placing and confirming their own orders, there is a reduced chance of returns.
Secondly, manufacturers and business owners spend considerable money to print brand catalogs to keep in stores. Even though glossy print catalogs attract customers the way computer images can’t, they do so at the cost of environmental destruction. In the US alone, around 3% of all paper products are used annually to make catalogs. And while 3% may not sound like a lot, a significant portion of this 80 million tons of paper produced is unsolicited. That is a loss of a lot of trees!
Additionally, printing catalogs can take up a lot of time and quickly get out of date.
Having an online store means that the additional cost of printing the catalog can now be spent elsewhere like improving the website’s security or utilizing advanced algorithms to make the website more user-friendly. According to Forrester, 69% of companies will stop using print catalogs in the next 3-5 years and opt for digital e-books and magazines to showcase their product lines.
Improved Brand Experience
Even though brick and mortar retailers are still popular, many consumers opt for a safe and accessible way of shopping online. This calls for many business owners and manufacturers to employ digital strategies that include mobile-friendly websites and personalized product experiences.
As we have already seen above, shopping cart abandonment is one of the few problems manufacturers face in an online platform. One effective solution to prevent this from happening is to make shoppers aware of any extra charges they may incur on their order before they reach checkout. For example, if a customer is a few dollars away from getting free shipping, your e-commerce platform should have algorithms that track your customer’s basket value and prompt them with a pop-up to avail free shipping.
According to HubSpot, 24% of people are willing to shop for more products in order to qualify for free shipping, hence making prompts like this a great way to increase the average value of orders placed.
You can also add product recommendations for customers returning to your website for a more personalized shopping experience.
The following pop-up is an example of how your site can offer exclusive products to your returning customers
However, only offering recommendations isn’t enough to convert your visitors into customers. Make sure that your website has an organized and friendly user interface that can guide your shoppers towards the right products.
Create a sense of urgency in your online shoppers by offering daily deals or time-sensitive coupons accompanied by incentives like “only 1 left in stock” or “Avail free shipping only for this product,” so they are inclined to impulse buy.
Enhanced Customer Loyalty
According to HBR, it is far easier to retain an existing customer than to acquire a new one. You can boost customer loyalty in a lot of interactive ways through e-commerce.
Your website is the first driver to form your brand’s impression on your customers. An excellent first impression means that your customers are happy and satisfied and are likely to give positive reviews about your brand. In an age where a whopping 86% of customers refer to online reviews before making a purchase and negative reviews driving away 22% of consumers, your online retail store must establish trust and connection with your consumers. This means that your direct competition is no longer confined to rival shops in your area, but how much your store can develop a positive experience for its customers.
So how do you boost customer loyalty in your E-commerce store?
- Show your customers you care about them by adding surprise gifts or free samples in their orders.
- You can offer special discounts to customers who have shopped at your store several times to encourage them to qualify for a loyalty program or a loyalty membership.
- You can offer a referral code for customers who refer your store to their friends or family members and simultaneously also qualifies them to receive loyalty points.
- Take feedback whenever possible! Call or email customers to ask them if they received their order safely and offer a discount on a second purchase. When sending out promotional emails, make sure you ask for their consent. Such care shows that you respect your customers, making them return to your store more often.
- In case of an ‘out of stock’ item, provide them with similar recommendations.
Another reason for this increasing preference of shifting to online retail is the efficiency and effectiveness with which orders can be processed, tracked, and delivered.
Because manufacturers can now ship products faster to consumers, more orders can be placed within a short time. Research shows that 63% of Millennials make online purchases, and 40% of all mobile users use their devices for online shopping.
This means that a mobile-optimized E-commerce website is likely to provide a satisfied customer base and garner potential sales.
Furthermore, e-commerce allows consumers more control over their orders. In case of an item being out of stock, they can find appropriate alternatives themselves. There are also fewer orders returned and minimized risks of errors since customers are able to review their cart before the final payment.
Customer chat options can also connect buyers with a sales rep that can answer their queries immediately. The prospects of saved replies for repeated questions and collision detection will enhance your customer service team’s ability to solve customer requests in a timely and efficient manner.
Timely Purchase Decisions
The manufacturing industry is a competitive industry to be in. The increased globalization causes B2B consumers to be critical about every aspect of their partnership with manufacturers – from processing orders to storing in the warehouse. Therefore, differentiation among suppliers has to be unique and compelling.
E-commerce provides the perfect opportunity for manufacturers to stand apart. Digital transformation allows manufacturers to innovate their products and make diverse purchasing decisions. Instead of selling to one major brand, manufacturers can now expand their services to cater to a global audience. recent study shows that 83% of B2B consumers are more likely to purchase products from manufacturers with an online platform.
Similarly, manufacturers are exploring self-service options and are looking for customers that have reliable, diverse and straightforward product content that can fit their manufacturing needs. Manufacturers are likely to opt for platforms that can give their products a boost by driving a larger patch of customers and one which provides a customer enhancing experience.
Having an E-commerce store also allows manufacturers to have all records of their products and pricing. Even when a product is out of stock, the graphical representation of the product with its specifications is still going to be available online for customers to see and help them in their purchasing decisions. Amazon and Google have arisen as e-commerce giants, flaunting robust e-commerce buying tools. Amazon’s new global store has also incorporated groceries and started a delivery system to maximize manufacturers’ collaboration and consumer’s satisfaction.
The Flip Side – Is Ecommerce Hurting Some Manufacturers?
An e-commerce strategy is only considered effective when it can deliver a buyer-centric and engaging online experience that enables customers to interact with your brand.
Out of all the consumers who shop online, 60% of them are millennials who make all their purchases online. But while these guys prefer low-cost, personalized solutions to meet their needs, manufacturers run the risk of alienating the other 40% who like things the old-fashioned way
The rise of e-commerce is affecting these businesses in the following ways:
Impediments To Product And Price Discovery
Statistics show that e-retail sales amounted to 14.1% in 2019 and are expected to increase to 22% by 2023. This means that the boom in online shopping is most felt by offline retailers and owners of brick-and-mortar stores.
However, since most products are now online for everyone to see, consumers already know what to expect in terms of product, service, and prices. This reduces the liberty of small-scale manufacturers to price their products according to their wishes.
Brands have already noticed customers adopt the practice of showrooming – browsing in-store merchandise only to purchase those same products online at reduced prices. With the rapid rise of digital technologies, consumers can now browse all of a store’s products on their phones and easily compare prices.
A survey conducted by Colombia Business School shows that the biggest triggers of showrooming are lower online prices of similar products and free shipping services offered by online retailers
As a result, retailers are growing weary of the fact that their in-store customers will exit their shops without making any purchase.
Lack Of Resources To Help Create An Online Strategy
Research conducted by Barclaycard shows that around 22% of brick-and-mortar retailers cannot sell online due to the massive costs of maintaining an online store.
For starters, building up a practical, user-friendly website requires high technological expertise that is costly to acquire. Moreover, its success depends immensely on a quick shipping and delivery system..
As compared to brick-and-mortar stores, online stores will always feature the same products with relatively lower prices. And according to experts and marketers, small-scale stores will just have to find innovative ways to cope with this competition.
The idea of selling the traditional way is slowly dying out, and businesses need to embrace the idea of working in multi or Omnichannel environments to achieve positive growth and return on investment. Consumers are growing more powerful through social media and the Internet, and manufacturers must be ready and willing to adapt to their demands rapidly and efficiently.
The time is now to stop resisting e-commerce for manufacturers that want to get competitive and become leaders in their respective markets.
As buyer expectations become more sophisticated, there is no doubt that ecommerce marketing channels will continue to explode further. People who usually buy their consumer goods from Amazon or Walmart now also want similar experiences directly from brands and manufacturers. They are no longer interested in sending faxes, making calls and working with agents – they want what they want ASAP.
And a sophisticated B2B website will help you deliver it to them.
E-commerce is a business tool that should be embraced by all manufacturers in order to benefit from a combination of digital technologies, web integration and business strategies.
There is no doubt that a B2B e-commerce platform for manufacturing businesses should be their top priority. It is, in fact, the first step towards an unavoidable and transformational change that will serve them well for decades. BoldFounder.com is the world’s top e-commerce strategy agency.