As recently as a decade ago, an organization’s product information was considered a technical resource, owned by engineering and/or IT teams, to be deployed across various business lines as needed. It played a supporting role in the organization’s larger business goals.
Then came the era of global digital transformation, accelerated by the COVID pandemic. Today, virtually every commercial activity revolves around digitized product data — generating, consuming, or both.
And as a result, product information has also transformed from a simple business resource to a valuable strategic asset, paving the way for new insights, efficiencies, and ecommerce technologies.
That’s why 67% of businesses have introduced new product information technology within the last year, according to inriver’s latest B2B Manufacturing Report. Success in today’s highly competitive digital marketplace depends on leveraging the full value of your product information at every step of the value chain.
Product information is at the heart of all the activities that add value and create competitive advantages for an organization, from inbound and outbound logistics to marketing, sales, and service. It encompasses everything from materials sourcing to advertising, promotions, and pricing.
Because of its central role, your product information needs to be accurate, accessible, and adaptable. A PIM solution serves as a single source of truth for all your product information. It breaks down data silos, ensuring information is accessible across all business units.
More importantly, it ensures everyone is operating from the same set of facts. The product information contained in your PIM solution is always the current version and most up-to-date. What a concept!
PIM creates a centralized hub for all your product information, enabling new efficiencies across your product, sales, and marketing teams.
At product onboarding, engineering and merchandising teams enter all the product information and product data into the PIM system for the sales and marketing teams to use downstream. As new information becomes available— updated specifications, sustainability data, new images, for example — the changes are immediately reflected on every channel where the product appears.
PIM simplifies content creation and channel syndication for sales and marketing. Consistent product content across all your channels is the foundation of omnichannel commerce. With PIM as a centralized single source of truth, your marketing teams can prioritize product placement on the best-performing channels and update product information across all your channels with a single click.
In 2022, all commerce is ecommerce. B2B buyers and retail consumers rely on many digital channels to search for, compare, and purchase products. Businesses must be prepared to meet their customers on the channels they prefer with enough reliable information to make a decision.
PIM excels at supporting and maximizing ecommerce activities:
Getting products to market faster is a priority for 99% of marketing decision-makers, according to our B2B Manufacturing Report. PIM slashes the time needed to create, update, localize, and publish new product information to get products listed across your sales channels faster.
PIM supports a consistent product experience everywhere consumers encounter your product. Rest assured your product information, inventory, availability, and pricing are the same across all your sales channels, increasing customer confidence and enhancing the customer experience.
With PIM in place, marketers can adapt campaigns and promotions in real-time based on how their customers respond – which allows teams to easily refocus efforts on their top-performing channels and adjust low-performing content to produce better results.
Adding new technology like digital shelf analytics (DSA) to your PIM solution amplifies your marketing efforts. DSA monitors your digital shelf and customer activities in real-time – looking for commerce-blocking issues such as poor findability, missing product details, and stock-outs so your team can take proactive steps to maximize revenue.
The current ecommerce cart abandonment rate stands at about 70%. Poor product information is a major contributor to the problem. The main reasons people don’t complete the checkout process include complete product information, missing or ambiguous return policies, inaccurate product availability information, and lack of transparency about delivery times and costs.
When customers know a product meets their needs, is in stock, and can be delivered quickly and affordably, they are more likely to buy. PIM ensures your product information is accurate and complete so your customer can make an informed decision and feel confident about completing their purchase.
PIM helps your business reach its full commerce potential by transforming product information from a resource into a strategic asset driving business performance.
Whether you’re looking to find new efficiencies in your marketing workflows or adding new technologies to enhance your customer experience, inriver PIM can help you maximize the value of your product information and leverage it to achieve your commerce goals. Paired with the power of Shift7 Digital’s ability to transform the e-commerce experience, you’ll be set up for success. Check out our new ebook together, a manufacturer’s roadmap to modern commerce success, and learn more.
Shift 7 Digital is an inriver Platinum Partner, member of the inriver Champions program, and recipient of North American Partner Project of the Year award for our work at Lincoln Electric. Read about inriver and our work together here.
We partner with the world’s leading B2B manufacturers and distributors to build incredible digital experiences.
Building the right digital experience for B2B customers is much more complex than crafting a user-centric B2C experience. We know because we’ve done it for companies ranging from heavy-duty truck fleet operators to tow truck drivers, construction contractors and architects, commercial welders, retail shop owners, and more. The same streamlined, efficient experience is expected by B2B customers, but their personas can be difficult to define, and the hyper-personalization that has come to define B2C shopping is difficult to achieve in B2B. Many a poor customer journey is built on assumptions – do you really know your customers and what they want, or are you just guessing?
Straight from the horse’s mouth is an old expression, and its longevity can be credited to its veracity: There’s no better source for what your B2B manufacturing customers actually want than hearing it directly from them. Without understanding your customer’s needs, wants, and goals, you’re not going to create a digital platform that leads to sales, encourages customer self-service (which frees up your salespeople to focus on more important things), or that your customers will even want to use.
The only way to understand customer needs is only through research. Then those learnings have to be translated into customer personas so you can build great digital experiences tailored to each persona’s customer journey. Hearing directly from your customers not only informs your user experience but solidifies your client relationships.
For manufacturers and other B2B businesses, customer-centric design is what’s going to convince them to adopt this new platform, help them access their account info and make purchases, and keep them coming back for more. It’s not a do-it-yourself proposition, picking the right expert partner is essential.
Read on to find out where many B2B companies go wrong when creating their digital experiences and how you can offer the best in customer-centric design.
Let’s not make light of the task: These are the most complex user experiences that exist. You can’t just purchase a technology platform and create an experience based on what you think your customers want. This is the biggest mistake your competition is making, and you don’t want to repeat it. Yes, your sales team knows their customers well, but have they ever asked them what they want in a digital experience?
Building a great digital experience requires a confluence of user needs, business goals, and technology objectives. It’s a matter of balance. What is your organization trying to achieve, and what products and services will get you there? What technology is already in-house, and what is needed? What about the data you need to capture and leverage that will create optimized, personalized customer journeys?
Rather than belabor what you might be doing wrong, let’s talk about how you can do it right and squash the competition with your customer-centric digital experience.
We talked about how you think you know your customer. You probably know a lot about what they value in product features, but developing personas that accurately model their digital experience across the customer lifecycle requires more of a deep dive.
Creating personas starts with your viewpoint – what you understand about your customers and how you interact with them. After all, you know your business, you’re great at it, and your sales staff, customer service agents, marketing department, and tech team are all rich sources of information. Gathering all their viewpoints is essential to learn how things work now and where the pain points are for internal teams and customers – all with the goal of creating optimized customer-centric experiences.
Next, we spend hours and hours talking to the actual customers who will be engaging with your customer journeys. It’s essential to learn about their day-to-day processes and how they’re engaging with you and your competitors. What are they trying to do when they contact you? What features and functionality do they want in a digital platform? What do they need and what are they trying to achieve?
The answers to these questions can’t be covered by a survey alone. It takes one-on-one interviews.
Sometimes personas are thought about as someone with a specific job title within an organization or something like that. But that’s a job description, not a customer persona. We group people explicitly by what they’re trying to do and what is most important to them when they’re engaging with an experience. So, it might be people that look very different in terms of job title, but once we start to uncover what those people are really trying to do, they may need very similar things. Personas are built out based on their mindset and what they’re trying to do when they engage with the experience.
These interviews help create personas that inform your digital experience. Once pain points are identified, solutions and functionality can be developed, whether they are self-service portals or notifications about order progress. Then there are the essentials for each persona: The functions needed to deliver what they want when they engage with you and specific features that capitalize on the opportunities that lie within that persona. It’s hard to reach a destination without a map, and customer-centric design requires a map of each persona’s customer journey to create the ideal digital experience for that person.
Now that personas have been defined and you know who your customers are and what they’re trying to do, it’s time to follow their journey. This involves taking a deep look from initial awareness all the way through to purchase and how they interact with their account in the future. How are they engaging with you? What are they thinking, feeling, and asking? What platforms or experiences are they engaging with and where are their pain points? Where can you be doing better?
Examining the customer journey is a journey within itself, broken into stages, mapping not only the practical parts of the digital experience but also understanding emotions. Are they really happy? Is part of the process inherently a bit stressful or hard or difficult or complicated? This is where we note how we can improve those emotions and support needs.
It’s during this phase that we discover how many individual customer journeys you have to map. You could have six personas, but that doesn’t mean you have six journey maps. Perhaps four personas are going through the customer journey the same way, and the other two each have their own specific journey. You may find that many of your personas have similar journeys because they’re coming at the engagement from a similar point of view, even if they’re driven by different things and have different must-haves.
Creating the best customer-centric design for manufacturers or other B2B companies starts with benchmarking and inspiration. While your company is unique, some companies (particularly B2C) offer stellar customer experiences with functions that can be used as examples for your own digital platform. It’s about looking at what others are doing right (and wrong) and learning from their experience.
Benchmarking helps get the creative juices flowing, but more importantly, it helps align everyone on where things are headed before getting into the actual design and development phase. It can offer a great deal of enlightenment and surprising efficiencies. For example, after going through the customer research process for one manufacturer, we found that 50% of the features that were internally considered valuable to their customers weren’t being used at all.
This highlights the need to understand what your customers and prospects are actually doing, what they need, and what they find valuable. There’s often a disconnect here between internal expectations and those of the customer.
This brings us right back to the beginning, and the research necessary to turn what you already understand about your customer into a fully fleshed-out persona that powers your customer-centric digital experience.
At Shift7 Digital, we understand manufacturing and B2B. We’ve done this for everyone from heavy-duty truck fleet operators to tow truck drivers, construction contractors and architects, commercial welders, retail shop owners, and more. We understand your customers, how they fit into your organization, and we partner with you to get where you want to go. We’ll turn your digital experience into one that others use as a benchmark. Reach out today.
We partner with the world’s leading B2B manufacturers and distributors to build incredible digital experiences.
At the beginning of the pandemic, with restaurants and entertainment venues shut down, New Jersey liquor distributor Allied Beverage saw an opportunity to transform its customer experience, service and e-commerce.
Allied Beverage is the largest liquor distributor in New Jersey, with annual sales well in excess of $1 billion. Their retail customers range from mom-and-pop liquor stores and restaurants to grocery stores and casinos. They have a portfolio of approximately 16,000 products.
The pandemic affected not only customers who sold liquor on- and off-premise, but also the company’s operations. Plus, customer demands were changing. They wanted more self-serve options. And Allied Beverage needed a more efficient way to handle all the service calls during a crisis.
“During the pandemic, the company realized just how far behind the alcoholic beverages industry is,” said Judah Zeigler, VP of digital and e-commerce at Allied Beverage. “We needed to update employee experience and introduce digital tools to enhance experience for customers.”
Allied Beverage hired third-party consultant Shift7 Digital to lead the transformation. Shift7 determined that for e-commerce, sales and experience functions, Salesforce cloud services would work best.
The company decided it also needed more inhouse expertise and hired Zeigler, who handled B2B and B2C digital marketing at Panasonic.
One of the company’s concerns was making sure these changes were implemented across the entire organization. This required people from sales, product marketing, operations, finance and other departments to work on the transformation full-time. To free them up, the company hired additional staff to manage day-to-day tasks.
The new hires will have the opportunity to work in other roles once the transformation is completed, Zeigler said.
A new digital customer experience is a challenge in the liquor industry, with a big payoff. That’s because the wide range of B2B customers require individualized service, but increasingly want to manage their supply with self-service.
“Over the course of meeting with internal stakeholders, we settled on three strategic areas,” said Zeigler. “First and foremost, we needed to deliver unparalleled customer experience. We also needed to enable sales service to be more self-serve. And we needed to transform the customer service organization to become an exceptions-based customer service. This would help the customer base as well as our salespeople.”
Top priority was making sure the systems used to reach these goals could all work together in a seamless fashion.
To meet these goals, Zeigler, Shift7 and other stakeholders decided to implement three Salesforce systems. The Salesforce Commerce Cloud would replace an existing homegrown e-commerce system. Salesforce Sales Cloud would be installed as a CRM. Finally, the Salesforce Service Cloud would manage service case management.
“We were able to roll up our sleeves and build a best-in-class solution that will grow with Allied and their customers for the long haul, leveraging the multi-cloud capabilities of Salesforce,” said Brad Borman, managing director at Shift7.
Many of the e-commerce and service capabilities will be fully live beginning in Q1 of next year. Allied Beverage wants to avoid implementing too many changes to their systems during the busy holiday season.
“The ‘service-to-sales’ portion of the transformation is live now and already making an impact,” said Zeigler.
Currently, when customers check in on order status or to ask other service questions, they receive a much more seamless experience.
The Service Cloud was implemented about a month ago, and already the company is beginning to pull insights and recommendations from data gathered in the CRM.
“A dramatic transformation in how a customer buys product is ahead in the next six months,” said Zeigler. “Allied’s desire to bring more new products to market every month and make those known to their customers, is in direct response to ultimate consumer demand for new wine and spirit offerings, and restaurants see this as a way to differentiate from other companies.”
This article originally appeared on MarTech.org: https://martech.org/how-allied-beverage-is-transforming-customer-experience/
We partner with the world’s leading B2B manufacturers and distributors to build incredible digital experiences.
On the path to growth and profitability, companies often focus on bringing in new customers. However, these new customers come with an acquisition cost that is five times higher than the cost of building a more profitable relationship with a current customer. Yet, few companies – only 18% – focus on retention, even though 76% see customer lifetime value as important to their enterprise.
Once you start taking a look at the statistics, it’s obvious that it is customer retention that truly drives profitability:
-The likelihood of selling to an existing customer is 60% to 70%.
-There’s only a 5% to 20% probability of selling to a new prospect
When you increase retention rates by a mere 5%, profits increase by 25% to 95%. Retaining loyal customers pays off in more than just their purchases. Loyal customers often refer new customers, which is another source of profits. Referred customers don’t cost much to acquire, which means their acquisition generates profits sooner.
You already have loyal customers who buy from you regularly, but how do you turn those occasional customers into loyal ones? It requires a robust investment in your customer relationships, making them the center of your marketing efforts. This means collecting and using data, offering stellar customer service, surveying your customers, and taking action from customer feedback.
With statistics like those above, it’s easy to see why keeping your current customers – and keeping them happy – leads to greater growth and profitability. We’ll top this off with another statistic: Your existing customers not only spend, on average, 31% more than new customers, they are 50% more likely to try new product offerings.
Here’s one more stat: The cost to acquire new customers has shot up almost 50% in the past five years.
Loyal customers are more likely to buy from you rather than another brand. And – bonus – they also serve as unpaid brand ambassadors. These advocates supplement your marketing efforts and help your sales team reel in new prospects, starting them further along in your funnel and saving you those expensive acquisition costs.
No one is loyal to a company that treats them shabbily. A positive customer experience leads to 62% of B2B customers spending more, and 76% expect you to know and respond to their unique needs as well as their expectations. Offering a bad experience once means 50% of your customers might switch to a competitor. After several bad experiences, that number rises to 80%. So, what does it take to keep already loyal customers and create new ones?
What everyone wants is to be recognized for their uniqueness. Once they’ve gotten to know your company, they want to be treated like a friend, not a stranger. You cannot give your loyal, repeat customers, nor those occasional customers, the same experience as prospects. The way to differentiate the experience between these audiences starts with collecting and analyzing data.
Look at the processes you have in place to capture data that provides valuable insights not only into what they purchase but also their purchase behavior. Do they like self-service? Do they spend a lot of time viewing product videos prior to purchasing? Use what you discover to reinforce and strengthen the relationship.
-Personalize all of your interactions as much as possible. Communications tailored to each customer make them feel seen and valued. Personalizing a subject line in an email can increase the open rate by 26%.
-How long has it been since they made that big purchase? Check in after a few months. Are they happy with it? Following up and checking on recent purchases is a great way to get to know your customer better and create upsell opportunities.
-Start a loyalty program. Offer member-only discounts or offer points for purchases that they can use in the future. Brainstorm some creative ideas based on your particular industry that lets your customers know you are thinking about them, appreciate them, and offering an incentive for them to come back and shop with you. Of course, your loyalty program will be grounded in customer data. This means your program can be adjusted based on which benefits your customers want.
You’ve made them feel special. Now, it’s time to show them that their opinions matter.
Sure, you want to increase sales and cash in on your customer loyalty, but it’s a two-way street. Your customers want to know that you appreciate their business, even when they haven’t made a purchase in a while.
This is a great way to incentivize your occasional customers to become loyal, regular buyers. Even in B2B sales, emotions – which always factor into buying decisions – are important to take into consideration. You can create new connections while making your brand stand out. Also, B2B marketing strategies that leverage emotional appeal are seven times better at propelling long-term sales, profits, and revenue than a message that simply appeals to logic.
All of your messaging doesn’t have to be about directly making a sale. You want your company to be the first one thought of when your occasional buyer wants to make a purchase. Send them a birthday greeting via email, reach out when they have a work anniversary, or just check in to see how they are doing.
Customer surveys are valuable as well, but only if the right questions are asked. We’ve all received those “How was your experience” surveys, but they don’t tell you much. Instead, ask how you can make things better.
Focus on the customer experience:
-What would (or does) keep them coming back?
-What did they like or dislike about the customer journey?
-Specific questions will yield specific answers that not only inform your marketing but make your customers feel like you value them.
All of this, of course, takes data analytics, not only to personalize messaging but to measure the return for your efforts.
Customers keep buying from you because they get value from your products. Look at the data about your best customers and perform a forensic audit: How did they find you to begin with? Look at the customer journey. What converted them? What was the onboarding process? By dissecting your most successful customer interactions and understanding their goals, you can better inform your marketing efforts.
Look at your sales process. Self-service is a huge draw for B2B buyers. Are there other parts of the process that can be automated to make your customers feel more in control? Where are there hurdles and what can you do to remove them?
Customer loyalty and customer retention should be top priorities for your organization. Nurture your existing relationships to reach your growth goals by providing them with a personalized experience that makes them feel valued and provides a seamless journey they will recommend to their peers.
Shift7 Digital partners with the world’s leading B2B manufacturers to build the incredible digital experiences that help you turn occasional customers into loyal ones and already loyal customers into evangelists for your brand. It’s time to revolutionize your customer service experiences and evolve your customer strategy for the digital age. For more tips and to learn how Shift7 can get you started, reach out today.
-It’s foolish to focus only on bringing in new customers because there’s only a 5% to 20% probability of selling to that new prospect
-On the other hand, the likelihood of selling to an existing customer is 60% to 70%
-Even if you only increase retention rates by 5%, you’ll increase profits by 25% to 95%
-Your current customers spend 31% more, on average, than new customers and are 50% more likely to try new product offerings
-Learn from your current customer data to appeal to new ones.
-Personalization is key, but don’t forget about the little things: emotional appeals sell, keep in touch, and show your appreciation
It’s no secret that manufacturers must provide a robust, customer-centric eCommerce experience, and you’ve heeded the call. Because your in-house IT team lacked the expertise to build the proper experience, you hired a team of crack professionals, and now you have a shiny new website, a personalized portal experience, a nicely flowing customer journey, a marketing plan, and everything you need. Your internal teams can take care of things going forward. Right?
Not so fast. Customer demands and technology both evolve, and often manufacturers lack staff with the precise digital and marketing skills required to move the dial and continue meeting growth goals. Competition is fierce, and today the beating heart of manufacturing is digital.
There’s a decision to make: Build an in-house team or hire experts. Building an internal team is tough, especially today when there’s a shortage of skilled IT talent, not to mention the great resignation adding upward pressure to wages. Then there’s your marketing. Is it helping your growth? Do you know what needs to be tweaked and when to get the most out of your efforts?
As a manufacturing executive, you know things are rarely one-and-done. There’s always something to be adjusted – oil added to squeaky gears, so to speak – and you know band-aid solutions just create further headaches down the line. You need expert digital services for the long haul with the right mix of talent that really understands your unique industry.
We know you’re smart. You wouldn’t be a leader in your industry if you weren’t. And you know that putting people with the right skillset in the right position is imperative to run an efficient operation. This matters a great deal in every aspect of manufacturing. Inefficiencies and missteps mean more than lost revenue today; they can have a ripple effect for months and even years to come.
You make a great product and have a great reputation. But reputations can be damaged quickly by a poor eCommerce experience, a glitchy app, or a poorly designed website that leaves customers scratching their heads when they want to find something. There’s a lot at stake as technology continues to innovate and customers want more bells and whistles.
It’s imperative you keep up. But again, it’s that issue of the right person or team for the job. Your IT team may be great at fixing local network issues and managing your ERP. But it’s more than likely that they have little expertise in your digital customer journey, with its many moving parts and nuances, and bandwidth limitations that prevent them from focusing on cloud-based front-office applications.
You’ve spent enough sleepless nights scrambling to catch up because of COVID and the massive move to pretty much all-digital commerce. You spent good money, and it would be a shame to see it go to waste as you fall behind once again. You need the right team to run and operate the digital customer experience, and it’s likely not found on your shop floor or in your IT department, so you’ve come to the realization that you need an outside partner. But not just anyone will do – you need and want a company that knows the manufacturing business intimately, and those are a rare breed.
You built it, and they came. But face it, you don’t have an in-house team who can maintain applications or deploy necessary enhancements and fixes on an ongoing basis. Your in-house marketing team also needs help planning digital marketing campaigns and generating analytics that will guide the way to your desired business outcomes: Growth with profitability.
Shift7’s Run & Operate services are the perfect solution:
-Keep the technology team and talent that built your application. Even if a big next project phase is months down the road, we can help after you go live and transition to sprints against backlog features to enhance functionality over time.
-Run & Operate your online business with strategic growth goals in mind. We can further enhance your customer experience, improve traffic, increase adoption and conversion rates, and help you boost online revenue and profitability.
We offer Run & Operate packages at different sizes, and we’ll partner with you to identify your needs and put together the expert team to meet your goals. Reach out today.
-Launching your website, app, and customer experience isn’t a one-and-done job – technology and customer experience demands all evolve, and you have to keep up
-Your in-house team likely has skill gaps that are impossible to fill between a dearth of expertise and the great resignation
-To grow, evolve, and prosper, partnering with a team of outside experts is imperative, and they must have manufacturing industry knowledge to be a real asset
-It’s more than just a matter of having the right people for the job – external experts can make the difference between stagnation and growth
You deserve to have a hardworking marketing technology (MarTech) stack. Unfortunately, many manufacturing organizations spend time and money on software that requires an engineer to understand and operate it. The latest, greatest software then becomes shelfware. There is a lot of desirability promoted around these tools. The technologies should let you do so much. But it’s very easy for companies to bloat their tech stack, and the costs and administrative burden can really add up after a while and undercut your marketing ROI.
What ultimately happens is you lose out on the ROI of that investment. That can mean a poor user experience inside your company, a poor customer experience outside, and, at the end of the day, lost revenue.
Then, so much of this software ends up gathering dust or is improperly used, so someone decides to clean things up – only to discover they hold licenses on tools they are not even using. This ultimately leads to an attempt to consolidate the tech stack and cut out the blot draining time and money from your IT resources.
It’s often a case of too much or not enough. The individual tools are not connected well as a system, which means they can’t be utilized to their full capacity. That’s where a lot of tech waste can happen – from tools not being used at all to not being used to their fullest.
To start disentangling your tech stack, ask yourself these questions:
– What am I trying to achieve with my martech stack?
-Who is my audience?
-What experience am I trying to serve?
-What does my audience want out of the experience?
-Which tools are going to be part of my overall system to help me get there?
This is how the accumulation problem plays. There’s no good tool to do something you want to do, so someone on your team identifies one and gets access to it. But that isn’t where planning to add a tool to your tech stack should begin.
Go back to the question, “Who am I trying to create this for?” That should be your customer. You need to understand what it is you’re trying to achieve with the tool and how that fits into the other tools and workflows you have in place. What is the plan around that? What does your tool stack need to supplement that experience?
Consolidating the tech stack in a manufacturing organization is extremely important to the seamless experience necessary to serve each customer. Even though you might have several business units talking to them from different places in your organization, their brand experience with your company should be the same.
You want to be able to serve your customers and use technology to scale, automate, and collect data to create a great digital experience that makes it easy for them to do business with you and makes the experience feel personalized to them. With a consolidated, integrated tech stack, you can enrich your database and profiles with all the great data points produced by their customer journey and serve them better in the future across your entire organization.
You have to take your time to design the stack behind that experience, and too often it’s done in bits and pieces. There are a lot of attractive options out there, a lot of slick software with advertising campaigns aimed at getting your marketing department to whip out their credit card, which only contributes to the bloat problem and lack of strategic planning.
When considering technology, it’s important to consider the right overall design of your MarTech stack and how it relates to the enterprise stack, such as your ERP and your CRM. You have to really understand the buyer path, especially how they’re adapting to eCommerce with shopping-cart and self-service experiences.
Understanding the buyer path and what you’re trying to do will inform your technology. The ability to scale up and down is important, but that doesn’t mean you have to have, for example, the most complex marketing automation system on the market.
Think through the lifecycle of your customer, not just from the perspective of what marketing is going to do, but also how you’re going to use technology to help other departments as well, including sales, operations, and customer service. There are so many missed opportunities among manufacturers undergoing a digital evolution – much more can be done with what you have and the technology you add to it strategically moving forward.
You might have the technology, but is it being utilized? Do you understand what it can do? If you’re not using every tool to its fullest potential, you’re not really getting the full ROI out of your tech stack. This is where experience counts.
For example, many companies have licenses that were bought by one department years ago that they’re no longer using. You need to be able to find these lost licenses and either integrate them into your new tech stack or eliminate them. There may also be functions your tech stack lets you automate, which is a great way to shift work from your team onto the tech itself. Whenever you’re not taking advantage of that kind of function, either because you don’t know it’s in the license or your team doesn’t know how to make it work, you’re losing ROI on your martech investments.
Digital marketing and its technology are also constantly changing. You need to think about the broad system and the impact across your marketing landscape.
That’s why building the right team with your internal experts and external partners to supplement their expertise is so important. An experienced team will understand how your martech software needs to be built and evolve with the changing times.
Let me give you an example: Jerr-Dan, a leading tow truck manufacturer, has an extensive range of light, medium, and heavy-duty wreckers, carriers, and rotators. They wanted to accelerate revenue growth, but their site experience was dusty and rusty at the 10-year mark, and now it just frustrated their customers.
They had a small in-house marketing team who knew that digital channels could drive business growth. They also knew they needed a partner who could set them up with best-in-class practices, the martech tools they need, and a modern customer experience.
We created a system that led to a six-fold increase in monthly lead generation, a 121% increase in average session pageviews, and a 285% increase in visitors sent to distributors through a locator tool on their website. They also realized significant operational efficiencies in their call center by implementing self-service.
At Shift7, we’re digital experts with deep industrial knowledge and experience whose top priority is to help you achieve your business outcomes. Our results-oriented team and prescriptive approach can help you catch up with today’s trends and whatever the future holds. Reach out now and maximize your marketing efforts.
-You might have all the latest and greatest software, but are you using it?
-Alternately, you might be using a solid tool, but are you using it to its full potential? And how does it work with the rest of your tech stack?
-It all begins with strategy: What experience are you trying to provide to your customers?
-You need to be able to use technology to scale, automate, and collect data to create a great digital experience that makes it easy for customers to do business with you
The competitive manufacturing landscape requires a solid online presence. This means doing more than launching a website and creating profiles on social media – your overall marketing strategy must include digital marketing that generates results, and this is rarely a do-it-yourself proposition for traditional industries like manufacturing.
Your CEO might wonder if your marketing is working, or perhaps you’re seeing your competition eating into your market share. Then there’s all that customer data – is it available, accessible, and actionable? Do you know how to get more data, how to parse it, and how to leverage it in your marketing? Are you looking at the right metrics and how to analyze them? When it comes to measuring marketing ROI, only 3% of manufacturers say their marketing meets or exceeds business objectives.
Marketing is a complicated business, but 63% of manufacturers say it is a high priority. However, only 22% use marketing automation now, and a scant 37% plan to invest in it even though one of their most common marketing challenges is resources – which brings us to our next point.
Your company’s strengths lie in the things you bring to the table that your competitors can’t. You’re an expert in your industry and product category. It’s time to concentrate your expert efforts on brand and product marketing and let us help you plan and execute a digital marketing strategy that matches your expertise.
Even if you have an in-house marketing team, the fresh perspectives, best practices, and technical expertise offered by a digital marketing agency are invaluable. Most manufacturers have marketing strategies that include a basic website that perhaps offers online ordering and other features. Yet, their site is hard to find, they don’t get much industry buzz, and they’re not getting the results they want from their users.
Your marketing strategy drives business growth by bringing in new customers and retaining current ones. This, in turn, depends on increased channel adoption and conversion rates, which rely on data analytics. You can easily see that you need digital marketing expertise to reach these goals.
At Shift7, we are incredibly growth-focused, and it shows in our work. Here are just a couple of examples.
Jerr-Dan, an Oshkosh Corporation company, has been in business for over 50 years, defining towing and recovery industry standards through their extensive range of wreckers, carriers, and rotators. They had a website, but it was old, cumbersome, and offered a frustrating user experience.
Luckily, they have a savvy but small in-house marketing team that knew they needed help to make their digital channels an engine for growth. They needed help getting set up with best-in-class practices and overhauling their site experience.
Customer research led to seven defined personas with end-to-end customer journey maps and a site designed for a seamless, modern experience. In their business, marketing drives leads to distributors, turning them into revenue drivers. The new experience has also led to end-user brand loyalty. In addition, Jerr-Dan has realized:
– A 285% increase in visitors sent to distributors by an on-site locator tool
– A six-fold increase in monthly lead generation
– A 121% increase in average session pageviews
All of these site improvements also created operational efficiencies through self-service features that reduced call center contact.
A customer-centric user experience is a must today. FleetPride, the country’s largest independent distributor of heavy-duty truck and trailer replacement parts, had a B2B eCommerce site. But the user experience (UX) left something to be desired, which led to a lack of growth through the channel.
We worked with them to develop a digital 5-year monetization model, identifying more than $800 million in growth opportunity via new customer acquisition, increased wallet share, boosted retention, and reactivation of legacy customers. Further, we analyzed UX issues, defined a digital marketing foundation, conducted an onsite search assessment, and created a firm analytical foundation with dashboards to measure and optimize FleetPride’s marketing.
These efforts had quite an impact, resulting in:
– More than 70,000 customers engaged in personalized buyer journeys for the first time
– Doubled average order value with emails and ad campaigns as significant drivers
– Identified more than $800 million in growth opportunities over five years
Overall, the modernized, segmented, and personalized customer experience increased both customer satisfaction and improved conversion rates. Revenue was boosted across all channels – online, direct, physical stores, and service centers – through digital marketing plans.
While each business is unique, basic marketing principles apply. We’ve turned those principles and best practices into a Digital Marketing Performance Program specifically designed to generate pipeline, accelerate business growth, and drive revenue. We address the common challenges of:
– Lack of measurable returns
– Outdated marketing tactics
– Finding and leveraging the right digital marketing growth opportunities
– Lack of digital experience and/or capacity in your in-house marketing team
We help bring campaigns to market fast across every channel; help you collect, analyze, and clean up your customer data; and use digital marketing analytics to measure the impact of your efforts.
First comes planning, where we work with you to assess your business situation and define your marketing goals. Then, with our Digital Marketing Performance Program, you catch up with the market quickly with growth plans and the firm MarTech (marketing technology) foundation you need for automation. Next, you bring brilliant digital marketing campaigns to life fast and get the measurable results you need.
We plan campaigns that meet your target audience goals and pull growth levers. We automate and personalize customer journeys to provide today’s modern customer experience, manage ads from their creative start to execution to final reporting, and provide the campaign performance dashboards you need, designed for your KPIs.
This is where we define your marketing landscape, looking at both your clients and your competitors. Then it’s time to see where the gaps are in your current marketing, gathering data that provides insights. Audience segmentation comes next – this is how you get the information to tailor your marketing.
At the end of this process, you’ll have a database growth plan based on your audience segmentation, a monetization model, and a strategy and tactical growth plan. Out of all this comes the next step – the foundation.
It’s time to develop the campaign strategy that will set your martech foundation. This includes campaign pilots for email, SEM/Google Ads, and paid social. We’ll look at channel-specific planning, develop creative assets, and do front-end development, staging, and testing.
We’ll also work together to develop an analytics strategy with a measurement plan, a data layer build, and dashboards and reporting. Next comes the SEO technical migration and build, along with content marketing optimization. Martech configuration and staging happens, and then you’re ready to RUN.
This is where all the hard work in the previous stages comes to beautiful fruition. You will bring effective, engaging campaigns to market faster than you imagined, and you’ll have measurable results to use for ongoing development, optimization, and execution across channels. We’ll work together to refine email, SEM/Google ads, paid social, and other channels. We do this through SEO migration, analytics and reporting, content and copywriting, and graphic design.
Shift7 Digital and our B2B marketing experts will get your marketing strategy to work, fast. It’s time for company leadership to make the shift to modern marketing techniques that acquire leads, convert them to customers, retain them, and make a measurable difference in both your pipeline and revenue. Connect with our expert team of B2B marketers today.
– Only 3% of manufacturers say their marketing meets business objectives
– Manufacturers often lack digital marketing know-how when it comes to automation, customer segmentation, and data analysis
– Shift7 has helped its clients identify growth opportunities, generate leads, and fill their pipeline
– With a digital marketing services provider, you can reach new markets by adopting new digital channels, attain and retain customers through a unified experience, and optimize resources with marketing automation.
As customer expectations continue to evolve, manufacturers are finding that today’s B2B buyer has specific wants and requirements. Providing the best possible digital customer experience can be a big differentiator for any manufacturing business, but to set yourself apart requires a shift in mindset.
The traditional way of doing business, ‘hand-shakes’ and phone calls has been turned on its head, so it’s no wonder you’re grappling with the best way to lead your company to a best-in-class customer experience. The first thing required is to have an open mind about your customers. It’s time to get to know them and their buying journey in a whole new way while employing the right tools to use those insights to optimize the experience. Let’s get started.
When we talk about preconceptions, ‘who your customer’ is looms large. You likely see them as dealers, distributors, retailers, and other third-party channels that you know a lot about. Which is true, but you also need to dig a bit deeper. Your actual customer is the end-user of your product, and they have valuable insights to offer – not just to refine and improve your products, but to drive the customer experience.
While your research and development team may have a “voice of the customer” program, it’s likely focused on product improvement. Let’s say you make safety equipment and get feedback that a harness cuts across a shoulder. So, you add a pad. This works, but doesn’t do much to inform the overall customer experience. Who buys this harness? How can we better inform the end customer about it? How is it purchased?
The same research tactics you use to improve products can improve the customer experience.
Think of your strategy as a three-legged stool: The first leg is customer need, and to get your head around what they really need means building a robust set of both channel and end-customer personas. From there, you can build a set of specific ‘online’ buyer journeys based on where each persona is in your marketing funnel. You’ll decide how these different personas are best served – whether online, offline, through the channel, or directly.
Your research also informs the second leg – growth opportunities. The knowledge you gain about your customers can be used not only to find new customers but also to grow your existing accounts, retain accounts, and implement operating efficiencies. The last leg of the stool is the digital capabilities that match the customer need and the business outcomes you’re trying to drive.
Your customers, no matter the channel, want access to pricing, inventory availability, and product information. They also want access to their account information – past purchases, custom pricing, etc. – as well as what their order is going to cost and when they’re going to get it.
It’s all about providing solutions for your customers without any friction, which means giving them a knowledge base with product information, self-service options for ordering, and the ability to track their shipments, plus the ability to diagnose and solve their problems.
It’s really important to understand each customer tier in your value chain and develop deep knowledge of their end-to-end journey. This means taking a close look not just at the marketing journey or the sales journey, but how the entire journey is woven together. Your customer experiences for each persona – dealers, distributors, retailers, and end-users – must be optimized from the awareness stage through interest, consideration, intent, evaluation, and finally, purchase.
A true digital customer experience touches all functions in the organization. It’s important to understand how every department in your company impacts the customer journey. Look at it this way: If someone is showing interest in a product because of a marketing campaign, that potential customer will have to interact with sales.
To provide the best customer experience and close the sale, sales needs every scrap of background information available on that prospect. Sales will need to provide customer service with the information they need to service the customer, marketing will want to know that their campaign worked so they know what to do next time, and so on. It’s important to know that every department in your company has an essential part to play in creating a great overall customer journey.
Product data, account data, pricing data, etc. are table-stakes customer expectations. For perspective, most B2B organizations don’t have this level of maturity and data organization – so you are not alone. To up your game, you need to have rich product content as well as good pricing and availability data, so they can see what it will cost and when they can expect to get it.
Customer and account data will let you contextualize what that customer needs and know how to route that to the right functional area of your company. It also will inform your personas and identify problems they might encounter that can be solved by your knowledge base.
Today’s customers want self-service when it comes to shipment tracking, finding parts and service, and reordering. They don’t want to have to call to get this information, and offering self-service options means they won’t have to, which helps with call deflection.
While some issues will ultimately be best solved by direct contact, offering self-service has long-term implications – namely happy customers who have the ability to order on their own timeframe, a better buyer experience and in turn, lasting relationships..
Building optimized customer experiences takes work, but you don’t have to do it all at once. Prioritize the customer journeys you can impact now, which ones have the biggest impact on your business, and devise a plan for your efforts based on these factors as well as ROI.
Take your time, get to know your different customer personas intimately, and don’t take on too much transformation too quickly. Understand what will meet both customer needs and have the most business impact.
I mentioned earlier the importance of involving teams across your organization. This means getting their buy-in and support. This is probably the hardest thing at most organizations. Remind them that technology won’t replace their jobs, but it will help them do their jobs better, create happier customers, and improve the company’s bottom line. You might remind them about how their own consumer behaviors have evolved with technology to create that aha moment that brings them on board.
This Article Originally appeared in Entrepreneur Media
No matter what they are making, from building products to high-velocity consumer goods, manufacturers face many of the same challenges when it comes to managing business with run-rate customers. Siloed information causes a number of headaches for sales teams and makes it impossible to not only provide self-service options for customers but also maintain accurate forecasts.
This is especially applicable to managing your run-rate business. To succeed at run-rate manufacturing, you need complete visibility into revenue opportunities and leakage in order to forecast order volume over a significant period of time. Seamless visibility allows you to keep the pipeline running at optimum capacity to supply orders as they come in, which is essential for a seamless customer experience.
Synchronizing the order pipeline and supply chain requires a 360-degree customer view and real-time information. This is only reliably available by integrating Salesforce B2B Commerce for self-service with the information stored in Salesforce Manufacturing Cloud to provide a seamless experience with reduced risks of errors.
With integration, all is transparent:
– A self-service customer can view their sales agreement commitments and then shop against that sales agreement, which includes all their discounted pricing, and place an order.
– The sales rep that’s managing that run-rate business account can see when one of their self-service customers draws down against a sales agreement.
The result? A seamless, simplified customer experience that also provides the data for accurate forecasting.
Salesforce Manufacturing Cloud takes the #1 CRM and tailors it to manufacturing businesses with features that support the many unique ways your business operates. It allows manufacturers to:
– Fine-tune virtual selling and hold sales teams accountable with key KPIs, performance objectives, and accurate sales forecasts.
– Rapidly respond to customer needs with fully connected customer service.
– Unify the run-rate business with sales agreements inside the CRM.
– Perform account-based sales forecasting.
– Set account manager targets for comprehensive business planning.
– Access Community Cloud for Manufacturing to enable collaboration around agreements, leads, and opportunities.
– Leverage the Einstein Analytics for Manufacturing AI to bring intelligence and insights to day-to-day operations.
Most importantly, we find that Manufacturing Cloud allows you to have a single source of truth and transparency to power your run-rate self-service business in Commerce Cloud.
Your B2B customers want the B2C buying experience they are familiar with as well as hyper-personalized service. You want to lower your cost-of-service and give sales reps more time to consultatively sell, not just take orders or support customer inquiries. You also want to provide accurate and risk-free self-service options. These options for run-rate businesses are especially complex.
By combining the power of Manufacturing Cloud with Commerce Cloud, you deliver a connected experience that provides cost-savings efficiencies and eliminates pricing risks.
Digital self-service and connectivity across sales channels – partners, sales reps, and customer support – is the new normal. Transparency and accuracy are assured, and your business can move at today’s fast pace. This means your data has to be accessible and useable, so you can create an ecosystem that meets today’s demands and those of the future.
It’s about giving customers the self-service options they want and sales reps the tools they need to propel and grow the modern manufacturing enterprise.
We know 86% of B2B buyers prefer to buy online when they know what they plan to re-order. This includes all of your run-rate customers, who buy the same items on a regular basis. It’s time to connect all the dots in your organization to create a digital sales environment that offers transparency, accuracy, and customer-pleasing self-service.
At Shift7, we know manufacturing, we know the power of the Salesforce platform, and we’ve developed a B2B Commercial Excellence Accelerator that brings powerful Manufacturing Cloud features to B2B Commerce. We have digital experts with deep industrial knowledge and experience whose top priority is to help you achieve your business outcomes. Our results-oriented team and prescriptive approach can help you catch up with today’s trends and whatever the future holds. Reach out now and don’t risk getting left behind.
– 93% of B2B buyers want to purchase online through a self-service portal
– Offering self-service options to run-rate customers is especially complex
– Salesforce Manufacturing Cloud and Commerce Cloud both offer great features that are much more powerful when they are working together
– Access to sales agreements and other customer data is required to offer a single source of truth for run-rate customers
– With real-time information and alerts, forecasting is made easier
Manufacturers today live in a world where 87% of B2B buyers want self-service for all or part of their purchasing journey as well as quick response times when they have questions. This requires a shift in thinking to a customer experience that facilitates the online services they want, which can, in turn, serve as a key growth driver.
A better customer experience offers manufacturers the opportunity to grab a piece of the estimated $25.65 trillion in B2B eCommerce transactions expected by 2028. Shift7 has seen B2B eCommerce used to enable direct-to-OEM sales; self-service for long-tail customers, low-volume wholesales at lower cost; leveraged for after-market parts; and to support the self-service demands of key accounts – to name just a few use cases.
Often, manufacturers will choose partners who don’t understand the complexities of B2B and solutions that don’t offer the right user experience for the industry. Here at Shift7, not only do we understand manufacturing, but our unique approach means designing a unified customer experience that blends your unique user needs with business goals and technology objectives for proven results.
We can go on all day about the importance of the customer experience, but you’re likely asking, “What do I get out of it?” Some benefits are obvious – you get online business – but that’s just part of the picture. By offering a robust and seamless self-service journey, you not only realize higher conversion rates, but you also set up a customer experience that is ready to scale. Some common business benefits are:
-Higher order value
-More customer data to inform new products and the ability to provide a personalized experience
-Increased synchronization between departments
-Easier, more informed customer targeting
-Increased brand loyalty
-Accelerated revenue growth
Shift7’s B2B commerce solutions are built with customer persona needs in mind, to give each segment the intuitive experience they want. It’s all about making it easy for customers to do business with you.
There’s really no such thing as a one-size-fits-all B2B eCommerce site. Complex manufacturing business models have customers with complex needs and a variety of customer segments; many use cases for self-service can exist even in a single business. A few common segments are:
You know these large customers well – they like person-to-person interaction and you probably have dedicated reps assigned to them. What you might not know about this group is they are always looking to save time and appreciate a combination of self-service options from you, alongside their knowledgeable rep. Self-service for strategic customers might mean offering them a personalized digital experience that includes subscription and inventory planning capabilities as well as the ability to check order and customer service status.
Your bread-and-butter mid-sized customers don’t require the same level of attention as tier one and don’t do the same amount of business, but you definitely want to nudge them in that direction. This could mean offering a seamless experience with the ability to view past orders online and offline, view account information, generate RMAs, place orders on credit, and view and pay invoices.
They don’t spend much, but their numbers are legion. Your sales team is likely spread thin as it is, which makes always-on account access and ordering essential for this group that is usually underserved by traditional sales team models. As an added bonus, you’ll get the business intelligence you need to mine the growth opportunities hidden in this segment.
Deeply understanding your customers is imperative. We have a customer strategy methodology that uncovers all the intel manufacturers need to give customers the features they want in an experience that increases your brand value.
We can help evaluate your unique path and needs for B2B Commerce. After all, we’ve seen it firsthand many times – manufacturers that offer a better customer experience see outsized revenue growth. And don’t be fooled – it’s not all about the technology. We take a holistic approach to your business using a strategy that merges customer needs and business opportunities with the technology to enable it.
What does this mean? We’ll help you decide priorities, set a budget, and develop a timeline as well as a clear plan of execution.
We leave nothing to chance, and failure is not an option. Our approach to manufacturing B2B commerce includes:
-User experience strategy and design
-Visual and interactive design realization
-Technical and functional design
-Integration with your PIM, content, CRM, and ERP platforms
We then test and launch the experience and onboard your employees. We can continue to yammer on about what we do, but when it comes to results, seeing is believing. It’s even likely that with our Salesforce B2B Commerce Accelerator, Shift7 Rocket, the building blocks for what your business needs are already there in this turnkey solution.
Let’s start with Lincoln Electric, a 126-year-old manufacturer of welding products. Many different departments had launched online customer experiences, but with no shared vision, no roadmap, and no overarching plan. Just a bunch of disparate customer experiences that left customers feeling frustrated.
We were able to reduce their six customer sites in the US to one, but that’s not all. Lincoln is also projecting:
-A cost-to-serve savings of $2 million
-$20 million in incremental B2B eCommerce revenue
-A platform built for scale – unifying the customer experience for North America, then Europe, and for subsidiary brands
And this platform is now powering the LincolnElectric.com and HarrisProducts.com experiences in an incredible 34 global markets and counting. Customers globally are enjoying a single, modern, unified experience for all of the information they need about their products and accounts. Sales reps and customer service have a single source of truth for content and product data. And teams at Lincoln have lots of new valuable insights about their customers.
Then there’s Ingredion, another 100+-year-old company that’s a global innovator in the starch and sweetener space. Time marches on, and Ingredion has evolved its market position, but it was having problems delivering the online experience to match. They had best-in-class technology, but it was siloed.
We crafted a unified site experience that included robust self-service options that brought an increase in converted leads, shortened sales cycles, increased product cross-sell, and reduced the cost of servicing accounts. In addition, Ingredion saw:
-A 150% increase in digital account self-service, saving sales and customer service costs
-10 times year-over-year revenue growth
-87% of B2B buyers want self-service for part or all of their journey as well as quick response times when they have a question
-By 2028, it’s predicted there will be $25.65 trillion in B2B eCommerce sales
-When it comes to eCommerce, one size does not fit all — you need a partner that intimately knows the B2B buyer journey and understands your unique business and customers
When it comes to marketing your manufacturing business, a single uniform message won’t get you very far. Your messaging and strategy should deliver communication tailored for specific audiences in order to form the lasting connections that lead to happy customers, repeat sales, and attracting new business.
This essential part of your marketing strategy is called audience segmentation. Segmentation takes knowing your target audience a step further, dividing them into subgroups so you can focus on each group separately to offer the products, services, and content that particular audience wants or needs. With segmentation, you target both prospects and customers and serve them with content and experiences that are most relevant.
Segmentation is a powerful weapon to differentiate against your competition. Treating all of your targets the same just doesn’t work. Customer A doesn’t want widgets, but Customer B does. Customer A wonders why they are getting an email about widgets when what they want are electronic components. Customer A soon stops opening your emails. You can see the problem.
It’s time to segment your marketing list. Let’s expand on why segmentation matters and how it works before you lose all of your “A” customers.
Slicing and dicing your prospect and customer lists using key characteristics means you can hone your message to deliver the personalized content that engages that particular group of people. In an age where hyper-personalization is required in the buyer experience, they expect a very tailored message. This tactic helps increase engagement and can move your prospects to the next step in the funnel.
A segmented list also informs your future marketing, supplying data to refine your personas to further refine your content for those audiences. Also, segmented campaigns get proven results: They have a 14.31% higher open rate, an unsubscribe rate that is 9.37% lower, and 2X the clicks.
You may be thinking, “Segmentation sounds great, but how do I do it?” Read on.
Audience segmentation in manufacturing and distribution isn’t like B2C. There’s additional complexity, multiple decision-makers, and formal processes in your target customer organizations. Also, the buying cycle is generally longer and there’s a larger emphasis on personal relationships. All factors that can lead to more nuanced segmentation possibilities – and make it even more daunting to tackle!
There are different methods to do a target market segmentation, but all of them require quantitative and qualitative data. It is the qualitative data that will determine your segments and refine your buyer personas. You likely have your list divided by characteristics like location, function, role, industry, and the size of the company. These, in data analysis lingo, are called firmographics. While these are important, they are broad, not likely to change, and don’t really give you what you need for further segmentation.
Messaging and engagement can be further segmented by purchase history, channel timing and frequency preferences, whether interactions have been passive or active, and which channel was used. The stage in the funnel is important as well, as engaging with someone new to your site or one who has just started the sales cycle will need different information than someone further along.
Which method you use to segment is going to depend on your unique goals, and there’s no one right way to do it. Here are four different models to get your wheels turning
Remember customer A and customer B? Need-based segmentation means that customer A never would have gotten that email highlighting the widget product category. Instead, they would receive an email about the electrical components they really need.
This method is superior to firmographics because it is based on needs and attitudes, which means you can focus on their motivation for purchasing and their common pain points. Customer industry and size of target account can be good indicators of the need – if you have industry familiarity and a strong product/market fit, you should easily see the ways you can solve the unmet needs in this segment. And if you don’t, interviewing customers firsthand informs your understanding of prospects’ needs, too. So does observing how they interact with your content: Which blog posts are they reading?
This approach gives you clearer insights into what your buyers want. Look at which channels prospects use, what content they interact with, and how they interact with your products. By adding firmographic data as well as that from your CRM, you can craft a marketing strategy that’s based on who the prospect is, what they specifically want, and their behavior.
This method looks at the annual revenue from customers in a recent time period and applies tiers that help divide the appropriate amount of high-touch account management required. In many manufacturers that operate in a fairly closed market, it’s common for 80% of their revenue to come from 20% of their customers. Marketing to the “long-tail” segment can be a significant growth lever, driving greater share of wallet through digital touchpoints and self-service, while a more 1:1 ABM approach could be appropriate for larger customers, designed in lockstep with sales.
This approach means you can tailor campaigns based on need, but with some important nuances. You’ll be dividing your audience based on product or industry savvy, looking only at their awareness of the problem solved by your product.
An unsophisticated lead may be a company that hasn’t embraced the latest industry trends or a new company that doesn’t yet know its needs. A sophisticated target may be purchasing from a competitor, which makes it your goal to explain how your products are superior.
How do you put all of this into place? The first step is to create a segment of key accounts and then decide on your segment type. Gather both your quantitative and qualitative data as well as your market research, and then code and segment your customers and prospects.
The right segmentation can make all the difference. Take a look at Fleetpride – their segmented campaign strategy is resulting in significant business impact, doubling average order value and driving incremental revenue.
Audience segmentation is the core of good marketing. It provides the detail needed to match your messaging to the specific preferences and needs of both your current customers and prospects to build relationships, earn loyalty, bring in leads, accelerate your sales cycle and increase revenue. Today’s B2B marketing is customer-centric. Shift7 Digital modernizes the marketing & sales model and prepares you for the future. Reach out today.
– Effective marketing means personalized messaging
– Audience segmentation supercharges your marketing efforts by tailoring messages that address the wants and needs of specific targets
– Segmented campaigns do the job of increasing engagement with more clicks, a higher email open rate, and fewer unsubscribed.
– There are different ways to perform market segmentation, but all of them have one thing in common: Qualitative and quantitative data.
In this episode of AppExchange Mavericks, Salesforce MVP Evan Johnson interviewed Andrew Walker, CEO at Shift7 Digital, to learn about why we’re a great match for B2B manufacturing companies, customer success, and trends:
The way manufacturers do business has changed forever. Whether it’s COVID-19, supply chain headaches, or material and human resource issues, you’ve had to bob, weave (and sometimes duck) with speed and agility. Nowhere is this more evident than in the way you engage with and service customers.
We all know customer expectations have changed, and if they don’t like their experience with you, they’ll just move on to a competitor. Customer service is a key differentiator today, says 86% of your fellow manufacturing executives. You may use technology to deliver high-quality products, but if your customer experience is lacking, you should know that 82% of B2B buyers say technology makes it quite easy to take their business somewhere else.
Statistics aside, stellar customer service means more repeat business, process efficiencies, better inventory control, and increased revenue. This all logically stems from giving your customers what they want. We know that they want a B2B buying journey that mirrors the best consumer experience yet is specifically tailored for their needs. It’s time to shift away from the pandemic panic mode and refine your customer service strategy based on these top trends for 2022.
Nothing impresses a customer more than the feeling that you know them and their needs well. What’s involved in a personalized experience? It involves personalized product recommendations and pricing powered by artificial intelligence (AI). It also demands that you provide accurate information about their account-based pricing rules, order statuses, and product availability. But the real goal is deepening your customer relationships, so they see you as their trusted advisor instead of just a supplier.
For equipment manufacturers, it’s predicted that there will be a demand for usage-based pricing and renting or leasing machines instead of outright purchases. This can create an opportunity for longer contracts and marks a shift to an “as-a-service” business model that parallels software-as-a-service.
It’s all about chatbots. While phone, email, and in-person support will remain vital for customer service, chatbots will be increasingly used by manufacturers to help customers get the fastest help while deflecting customer service calls to easy self-service answers. These chatbots are automated, powered by AI, and can reduce the role of humans in the overall experience. They can be used to answer anything from simple product questions to when a customer’s specific shipment will arrive.
In an increasingly hands-off world, AR and VR technologies can be used by field service technicians to collaborate with customers to solve on-site issues.
Omni-channel self-service tools offer customer service through multiple platforms, like email, chat, and phone – whichever channel your customers prefer. It also means a cohesive, unified experience no matter which channel they want to use. What’s especially important here is to know what your customers prefer. That’s where you want to be, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, or more traditional communication methods.
When it comes to eCommerce, you hear about self-service often. Face it, some people just want you to get out of the way and let them solve their problems or re-order on their own. This means creating resources like knowledge bases, how-to videos, and a self-service portal where they can accomplish these goals as quickly, efficiently, and accurately as possible.
Your success depends on your customers’ success, right? So, it makes sense to do whatever you can to foster that. It ties in with hyper-personalization: You know your customer with all the valuable knowledge you’ve gained through your eCommerce site, so use that information to anticipate challenges they may face. Can you anticipate maintenance timeframes from the original purchase date? Reach out with reminders and recommendations. Positioning some service agents as a customer success team with proactive goals can be a great way to reduce churn and boost customer loyalty and satisfaction.
All too often, customers are put on hold while a customer service agent tries to find someone to answer a question or make a decision. There’s a recent trend toward empowering agents, giving them autonomy to make decisions on the spot so they can better meet customer needs. This will involve some training, of course, but your customers will love the speedy assistance.
Traditional feedback surveys aren’t very useful unless they are linked to areas of actual improvement. What’s needed is relevant and contextual feedback from your customers as they go through your customer service experience. You can get more useful information from point-of-contact surveys and informal direct feedback from customers about their specific interactions with your brand and use those insights to continuously improve the customer experience.
Oh, boy. Another KPI to keep track of! But this one is really important: Customer KPIs. What are your customers’ most important KPIs? These could include production output, new product time-to-market, eliminating downtime, or revenue growth, among other things. Once you have this information, you can figure out how to help your customers achieve their KPIs. This will strengthen your relationships and show you can add value over the long term.
Of course, adopting these customer service trends means having the right technology in place, whether it’s new communication channels, a great eCommerce site, or advanced AI, AR, or VR capabilities.
The answers to these questions could help you realize greater value from your business relationships:
– What can you do to make it easier for your customers to talk with you?
– Focusing on your customer service and sales teams: Are there obstacles that stand in the way of providing the very best in customer service experience?
– How do physical distance and remote communication impact your ability to help customers succeed?
– What top three skills do your sales and service teams need so they can be viewed as a trusted partner?
– Does your frontline staff understand your customers’ business objectives so they can help achieve them?
As customer service trends continue to evolve, will you be ready? At Shift7, we have digital experts with deep industry knowledge and experience whose top priority is to help you achieve your business outcomes. Our results-oriented team and prescriptive approach can help you catch up with today’s trends and whatever the future holds. Reach out now and don’t risk getting left behind.
– Customer service is a key differentiator for manufacturers today
– 86% of manufacturing executives say that to ignore customer service means sending current and potential customers straight to their competitors
– There are 10 main trends in manufacturing customer service, including hyper-personalization, omni-channel, and self-service
– Another trend is toward performance-based contracts that have the potential for longer contracts with this shift to an “as-a-service” model
– Proactive customer service marks another trend: Use the customer knowledge gained through your eCommerce site to offer help before there’s an issue
– AI use will become more prominent, and field service customer satisfaction will increase through the use of augmented reality and virtual reality
Launched in 1988, toy manufacturer Melissa & Doug LLC built its business by selling to mom-and-pop retailers. A decade later, it realized it needed to play in B2B ecommerce.
While its sales representatives were effective at servicing this customer segment as well as others—Melissa & Doug also supplies larger retailers such as Target and Walmart—the company realized its sales model needed to include B2B ecommerce to better serve the more than 10,000 small, local retailers that order $5,000 or more a year in product.
With no experience in B2B ecommerce, Melissa & Doug turned to digital agency Shift7 to help design and launch their new B2B portal. The first step was to learn what its customers, especially small retailers, wanted in the portal. Key attributes customers wanted were quick and simple account set-up, the ability to view previous orders, quick reorder functionality, and the ability to upload product information and images direct from the portal to their own ecommerce site.
The latter was crucial, as the decision to launch the B2B portal was made in early 2020 just as the coronavirus pandemic was hitting, prompting many retailers to either beef up their ecommerce sites or quickly launch one to service the droves of consumers gravitating to online shopping. Having the ability to upload product data direct from Melissa & Doug’s wholesale portal meant that retailers can be assured of having the latest product data for their websites.
Within eight months, Melissa & Doug had built its portal, which launched this past March. “We knew we needed to move quickly with our B2B portal and have a roadmap in place on how to service our customers through it,” says David Henderson, chief commercial officer for Melissa & Doug. “Shift7 showed us the path.”
One of the chief challenges in building the portal was breaking down internal data silos to ensure B2B buyers have access to all the product and account data they need and to provide them with a high-touch, personalized service online. Melissa & Doug used Shift7’s Rocket accelerator service, which deploys Salesforce.com’s B2B Commerce on Lightning Experience platform and facilitates integration between the manufacturer’s customer portal and its back-office system. The overall system includes a homegrown ERP application, Boomi Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) cloud-based middleware, Cybersource security software, Salesforce order management system, and Sailthru cross-channel marketing platform.
“We knew we needed to have all our back-office systems connect to the portal so we could service the customer flawlessly on the day we launched,” Henderson says. “For us to manage all the data points buyers expected, such as the ability to view past invoices and receive updates on when orders ship, we had to know where all that data was internally, and how it moves through our back-office systems so we could flow it into the portal. We identified all that upfront.”
The toymaker’s preparation was critical in building a customer-serving portal, Shift7 CEO Andrew Walker says. “The Melissa & Doug team did it right by having deep customer research and understanding going into the project, so they knew which self-service features would be adoption drivers,” he says. “Connecting back-office systems to make order and customer data accessible to customers in real time through online self-service—that’s often the hardest part for our clients—but it’s critical to meet customer expectations. Once that data can be accessed real-time through Salesforce, there are silo-breaking benefits to all functions, and it really drives great customer experience.”
Since the portal’s launch, the average value of orders placed through it is three times larger on average than orders placed through sales representatives, the toymaker says. The company has also attracted a slew of new customers, mostly small independent and specialty retailers that the manufacturer was aiming to reach through its portal. Those customers have generated $10 million in incremental revenue since the portal’s launch. In addition, the manufacturer has lowered its cost to serve small customers by $450,000.
About 50% of order volume through Melissa & Doug’s customer portal comes from small independent and specialty retailers that place orders of $5,000 or more, Henderson says. In addition, 15% to 20% of buyers using the portal are placing monthly orders. “We thought this group would order in bulk once or twice a year, but that has not been the case,” says Henderson, who adds that all new customers are automatically onboarded to the portal.
One feature of the portal that buyers especially welcome is the ability to quickly showcase new products as they become available. “We can even offer buyers discounts on excess inventory, present cross-sell and up-selling opportunities, and let them build favorites lists,” Henderson says. “Our goal is to personalize the user experience.”
To build awareness of the portal among its customers, Melissa & Doug launched a marketing campaign that included invitations to customers to take a virtual tour of the portal. The campaign has been so effective that some customers that weren’t engaging much with the manufacturer’s sales representative prior to the portal’s launch are re-engaging through the portal as the self-service channel they had wanted, Henderson says.
“We told our customers this was the direction we were moving and that the portal would provide access to their account data and product data without having go through a sales rep, while providing a personal touch when it comes to service,” says Henderson.
Looking ahead, Melissa & Doug plans to enhance the portal to include adding live chat by year’s end and eventually real-time inventory counts that refresh through each day.
“The portal is about creating a better way of servicing our customers and reaching small retailers that can expand our business,” Henderson says.
Peter Lucas is a Highland Park, Illinois-based freelance journalist covering business and technology.
This article originally ran in Digital Commerce 360 : https://www.digitalcommerce360.com/2021/10/28/how-ecommerce-helped-a-toymaker-play-with-more-retailers/
Digital engagement is more important than ever for manufacturers, and they must decide how to invest in resources for 2022. Three critical things to identify and address are customers’ actual needs, a company’s real business objective, and the best tools to build digital experiences, writes Randy Higgins, chief strategy officer of Shift7 Digital, an agency that focuses on manufacturers.
Although it’s nearly impossible to believe, we’ve all found ourselves close to wrapping up Q4, and for many that means finalizing budgets for the coming year – including where your marketing dollars will go. As a business who nearly exclusively serves manufacturers, we’ve seen digital engagement run the gamut over the past 18 months, from full stop to full speed ahead, and now it’s time to start finalizing decisions of where your money will go next year. This can be overwhelming; especially as it continues to be difficult to make long-term plans in the environment in which we’re all living.
When it comes to prioritizing where you’re going to spend your digital marketing and engagement dollars, we find it helpful to think of a three pronged approach of understanding.
Our business primarily serves manufacturers, and manufacturers are often one layer removed from their true primary customer because they sell through distributors, wholesalers and the like. As a result, they have many personas they’re selling to and layers to get through for complex goods and services, and this can make knowing where to spend your money even more challenging. Having success in this arena is really about laying the correct groundwork and truly knowing who your end customer is and what they want. We often hear a lot of things like, “oh our sales team can tell you everything you need to know about our customers,” and while yes, the sales team is often an invaluable wealth of information, what they’re going to tell us often differs slightly based on the customer research we do because they’re inherently biased (and human!). Furthermore, they’re overloaded and it’s hard for them to do their own jobs well and tell you exactly what you need to know to optimize your marketing.
To spend your digital marketing dollars well, you have to know your target forward and backward, and the foundation of that starts with strong customer research. It needs to be your very first step.
Part of running a business is understanding that you can’t do everything at once and being able to prioritize goals in a way that benefits the company. The second step in figuring out how your digital marketing dollars are best spent is making sure your budget is aligned with pushing you toward your most important business objective. Is it revenue growth? Maybe you’re trying to reach new markets? Or are you striving for operational excellence? Whatever the answer is, it can’t be all three, or any more than one thing.
In dealing with manufacturers, we’ve found that most of our customers operate within a closed-loop market; in other words, there is a fixed number of customers that buy the goods they make. A good example is Boeing – there are only so many customers who buy commercial airplanes and that number doesn’t fluctuate. With these types of customers it’s much more about brand stickiness and making sure that when these customers need a plane, they’re choosing Boeing. In that way brand loyalty has become their primary business objective. Make sure you’re identifying your own before you’re spending money on marketing.
Once you know your customer and your objective, it’s easier to clearly think through the correct tactics and tools for getting the job done. When it comes to digital marketing and engagement, the possibilities are truly endless – digital marketing is marketing now, and it’s become more important than ever in the past 18 months. We find that a good starting place to think from, and one that can be applied to nearly any business, is to ask yourself, how can we drive more applications of self-service for our business? Self-service is a phenomenal margin driver and ultimately it’s what your customers want right now, no matter who they are. Whether it’s your e-commerce experience, customer service or broader marketing initiatives, try to be guided by the idea that your customers want to do as much for themselves as they can.
What do all three of these ideas add up to? You need to have a plan that’s actionable. It’s not enough to say “we really need to think more about digital” anymore. Being smart about digital engagement can feel like scaling a mountain, but if you take the time to dive into what an actionable, prioritized plan means for your business, you’ll be ahead in thinking smart about your marketing dollars for 2022.
This article originally ran in Digital Commerce 360
Manufacturers are not known to be digitally savvy, but changes in B2B buyer expectations and other factors have led to steady growth and capital investment in manufacturing eCommerce sites. In 1999, manufacturing eCommerce comprised 18.1% of the total value of manufacturing shipments. By 2018, this number had risen to 67.3%.
The COVID-19 pandemic saw manufacturers embracing eCommerce because they could no longer sell using traditional face-to-face methods. At the same time, supply-chain woes and belt-tightening by customers slowed growth. The good news is that it is predicted that 2021 will see a revenue increase of 7.2%.
Companies that want to realize that growth and more will depend on their eCommerce site. The shift to online buying is permanent, and C-suite executives who want their business to stay competitive must provide the digital commerce tools their customers expect.
Those customers are both distributors/dealers and direct buyers, and they expect the same level of service from your B2B eCommerce site as they get from a consumer eCommerce site. Self-service options are a must. Through self-service, manufacturers can simplify their sales process, increase sales and profit margins, forge lasting customer relationships, and boost brand awareness.
Manufacturing executives should take note because resistance to self-service eCommerce is futile. About 75% of buyers say they prefer digital self-service and remote human contact to in-person communication; only 20% of all B2B buyers surveyed said they hope to return to face-to-face sales.
Additionally, 86% say they like using self-service for reordering. Buyers find it easier to get information and place their order quickly and conveniently when manufacturers provide a self-service experience, and 99% say they would via purchase self-service.
Also impacting the shift to self-service are millennials – 59% of all B2B buyers are in that age category. These buyers grew up with computers and other technology and feel comfortable using it. Among the things that are most important to them is purchasing processes that save time. If you do not offer the experience they demand, they will go to your competitors who do have what they want.
Not any self-service solution will do. Buyers expect an eCommerce portal to deliver information that they can trust, appeals directly to them and what they want to buy, and looks as though it was created just for them. When these platforms fail, it is usually due to inaccurate, out-of-date, and missing data.
Building a site that your buyers will choose to use for self-service — instead of getting your rep back on the phone again — requires:
– Product catalogs based on the buyer’s specific requirements.
– Account-specific pricing that includes their negotiated deals and other pricing rules you put in place, such as purchase frequency or the value of their total order.
– Reliable availability and pricing information based on real-time SAP data.
– Customized promotions and offers.
They are also looking for real-time status of orders, pricing, and inventory, account self-management, and relevant training and support content such as how-to-videos, a knowledge base, user manuals, FAQs, and documentation.
Buyers also expect a checkout process tailored to the payment options they want to use — whether that’s a purchase order, credit card or, yes, even PayPal and other consumer-focused payment options. They want all of this available 24/7 and on any device.
For manufacturers, the improved efficiency of a self-service portal means saving money while actually earning more. A robust and well-constructed self-service portal brings the following advantages:
– Increased revenue: Happy customers spend more money, and self-service offers plenty of cross-sell and upsell opportunities. Because you offer a personalized experience, you have the opportunity to grow that business from a data-rich perspective that can often out-sell a human sales rep.
– An increase in customer loyalty: Giving your customers what they want keeps them with you, so you will improve retention and decrease churn while pleasing new customers by giving them what they want. When compared with companies that don’t offer it, those with self-service see an 85% year-over-year boost to retention.
– Improved efficiency: Efficiency improves because the ordering process is automatic, with little or no assistance from humans.
– Reduced costs: Customers get what they want without having to interact with a sales rep, and you also save the cost of a live agent call, which can cost between $6 and $12 per call compared to an automated, self-help solution cost of 25 cents.
– Customer Data: A treasure trove of first-party data that a manufacturer has often never had before leads to many new customer insights and breaks down silos for synchronization across all customer-facing functions
– Market expansion: Selling online means the opportunity to expand globally and sell into new geographies. It is important that your self-service portal has language and currency options and can handle international orders.
– New market creation and innovation: Expanding your market can lead to easy expansion of your product lines through small tweaks that make them more appealing to other geographic areas as well as generate ideas for new products.
Constructing an eCommerce self-service portal means uniting your ERP with your front-end data for the real-time information users expect and installing the right eCommerce platform to speed time-to-value.
Your front end integrates your processes. Your front-end user experience can and should be clean, simple, and thoughtfully designed to bring all user experiences together under one digital “roof” for each buyer persona. But the content and data have to come from somewhere. ERP often has all the customer, supplier, and inventory data that you need to power the eCommerce site attached to your front end. Without that data, you cannot provide an experience your customers will want.
For distributors to adopt and use the portal, they need accurate pricing, inventory, and delivery against their contracts, and they need to have that information at their fingertips. If anything is wrong or missing, you could lose the sale and perhaps even the customer.
For SAP-based manufacturers, this is especially complicated because SAP is complex to handle for even sophisticated manufacturing companies. It is not at all seamless to connect SAP to your eCommerce portal without tools that make the data transfer more seamless, accurate, and real-time. Ideally, you’d like to have a real-time bidirectional connector that integrates Salesforce Commerce Cloud with SAP to ensure that your self-service eCommerce portal is always showing your users the correct data. Only then can you count on distributors, dealers, and direct customers choosing to adopt your self-service portal.
– Changes in B2B buyer expectations have resulted in a growth spurt for manufacturing eCommerce sites
– As eCommerce has evolved, buyers expect the full B2C experience, and that includes self-service options
– 75% of buyers say they prefer digital self-service options, and 86% want it for reordering
– Many buyers today – 59% – are millennials who, having grown up in a digital world, want buying processes that save time
– Self-service engenders loyalty, and companies with eCommerce self-service realize an 85% annual retention boost
– For manufacturers, there are cost savings in many areas, including in the cost of time-consuming calls to customer service agents and sales reps
Your customers are seeking different ways of engaging and buying from you. As you deliver multiple channels including direct sales, self-service purchasing, rebate management and more it’s hard to consolidate all of this data into a single view.
In particular, it’s difficult to bring all of these different revenue streams together to allow you to report across your business and stay compliant with the latest tax laws locally and globally.
We’ll discuss these topics and more with Andy Peebler, VP of B2B Commerce at Salesforce, Maria Tringali, Sr. Solutions Consultant at Avalara and Randy Higgins Chief Strategy Officer at Shift7 Digital.
We will look across all manufacturing channels and learn from the experts at Salesforce, Avalara and Shift7 Digital on why taking a deeper view of integrated revenue management is so important.
– What Salesforce is seeing with manufacturing trends driving B2B selling
– Why automation in compliance is needed now more than ever using Avalara
– How an accelerator like Shift7’s Rocket for B2B Commerce can bring the power of integrated management to life
A robust B2B Commerce site brings a lot of advantages when it comes to operational efficiency, revenue, and an improved customer experience. It also frees up your sales team’s time to nurture and grow your largest, most profitable accounts. But it also provides a stellar opportunity to accelerate your long-tail transactions.
Leveraging your Commerce site to capture the long tail turns Pareto’s 80/20 rule on its head. Your online shopping platform and shipping to direct customers allow demand to be consolidated across your entire market, increasing both the length and size of the tail. Your customers can buy products that better meet their needs and find even more products to buy by searching your site.
The cost of servicing long-tail accounts with salespeople and human customer service agents isn’t economically feasible. There’s no scalability – you could not possibly use people in an effective way to grow long-tail customers. However, through the use of chatbots, self-service portals, and other digital tools, you can capture much more long-tail revenue economically.
As we pointed out, your manufacturing company can’t possibly capture long-tail business with its existing sales force and client services team. Beyond that, scaling is impossible – you couldn’t possibly hire enough people to service these accounts. However, there are ways to capture that transactional value.
You already probably have scalable processes for order, delivery, and invoicing. Add in self-service options with personalization where available, and you are ready to service this smaller revenue stream with automation instead of people power. These customers could even include your current clients who buy big-ticket items but need to be able to order spare parts or accessories quickly without having to sit on the phone with a salesperson.
Long-tail items are seeing increasing demand, and markets previously seen as niche are realizing large growth. But to service these customers without breaking the bank means your eCommerce platform has to offer plenty of self-service options.
Almost all – 70% – of your customers want self-service tools on a Commerce site, but it is extremely important to keep long-tail customers from out of your expensive human assistance queues. To do this, you have to provide the Commerce tools they need and the personalized experience they want. Offer them:
1. A knowledge base: This enables self-service support that can prevent calls to customer service and sales. Your knowledge base is a customer service library filled with resources such as tutorials, guides, whitepapers, and anything else that fits your unique business and gives customers a way to easily access information.
2. A product catalog: You can start with something basic that shows your entire product line, but to be truly effective for the long-tail buyer, they will need personalized catalogs that are based on their specific requirements. You can use the data gleaned from your integrated B2B eCommerce site to make this happen.
3. Community forums: These forums give customers a place to ask questions and help each other find answers. This has another business bonus as well: By observing what customers are talking about, their shared experiences, and their expectations, you can improve customer service while collecting information to accelerate and improve product development.
4. Frequently asked questions (FAQ): Use your community forums to gather intelligence to populate your FAQ, and keep it regularly updated, so it truly adds value for your long-tail and other customers.
5. Chatbots: Chatbots are essential to meeting customer expectations and facilitating self-service. In B2C Commerce, they are ubiquitous, and your B2B customers expect to see that little box at the bottom of their screen. On your Commerce site, automated chatbots provide the expected immediate service simply and easily, 24 hours a day, every day, without the aid of humans. Through the use of artificial intelligence technology, chatbots can learn to better recognize customer needs and provide a custom reply. Some can even provide answers to complex questions.
6. Video: Videos can provide self-service support, but they are also useful for trust and relationship building. They also serve as a marketing tool. A survey found that 70% of B2B buyers are watching videos as part of their purchasing journey, a 52% jump in just two years. Your long-tail buyers want to see videos about product features and how-tos, along with professional product reviews.
Additional tools you can offer include an online form for sample ordering and a pricing calculator, which is helpful if it will work for your business.
An essential part of a self-service portal for your B2B Commerce site is the right ERP and CRM systems, integrated for scalability, combined with the right Commerce platform. You can’t get the data you need in the front end unless you integrate it with the back end. The back end is where all of your complex business rules and pricing reside, and your Commerce platform needs that real-time information to power your self-service portal.
Most integration solutions use error-prone middleware and a process that takes many months. Look for a solution that offers pre-built components that can have you up and running with the data you need in days.
Selecting a Commerce platform that can do what you need is essential to providing the desired, required, and expected B2B customer experience today. Custom sites can take almost two years to build, and many more than that to realize an ROI. You can also go to market with a bare-bones site that lacks the features you really need to scale and grow.
Look for a templated approach that offers best-in-class B2B Commerce from a vendor that understands your business and can get you up and running in a few months with the features you need, and for much, much less than a custom build.
Capturing the elusive long-tail customer is easier than you think with today’s modern integration and Commerce solutions.
Long-tail or long-standing customer, your success is dependent on the customer experience.
You can’t give them the experience they want and expect without integrating your ERP business logic, which contains your custom pricing, configurations, and other essential information, into your front end. If you happen to run SAP ERP, the enosix solution can do this within days to provide the critical data you need to provide the experience your customers want.
It’s all about speed to value, and Shift7 Rocket Commerce can have your B2B Commerce site up and running in just three months.
– Take advantage of the technology inside your B2B Commerce platform to engage and convert long-tail buyers
– The same self-service options that all buyers want are essential for bringing in long-tail customers economically at scale
– It’s impossible to capture all of these long-tail customers with a human sales team — there simply aren’t enough salespeople to go around, which makes it an unscalable proposition
– Self-service options that can bring in this business at a low cost include chatbots, a knowledge base, videos, personalized product catalogs, and a robust FAQ that keeps evolving
– None of this is possible, however, without integration of your front- and back-end systems and data and a robust Commerce platform
Manufacturers have been late to the game when it comes to effective eCommerce, but it’s top-of-mind for many – 66% of US manufacturers say that implementing digital sales and marketing is a high priority. In fact, some have plans to move 60% of their sales online.
Ambitious, but necessary. While manufacturers have spent time and resources on external distributor channels, they have often neglected their own websites to the detriment of the customer experience and, in the shadow of the pandemic, their growth – which was only about a third of what it was the year before.
Because physical sales were close to impossible during the pandemic, business buyers often worked remotely and purchased online. This shift – and analysts say it’s a permanent one – served as a wake-up call to firms that suddenly realized their old model of in-person sales was impossible and they needed a new paradigm.
The lack of robust eCommerce sites strengthened distributor-customer relationships to the detriment of manufacturers’ relationship with both. This and other challenges, such as global supply chain problems, mean a fully integrated, B2C-like B2B eCommerce portal is essential to remain competitive.
The question is: What do these buyers want and how do you achieve it?
Business buyers want the same seamless, customer-centric experience they get when they buy something personal online. However, B2B customer experience ratings are far behind their B2C counterparts, while B2C companies get scores between 65% and 85%.
To satisfy B2B buyers, whether they are distributors or direct buyers, your eCommerce site needs:
– 100% accurate information from their transaction history to product availability and pricing
– Comprehensive product search capabilities
– Product recommendations
– Inventory visibility and availability
– Their customer-specific pricing
– Easy access to order and invoice history
– 24/7 customer service
– Quick reorder capabilities
The goal is to give them what they want, when they want it, with no friction. This requires a 360-degree view of your current and potential customers, and that means gathering and using as much data as you possibly can, which in turn requires the right technology solution; one that can be implemented quickly and efficiently while boosting purchases.
It’s not all about technology, so that’s not the right place to start. Before you build, you must plan out your eCommerce experience and the digital capabilities you need. That planning takes leadership and expertise. Consideration must be paid to branding, product management, and marketing.
It’s important to pinpoint your target audience; set user content requirements; and then determine the layout, navigation, and branding you will use. Design is a very important element in usability, and an unappealing, cluttered design leaves users wondering if what they buy will live up to expectations. All of this takes eCommerce expertise in the manufacturing sector, which has complex requirements.
You need data to power your eCommerce site, but it’s sitting in ERP. What do you do then? To get the information you need in real-time, integration with your front end is mandatory. Your integration solution should make sure your Commerce site’s customer and product data are always visible and accurate, so you can provide the ultimate customer experience.
You’ll eliminate customer disappointment by guaranteeing inventory availability, and upon submission of the shopping cart, an accurate, order is created automatically in your ERP. It also enables visibility into order histories created across all channels, as well real-time, accurate pricing — including customer-specific pricing, discounts, and tax.
With this kind of integration in place, orders can be validated against and created in ERP in real-time, and your custom business logic is automatically applied, which means the orders are always correct. For Salesforce B2B Commerce Cloud, rather than use middleware software suites that take months to implement, many SAP-Manufacturing companies are opting for pre-built integrations that leverage native Salesforce Lightning objects to communicate with native SAP components, which get you up and running fast.
Many eCommerce solutions are quite limiting or far too complicated, often requiring a lengthy setup period that can take up to 12 months. You might consider a custom solution, but that carries a hefty price tag.
You know you’re already behind, so you need a swift solution that works well with Salesforce B2B Commerce and the right team with the right expertise to execute it. Our Shift7 Rocket Accelerator with custom modules added to Salesforce B2B Commerce on Lightning Experience results in accelerated implementation in a short time and is much less expensive and efficient than any custom build.
If you’re ready to take the next steps to get your Salesforce B2B eCommerce site up and running, get in touch with Shift7. And if you’re facing the all-to-common SAP to Salesforce integration challenge, reach out to the enosix team to make one of the most painful aspects of the project a whole lot easier.
– Some manufacturers have plans to move as much as 60% of their sales online
– Moving sales online has become a necessity due to remote-working changes wrought by the pandemic
– A fully integrated B2C-like experience is necessary to remain competitive
– The B2B eCommerce experience is pretty awful, with customer experience ratings (averaging below 50%), far behind their B2C counterparts (65% to 85%)
– An effective eCommerce site experience depends on data integration between ERP and the front end. With SAP and Salesforce Commerce, this can be accomplished in just few weeks with pre-built integrations by Enosix
– After integration, all that data is available in Salesforce to feed into your eCommerce site
Over the past 24 months, the dynamic between B2B manufacturers and distributors changed in a major way. Since COVID-19 caused some extreme disruptions in the supply chain, it’s difficult for both manufacturers and distributors to keep pace with shifting consumer demands. Now more than ever, B2B distributors need to create a new business model that upholds comprehensive online shopping experiences on their websites.
Even before 2020, digital commerce showed tremendous traction with a historical growth rate of 15% year over year. This is why many tech experts consider the pandemic to only be a catalyst in expediting the adoption and acceptance of e-commerce on a mainstream level — B2B commerce just needs to get on the same page as B2C retailers and wholesalers.
There is no going back to “normal,” either. The challenges of the pandemic, coupled with extreme shifts in customer expectations and demographics, mean that manufacturers and distributors will continue to face disruption to their traditional business models. But, technology feeds on disruption, and B2B distributors can use tech to their advantage, evolve their fulfillment workflows, and unify the customer’s online and offline experiences.
B2B distributors need to start with their business’ website and focus on constructing an end-to-end shopping experience for users. Since these particular users tend to be Millennials or one of the many Zoomers now entering the workforce, it’s crucial to offer the right contactless tools that appeal to them, specifically.
For years, B2B manufacturers focused on building the best possible products and kept the in-person aspect of the business going strong with all of its luncheons, handshakes, and paper trails. The right channel partner could take care of the more nuanced pieces of the sales pipeline. The pandemic made these in-person practices obsolete, however, and now, manufacturers rely upon their distributor partners more than ever. This massive deviation from the traditional model begs the question: How can B2B distributors sell products more effectively online and relieve the new stressors they and manufacturers face?
“All steps of the sales cycle need to be examined,” explained Randy Higgins, Chief Strategy Officer of Shift7 Digital. “There is a lot of pressure on the supply chain and fulfillment piece for manufacturers. Many of them are having to figure out new ways to pick, pack, and ship at much smaller volumes. It has rippled through every functional area of numerous organizations.”
To relieve the excess pressure on their manufacturer counterparts, B2B distributors are ultimately taking on added workload by prioritizing the “digital-first” mindset seen across B2C. Higgins added, “We are seeing a lot of investment on the ability to promote products digitally, and also to facilitate the sales cycle from a commerce perspective.”
With B2B distributors pivoting to provide top-notch user experiences, they aim to go beyond simply standing up a digital storefront and improving “findability.” B2B manufacturing products are often so complex and multi-faceted that it presents a unique challenge to marketers and merchandisers alike. A B2B e-commerce strategy needs to bridge the gap and build solid pathways for customers to easily find a part, piece, or even an entire item in an online setting.
Think of it this way: Equipment sold by B2B manufacturers is very specific, whether it’s being installed or repaired, and consumers of these products don’t always know what they necessarily need to solve their particular problem. It’s up to the distributor to create and maintain a digestible online shopping catalog with all of the correct information in one place, from the item number and product name to the descriptive details. If these items aren’t properly organized and optimized, customers may become frustrated in their search and look elsewhere to make their purchases.
Before the pandemic and the rush to digitize, the distribution industry was described by insiders as “very big, very old, and heavily fragmented.” Unfortunately, the needle to change is moving slowly, and all B2B distributors need to implement a self-service model that fully automates the customer’s online journey as soon as possible. While manufacturers are digitizing at a rapid rate of 70%, distributors are lagging behind and only conducting 40% of their business online. This is bad news for manufacturers hoping to create another competitive online channel with their distributor partners.
However, 56% of distributors claim that they are underway with digital transformation. The ones making the jump are already experiencing positive results: higher conversion rates, larger order values, increased brand loyalty, more customer data, and accelerated revenue growth. With such promising outcomes in plain sight, B2B distributors need to not only keep pace with these efforts, but also must strategize on competing against Amazon Business.
In 2020, Amazon Business reached $25 billion in worldwide annual sales. To give this number a bit of context, the offshoot of the popular Amazon Web Services (AWS) hit $10 billion in 2018. Growing more quickly than AWS at 44 percent year over year, Amazon Business was leveraged during the first year of the pandemic by more than five million companies to stay afloat.
While Amazon Business has the potential to be a great distribution channel to sell manufacturers’ products, the pandemic, environmental factors, and talent shortages are all signs that distributors should establish a digital shopping experience of their own and not rely on a third-party channel so heavily. Digitizing opens up a new sales channel, and also positions B2B distributors to compete with Amazon Business.
Despite their newfound efforts, distribution companies will likely never contend with Amazon’s fulfillment centers. And that’s okay. Amazon has the money, resources, and capacity to fulfill, ship, and deliver orders in an unprecedented and untouchable way — at least for now. Rather than ruminating on operational excellence, it’s best to think strategically about the user experience as a whole.
Even though most B2B distributors know their customers well, situational awareness is often stored in the minds of salespeople or the account notes of a customer relationship management (CRM) software. By providing a digital experience, every step taken by the end-user will be aggregated and analyzed to give a full snapshot of each customer’s journey. Once enough data is collected, it is segmented, organized, and easily circulated.
This pipeline is one that Amazon will struggle to replicate because their experience is not designed with product discovery in mind. While its marketplace’s selection is vast, it is still assembled with a variety of different sellers and vendors. At the end of the day, Amazon goes through many fragmented steps to accumulate all of the patchwork detail about a product onto a single detail page that targets its intended viewer.
It’s not a subconscious misstep on Amazon’s part, though. Amazon simply owns the transactional piece of their e-commerce strategy, making their website a great one to visit when the customer knows exactly which screw they’re looking to purchase, for example. But when the customer isn’t sure which screw is best for the job? That’s when things end in disappointment. This issue, not even unique to Amazon, is unlikely to improve any time soon if your business doesn’t have the right digital tools in place.
While customers will undoubtedly have raised expectations for delivery speeds, B2B distributors should see Amazon’s “Achilles’ heel” as an opportunity to capitalize. “I believe the end buyer is now much more trained because of Amazon,” said Higgins. And it’s no longer upsetting to get 10 different boxes from 10 different retailers on our porch on any given day.” These expectations set distribution businesses up to counter Amazon’s tactics with their own approach to efficiency and expediency.
Start with the very beginning of the sales pipeline: product discovery. When distributors give their customers automated tools to find exactly which part or piece they need, the sales process can be expedited without two-day shipping. Pair this strategy with the right informational components via relevant content, and it’s easy to see that shipping policies aren’t always the main deciding factor of a purchase. It’s time to focus on the entire buyer’s journey, not just a fraction of it.
Shift7 Digital, a trusted partner of Bloomreach, is encouraging B2B distributors to revolutionize the e-commerce experience for their customers. Backed by a team of experts with deep industry knowledge, Shift7 truly understands both the challenges and opportunities in the B2B market today, and pushes clients and prospects to evolve from a product-centric approach to a customer-centric one.
The Bloomreach Commerce Experience Cloud helps Shift7 in its mission to build a best-in-class e-commerce experience. Paired with Shift7’s thoughtful website design, Bloomreach’s Content, Discovery, and Engagement pillars unite the disjointed steps of the customer journey by implementing a unified solution with full-site personalization capabilities.
For a good example of this unified solution in action, take a look at Global Industrial, a leading national distributor of industrial products and MRO supplies. This B2B client, recently exemplified in a Shift7 case study, combined Bloomreach’s Discovery and Content platforms with Shift7’s site design to take their e-commerce strategy to the next level.
Aside from optimizing their website for product search, Global Industrial’s main intent with the project was to invest in a headless CMS system. With it, they created The Knowledge Center, a content-rich resource designed to empower customers with expert advice on the topics they need to scale and succeed.
“The launch of The Knowledge Center highlights the product knowledge, expertise, and solutions we deliver every day to our customers,” revealed Barry Litwin, CEO of Global Industrial. “This new customer resource will help us further our ‘Accelerating the Customer Experience’ (ACE) strategy, and is part of our efforts to redefine the B2B e-commerce experience and strengthen our position as an indispensable business partner.”
The Knowledge Center now delivers a cohesive user experience by connecting educational content to related product categories on Global Industrial’s website. The result serves over 25 consumer segments with rich, engaging, and AI-driven content, offering value to them as customers and building upon their brand loyalty. Read more about Global Industrial’s win with Bloomreach and Shift7 Digital, and contact us for a commitment-free demo if you’d like to explore similar options for your business.
New York, NY — November 9, 2021 — Shift7 Digital, the modern digital agency for manufacturers, has secured a strategic investment from Salesforce Ventures. The investment will further strengthen the company’s position in the B2B digital transformation landscape. The company will use the investment to accelerate efforts in geographical expansion, client services teams, and developing industry-leading solutions to serve the Manufacturing sector. The funding will also be used for talent growth and development in association with Salesforce cloud solutions.
“Digital transformation continues to be the highest priority for almost all businesses – and for many, it’s been the difference between success and failure. This is especially true for manufacturers in the B2B space,” said Andrew Walker, CEO of Shift7 Digital. “This investment from Salesforce Ventures only further reinforces that the work we’re doing to help manufacturers succeed in the digital space is making an impact, and will allow us to advance our Salesforce business in the form of accelerator development, key new hires and much more. Collaborating with Salesforce has had a tremendous influence on our business, and their continued confidence in us as a promising leader is a crucial piece in helping to get us to our next phase.”
The company is already well positioned as a leader in this category and has seen huge demand for its digital transformation services. B2B organizations seek expertise to support the modernization of their customer experiences and supporting technology solutions. Across these B2B sectors, from Manufacturing to Distribution, these businesses are seeking to improve self-service capabilities, attract new customers via digital marketing spend, and gain eCommerce revenue with speed and certainty.
For more on how Shift7 Digital is helping some of the biggest names in manufacturing elevate their digital presence, visit http://www.shift7digital.com.
Salesforce and others are among the trademarks of salesforce.com, inc.
Shift7 Digital is revolutionizing the digital experience for manufacturers and their customers. Backed by a team of experts with deep industry insights, Shift7 truly understands the challenges and opportunities facing the B2B market today and delivers a customized, yet prescriptive process for partnering with companies as they evolve from a product-centric to a customer-centric approach. Shift7 is modernizing manufacturing to help businesses transform through digital marketing to drive connections, commerce and revenue. For more information, visit http://www.shift7digital.com.
Salesforce Ventures is the global investment arm of Salesforce and is focused on partnering with the most ambitious enterprise technology companies at every stage in their journey. Since 2009, Salesforce Ventures has invested over $3 billion in over 400 leading companies including Databricks, DocuSign, Guild Education, Hopin, monday.com, nCino, Snowflake, Snyk, Stripe, Tanium, and Zoom. Salesforce Ventures provides portfolio companies with unparalleled access to Salesforce, one of the fastest-growing enterprise software companies in the world, including strategic advisory, customer introductions, and the strongest cloud ecosystem. Salesforce Ventures has invested in more than 25 countries with offices all over the world including in San Francisco, Irvine, New York, London, Tokyo, and Sydney. Follow @SalesforceVC and learn more at salesforce.com/ventures.
Allison (at) superior-pr (dot) com
Today, we are thrilled to share that we are continuing to fuel our growth with an important investment from Salesforce Ventures. Digital commerce has transformed businesses in the past 18 months – and for many, it’s been the difference between success and failure. This is especially true for manufacturers in the B2B space, and also where we shine. This investment only further reinforces that the work we’re doing to help manufacturers succeed in the digital space is making an impact, and will allow us to advance our business in the form of accelerator development, key new hires and much more.
Salesforce is the undisputed global leader in CRM – and with this financing, Shift7 joins the Salesforce Ventures portfolio of tech heavyweights like Auth0, Databricks, DocuSign, Guild Education, Hopin, monday.com, nCino, Snowflake, Snyk, Stripe, Tanium, Twilio, Zoom, and many others. To say we are proud to be in this company is an understatement. This news comes as we’ve strengthened our partnership with Salesforce over the last two years – advancing to Ridge partner status, and driving the creation and launch of Shift7 Rocket, our proprietary approach to B2B commerce implementation for manufacturers, built exclusively using the Salesforce B2B Commerce Cloud platform. The program has had a tremendous influence on our ability to serve our customers in more robust ways – by delivering manufacturers with a highly prescriptive program that enables them to launch with speed and certainty.
The funding will be used to advance the buildout of enhancements to the Rocket accelerator along with others that will help manufacturers get the most out of the Salesforce platform, as well as support the growth of our talented and expanding team. 2021 has been a busy and exciting year for the manufacturing industry – and as a result, for Shift7. This investment will allow us to continue the great work we’re doing to help manufacturers modernize in a rapidly changing digital landscape.
A huge thank you to our customers, our employees, and our partners for helping Shift7 reach this significant milestone. None of this would have been possible without you. Your enthusiasm and pursuit of change have grown this amazing company, and we are so grateful to have the ability to work with you and to serve you.
With this investment in hand, we now have the opportunity to put our heads down and go to work. This new capital will fuel even more innovation, allowing us to deliver even more customer-centric, digital transformation for the manufacturing industry.
This guide will walk you through how to achieve digital commerce success. Ultimately, it’s critical to have your ecommerce and product information running smoothly – together.
“The only thing constant is change.” We’re all familiar with that quote from the famous Greek philosopher, Heraclitus. And change is constant in the manufacturing industry. Emerging technologies and social trends are requiring the manufacturers to keep up. With these changes, oftentimes competing projects mean competing priorities within the walls of a business. However, with the wealth of online information and customer expectations higher than ever, your products are competing too. And they must be easy to find with accurate information for the smoothest customer journey.
Easier said than done.
As the manufacturing world shifts under B2B expectations that feel more and more B2C every day, it’s critical to streamline processes as marketers are asked to up their customer experience game, while also doing more with less.
Determining the path to build, run & efficiently operate commerce at scale is a challenge, and the question we tackle in this ebook is whether it makes more sense for your company to take a PIM-first approach or an e-commerce first approach. Either way, you’ll want both working in tandem for the ultimate success.
Download this roadmap to learn how ecommerce and PIM are the ultimate power couple needed to generate online revenue at scale.
This whitepaper was produced in partnership with inriver
Melissa & Doug supports small, brick-and-mortar retail customers by:
– providing customer self-service account access that can be used anytime, anywhere
– creating an easy and efficient product ordering workflow
– driving revenue growth through ongoing growth marketing
Solve It Stories are tales of customer success from Salesforce and Salesforce Partners. Read this story featuring Melissa & Doug and Shift7 Digital, now.
In a pandemic-ridden 2020, B2B ecommerce sales for manufacturers grew year over year by 6.7% to about $458.7 billion from $430.0 billion in 2019, based on our estimates.
What was once physical and manual—in-person sales calls, manual order processing, swinging by a distribution branch for an order pick-up—is now entirely more digital. And this trend is not a temporary one.
The Key Findings from the 2021 B2B Manufacturing Report analyzes how the pandemic permanently accelerated the pace of B2B ecommerce and which manufacturers are leading the pack—including case studies on Proctor & Gamble and PPG with 6 data-packed charts.
Our CEO Andrew Walker explains in this report how to stake your claim in ecommerce to stay relevant and competitive.
Here at Shift7, we’ve worked with top-tier B2B organizations and manufacturers for a while. In that time, we’ve noticed a pattern: people poking fun at B2B for being behind the times and taking too long to embrace business-boosting trends.
You could argue there’s truth to that, but we see it differently. For proof, allow us to present the buyer’s cycle.
In B2C, it’s generally less considered and more impulsive. Less cost, lower stakes. B2B, on the other hand, is more considered and calculated. The costs are higher, as are the stakes.
See where we’re going here? B2B is not behind the times, nor is it taking too long to embrace new ways of doing business (ways like B2B Commerce, for example). Rather, B2B businesses collect data, calculate the best course of action, and identify the perfect time to implement new and lucrative systems.
Well, the time is now. B2B buyers are bringing B2C expectations to the party in larger and larger numbers, and crushing your online commerce experience for business users is a near-guaranteed way to bolster brand reputation, loyalty, and revenue.
That’s what we’ll help you do today, so let’s get started. This is your complete guide to B2B Commerce.
We know manufacturers well at Shift7. We were raised by them, we admire them, and now, we work with them. Spending so much time with manufacturers we’ve learned one major element. They like to see the finished project.
However, getting the digital experience built isn’t the end. It’s the start.
Digital transformation is an ongoing process. Here at Shift7, we’ve constructed 7 ways you can turn your current marketing into exciting, relevant, and revenue-building growth marketing.
Download our guide and get access to some of the professional knowledge we’ve gained for manufacturers, like yourself.
Manufacturers evaluating online growth strategies are weighing their options to drive revenue. Some focus on online distribution footprint, some extend their primary business model with a direct-to-consumer offshoot, and some launch and grow their own B2B ecommerce offerings to directly serve customers and dealers/distributors with an all-in-one online experience.
Whether it be for selling parts or finished goods, or for serving strategic accounts, or long-tail small customers, business models for growing B2B commerce abound, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.
Learn how the Melissa & Doug company not only made their transition, but grew their AOV 3x by doing it.
Although marketers have focused much of their energy over recent years on promoting brands’ digital experiences beyond the corporate website, they shouldn’t put website investment on the back burner. The COVID-19 pandemic made that very apparent. CMSWire reports that in 2020 most companies invested in digital marketing to ensure their websites deliver experiences customers crave.
Our CEO Andrew Walker shared his thoughts with CMSwire why a website is a both a company’s backbone and digital face.
The COVID pandemic transformed all industries including manufacturing. Old ways of doing business went by the wayside. “Down the road” plans for digital marketing became the central focus as manufacturers modernized their businesses on the fly. Companies realize that seamlessly connecting with current and prospective customers, resellers, and retailers through an integrated brand experience is now essential to survival.
Halfway through 2020, Shift7 surveyed hundreds of manufacturing business decision makers to learn how they were enduring the chaos.
The results were not what we anticipated. Our CEO Andrew Walker shared his thoughts with Entrepreneur Media.
In the past, the roadblock to digital marketing transformation was “Why should we go digital?” Manufacturers felt little urgency to change a go to market strategy that was working just fine.
But in a flash, the pandemic made it clear how important (and lucrative) it can be to have healthy ecommerce channels producing online revenue streams.
If we could put a word to what we’ve seen with our manufacturing customers, it would have to be “acceleration.” We’ve seen unprecedented initiation of digital transformation in the manufacturing industry, with companies making smart investments in digital technologies, customer experiences, ecommerce, and digital marketing. It’s been long awaited, and wonderful to see.
In all likelihood, most functions of your business had some degree of digital focus even before the pandemic. But the fact remains, accelerating to things like online sales or the digitization of your go-to-market model can be daunting prospects — overwhelming enough to be abandoned before they even begin.
“Why should we pursue a digital transformation?” was answered by COVID-19. “How should we pursue a digital transformation?” is the new question. Let’s get into it.
In the past 12 months, we all got punched in the face and had to think fast to stay on our feet. Manufacturing companies allocated marketing dollars to new digital initiatives (often diverting trade show budgets to get it done), assuming it would be a Band-Aid until things went back to “normal.” But now the dust has settled, and it’s clear the manufacturing industry is trending toward digital as the preferred customer experience.
So, in case it wasn’t already clear, your digital marketing efforts need to be ongoing. It can’t be a one-time-project. That said, it’s often more difficult to make a budget shift in large, complex, public companies. To address that, you can explore a funding model (a digital initiatives fund, if you will) tied to a goal of online revenue growth that allows you to move funds around with agility. Regardless, organizations need to think of digital investments as an ongoing line item in the income statement.
Now let’s discuss how those digital funds should be spent.
Every manufacturer evaluating online growth strategies weighs one or more of the following:
Think: Amazon, Zoro, Grainger… even Wayfair, Target.com, Lowes.com. At Shift7 Digital, we have clients experiencing tremendous growth through distribution channels like these – more than doubling year-over-year revenue when traditional distribution channels are relatively flat. To do this right, it starts with a channel prioritization that’s made possible by an in-depth assessment. You’ll learn the fit and capability all potential distributor partners have, and you’ll assess the growth potential and prioritize your partners based on that. And once you’re running, there are more tools than ever before to manage the brand experience and gain valuable insights even after customers leave your own site.
Building B2B portals is a big driver right now because of the efficiency and the ability to capture first-party data through these direct interactions. Some of our clients use this model to sell directly to their large strategic accounts, augmenting the sales team relationship. Others start by strategically growing a large segment of low-revenue customers that are efficiently served through a pure online relationship. Either way, there is much more control over customer experience with the direct model. With distribution, you can enrich the experience and make your product content effective, but you don’t own the customer experience there. In this model, you do.
Some B2B manufacturers are breaking new ground with B2C business models, a no-brainer if the goal is to gather insights about your end-user customers as you simultaneously grow revenue. Direct-to-consumer helps promote after-market products, parts, and accessories as well. As the world continues to evolve, we believe this will become a must-have channel for manufacturers.
If you take one thing away after you leave this page, let it be the knowledge that your customers’ digital experience is paramount, and regardless of channel, you have a responsibility to shape it for growth. For all its complexities, B2B manufacturing business is still conducted by humans, after all. And every one of us prefers to shop digitally.
As businesses, it’s on us to always meet our customers where they are.
This article first appeared in Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity & Innovation
In this episode of the Agile Digital Transformation Podcast, Andrew Walker, Shift7 Digital CEO joins host Tim Butara to explore how manufacturing and distribution are embracing digital transformation.
They discuss the most important trends, the differences between B2C and B2B, and the need to focus on the customer experience. Andrew closes with an example of how a toy manufacturing client of theirs was able to embrace digital transformation as part of their corporate transformation.
“The biggest trend I’ve seen is just C-level executives at B2B companies choosing to go forward with investment, with the decision to change how they’re doing sales models. And that’s exciting, and that’s the core part of our business, is helping with that transformation.”
Welcome to the Agile Digital Transformation podcast, where we explore different aspects of digital transformation and digital experience with your host, Tim Butara, content and community manager at Agiledrop.
Tim Butara: Hello, everyone. Thanks for tuning in. Our guest today is Andrew Walker, CEO of Shift7, a leading digital agency for manufacturers and distributors. In this episode, we’ll explore the topic of digital transformation in manufacturing and distribution, and complete that with the best practices for digitalization and digital strategy in these areas. Welcome, Andrew. It’s great having you with us on the show today. Anything to add before we begin?
Andrew Walker: I’m just very glad to be here and always appreciative of others taking the time to talk to us about the front office digital transformation and B2B companies. It’s a topic that is our singular and exclusive focus, so it’s very near and dear to us, but it’s glad to see that it’s getting, definitely the last three or four years, more traction, and your interest is part of it. So thank you.
Tim Butara: Awesome. Yeah. You’re definitely the right person to talk to about this, then. So let’s kick things off with the number one question, which is, what have you seen to be the biggest trend or the biggest impact of the ongoing digital transformation on the fields of manufacturing and distribution?
Andrew Walker: Yeah, we have a phrase within our company. We call it the KISS method. KISS – keep it simple, shifter. And so I’ll keep my answer simple, because it is – the biggest trend is a simple one, and that is simply the desire and the initiative to go and to get started by these B2B organizations.
Many of these manufacturers, CPG and distribution companies have had the same sales model for decades. Often they were originating in the 80s or 90s. They were sales models just for refresher that were largely driven by in-person relationships, in-person sales maybe have gravitated towards catalog sales models and or using fax or even, frankly, taking pictures of an order sheet on a piece of paper and emailing it in. While that sounds that is digital, that’s still a little old school and archaic.
And so the biggest shift in trend is just the fact that these organizations that have watched financial services, retail, hospitality, all these companies move to a more digital customer experience in the 90s, in the 2000s. It’s 2022, and they’re just now on what we like to call generation 1.0 of digital transformation. And that’s okay. A variety of things have helped to get see that trend there, and we could talk about that today.
But the biggest trend I’m seeing is just C-level executives at B2B companies choosing to go forward with investment with the decision to change how they’re doing sales models. And that’s exciting. And that’s the core part of our business is helping with that transformation.
Tim Butara: I think the key point here is the transition to new sales models. Right. Because I think that if you took new elements and introduced them into the old sales models, which obviously have proven to be not as effective in the current age, there would be a lot of misalignment, I think. You could get lucky and succeed with that. But chances are much higher that you’ll need a new sales model to make the best use of all the new trends and all the new tools, and basically the shift in mindset. You mentioned that it’s the C-level executives that need to drive this mindset shift.
Andrew Walker: Yeah, there’s a combination of things, if I may. One is, there is a generational change. So the salespersons that were in their twenties and thirties in the 90s are now older, perhaps even retiring or moving to retirement. So these B2B organizations need to think about different sales methods, either new individuals or new ways to do it.
So there’s a new generation that wants to interact and even conduct sales themselves, if it is a human being, in a much more online way. Both themselves, they don’t want to carry out a catalog. They want to be able to email a product listing page to a potential client or customer. They don’t want to make a call to the back office to see if there’s an inventory of 5000 pieces. They want to be able to look it up on their phone to see, is there inventory for 5000 pieces?
And that’s just the sales folks; on the customer side, we all want to see, is the product available now? Can they ship it today or today? Can I see some specs on it? Can I see a video image? Can I turn it around 360? Can I see how it maybe is used in a situation or a project? I don’t want to call someone about that necessarily. I don’t want to read a manual necessarily. I want to have it my way. And I think that’s on the customer side.
So there’s a lot of different forces that are changing, as you said, the sales model, and I’d be lying to you if I told you that the last two years of the pandemic has not accelerated massively those desires, not just within B2B, but other industries and sectors. Obviously our own personal lives have changed, but in the B2B world, it has really helped accelerate it in a major way.
Tim Butara: And how are brands adapting to this acceleration and to all the new trends that are brought about with it?
Andrew Walker: Well, I guess the first thing I would say is, they’re really not new trends. They’re not new trends to you and me. And frankly, most of these B2B organizations and the leaders, they use Uber and they use Amazon and they use Yelp and DoorDash and they have their groceries delivered. So they’re, in their personal lives, they’re not a new trend to them. It’s a new trend, I guess you might call it, to the organization, how they operate.
But to your question on how are they adapting, it is a bit confusing. It is a bit confusing. The reason why I say it’s a bit confusing, and confusing may not be the perfect word, is that these organizations are not as educated and knowledgeable and smart as they think they need to be, which is true. There’s probably a bit of naivete or embarrassment around the lack of knowledge of how these modern 2022 tools, technologies, platforms can help their sales models be effective in marketing and ecommerce, et cetera. And so they know the nouns, they know the buzzwords, they know the phrases, but there’s a lack of depth of true understanding.
And if you were to go to a chief marketing officer of an online grocer or a CIO of a retail organization, whether it’s here in the US or in Europe, they would be sophisticated on the tools and the technologies and the features and the functionality. And the way it’s impacted these groups is they don’t have that basis of understanding. And so there’s a lot of learning. And my company, we do a lot of, while we’re selling, we do a lot of educating. We’re educating, educating, educating on how this will work and what does this mean. And so that is a big impact, to your question around these organizations. So we like to call it they’re drinking from the firehose, they’re taking a lot and really fast.
Tim Butara: We did establish previously that the mindset shift is one of the key elements in companies being able to take advantage of all these new trends and new tools and the changes, basically. And how else can they reach that mindset shift if they don’t have any education, if they don’t have any learning, if they don’t have any training? So I think that what you’re doing at Shift7 is definitely the right way to go about it.
Andrew Walker: Yeah, great question. If you’re watching this and listening to you and I talk about this transformation shift, what can you do as an executive at a manufacturer or a distributor? Great question. Obviously you can Google things, you can read articles, et cetera, you can tap into your board members, etc. But the best thing you can do is to hire an executive. We call them chief digital officers. They’re becoming more and more commonplace. It’s an expensive hire, it’s a talented individual. Often they come from non B2B industries because they’ve done this before in retail, financial services, et cetera.
But hiring an executive that has that knowledge base already, and they’re coming in and they’re going to learn the industry, they’re going to learn the sector, they’re going to learn the business model, but they’re bringing in the acumen and the business knowledge around digital customer experiences, digital technologies, how to do transformation.
Obviously, you can work with consultants like Shift7, of course, but it’s really important to have a steward and a champion internally at a B2B organization. Otherwise you are hiring a consultant like us to work with a CMO, a CIO, maybe somebody that– within a marketing team. But it’s all going to be new to them. It’s all going to be new to them, and it’s going to be an uphill job. Now, that’s okay, and that can be done. But the best way to do it in a fast and kind of a confident answer, a competent way, is to actually hire a chief digital officer. And we’re seeing it more and more.
I would just leave you with this. We did a study around January, first part of this year, how many of our clients have chief digital officers and how many do not. Three years ago, it was less than 10%. Now it’s up to 40%. So they’re making that investment in this executive hire to champion and run and drive the budget initiatives, et cetera. So that’s helpful.
Tim Butara: We mostly discussed all of this in the B2B context so far. But when it comes to these brands, to manufacturing and distribution, to these fields, are there any differences between B2C companies and B2B businesses? What’s the deal here?
Andrew Walker: Yes, absolutely. It’s a quick answer. Absolutely. Yeah. The main probably two differences are the technology platforms and cloud options that are out there are way richer, way more mature than they were five years ago, ten years ago, for that matter. So, the SAP, the Adobes, and one of the leading ones, Salesforce.com, they have some really leading cloud software components that are really geared towards B2B organizations. And they have different feature functionalities than B2C cloud software.
Trying to take an ecommerce platform or a content management platform that is sort of generic and vanilla and apply it to a retail company and apply it to a B2B company can be done. Anything in technology can be done. But the great thing about the world we live in today is most of these enterprise cloud software organizations that have a vertical focus on B2B, they have feature functionalities that are unique and specific to manufacturers, to distributors that are different than retail.
A great example would be something like split shipment. So in retail, that’s not really a functionality. You or I buy a sweater online, we typically don’t want to buy two and have one sent to yourself and one sent to a different address. You want it all sent to one address. Well, in B2B, when you buy 500 widgets, you often want to send 100 to one distributor, another 100 to a different distributor, another 100 to a different distributor, and so on and so forth. And those are different addresses. So that is a feature functionality that is different as an example. And those exist within a platform and can be configured to each customer’s requirements and specifications.
Tim Butara: So if I’m getting this correctly, it’s the customer experience that’s kind of the main differentiating factor. Can we talk more about the role of CX in this context?
Andrew Walker: Oh yeah, I can talk long time about that. And you hit it right on the nose. That’s a huge part of, frankly, any digital transformation. As I just said a few minutes ago, the tech can do anything. At the end of the day, tech can make it work. It’s all about time and money to get there. But there’s not too many things that are impossible.
But where the rubber hits the road or where the value really comes into play is the usability and the adoption. And the experience, as you call it, that is defined within the framework of any sort of cloud technology platform – could be content management, it could be just a simple microsite one page landing page. It could be a whole ecommerce shopping experience, checkout shopping cart experience.
And so how you think about the usability of that is a bit of perspective and a point of view by the pros and visual designers and interaction designers. But the element that the client really needs to spend time in with an organization like us is to think about what we call the journey, the user’s journey. Understanding that and making it as seamless as possible, as usable as possible, and on point as possible.
So, for example, if you were to start every process with, hey, let’s start you here with understanding our brand, and then after understanding our brand and the online experience, you’re going to let us know about our history. And after history, we’re going to let you shop our products. And then after that you can maybe check out, well, the user journey might say that everybody does their research on Google or Yahoo to find out your history and who your brand is. And they want to go to immediately to a product, right to a product page.
And if you don’t understand that journey, you won’t be able to design an experience that allows the user to land right there. It’s really important to do that research up front, that’s something that we do with all of our clients to make sure that the experience is defined. Because speed is important, for sure, usability is important, but adoption, frustration, drop off, all of these things, you want to mitigate in it because time is important and there’s a lot of often competitive and options for any user out there. And so you want to make it as seamless and as easy as possible to ensure that the product is working for you and that this is a business, this is an ecommerce transaction.
Tim Butara: I think you made some really great point here, Andrew, especially you just repeated that the user journey has to be seamless. And I immediately thought of another huge factor that’s contributing to the need for this, and it’s the changing digital habits. It’s the transition and the heavy usage of mobile. But then still, people have different habits. Some of them might check out a product on mobile, but then proceed with the checkout and adding to cart and purchasing the product on their laptop. And they would want the journey to be seamless. They wouldn’t want to log into their account again.
And there’s just all of these– I think that you already mentioned that before. Right. There are so many small elements that contribute to these changes, and it’s very hard to keep all of them in mind. But you kind of need to, right? Especially if you’re the one designing these experiences and managing them.
Andrew Walker: Yeah. And to that point, you triggered another thought, which is most– you and I might shop for a pair of tennis shoes or a pair of shorts while we’re at an airport or while we’re in a taxi or maybe while we’re in our backyard. In the B2B sense, most of the interactions used to happen right here, right in my office, right at my desk, et cetera, on my computer, et cetera. That is the case for some. But when we do the journey research for other companies, now we find out that some of the suppliers are working remotely. They might be now starting to travel. So now they need a mobile experience, or they may need something that just fits a different sort of journey.
And I guess the other thing about digital experiences is, once you design them and put them in place, they don’t exist forever. You have to continue as a B2B organization, that’s an education part. Hey, listen, every three months, six months, nine months, at least annually, take a look at your users and how they’re interacting with your brand, how they’re researching, how they’re checking out.
And tech is changing all of our lives, all the time. And you want to make sure you’re bringing that into your own business. As soon as Amazon changes some way to do checkout, B2B organizations need to think about that, because now these same people that are buying their online paper towels and toilet paper, now they want to have a similar experience as it relates to their B2B functionality. So constantly looking at and evaluate is important. That’s why we call it a work in progress or a WIP.
Tim Butara: Awesome. I think that we discussed a lot of interesting stuff, and now in this final part of the episode, Andrew, I’d like us to focus– because I know we talked in the discovery, preliminary talks, you mentioned that you work, you have a lot of experiences with a lot of renowned brands that would be of particular interest to discuss here. So can you share some of the most interesting lessons, details, insights from your work with brands such as Lincoln Electric, Global Industrial, et cetera?
Andrew Walker: Yeah. As I was getting ready for your call with me today, I thought about one of our toy manufacturers that really has gone through a corporate transformation. And part of their corporate transformation has been the digital transformation part. There’s a lot of large consulting organizations, management consulting organizations like BCG, Booz Allen, McKinsey, et cetera, that do large corporate organization transformations. And a big part of their storyline is digital transformation. That’s where Shift7 comes in place.
And so this toy manufacturer. Their sales model, we talked earlier, was predominantly built up of about 50 customer service reps that were in a customer service call center and any sort of small to medium or large toy distributors, from a small boutique that’s in New York City to Target or Walmart.
They would call this 50 person call center to say, I need 100 more three year old puzzles. Or I need 400 more stuffed animal elephants. And they would replenish that. It was a B2B transaction. They would replenish through those orders that way. It was a phone call. It was a fax. Sometimes even sophisticated, it was an email. They wanted to make all of this a self service capability. They wanted the New York City boutique toy store to be able to go onto a website, see all of the toy products, see the inventory, see their preferred rates and prices for them that they had negotiated previously for all of their products that were unique to them. And be able to either create– with a credit card or a PO. Be able to make the transaction themselves at 11:00 p.m sat night. No phone call. No email. No fax.
And they wanted to not terminate those call center folks, but they actually wanted to turn them into other individuals that could help in a different way, whether it’s focusing on bigger accounts that may be needed to be more of a human to human interaction, maybe to focus on marketing activities. And so they’ve transitioned all 50 people to different types of roles, and they’ve created the space for ecommerce to be a complete, what we call self service function.
And now all the distributors and even boutique toy stores that interact with their brand, they do all the replenishment, all their ordering through an online tool, just like you and I buy our groceries or whatever online. And so that was not only a strategic move that changed how they do sales, but also created more profitability and stickiness retention in their existing customers.
Additionally, they started with a reposition of their marketing, started to reach other toy distributors that they never worked before, and say, listen, we’re easy to work with. We have a website. We can get you a login and password and authenticated and give you some preferred pricing, and you can see all this and shop on your own terms.
And as I said all that, that probably feels very B2C, probably very you and me and retail. But that’s the transformation that most of these organizations are going. And that’s a perfect example of what we want to be helping B2B companies move from a very dated, legacy, multi decade ago model to today.
Tim Butara: I love that example. It’s not one that you would typically think of when you were listening to a topic about digital transformation, but that’s why I love it even more. And you mention the phrase, human to human, and I think that’s the catch here, right? Because most of these transactions, most of the stuff, even if it’s B2C, if it’s B2B, I think that we’ve already discussed this on at least one episode, but it bears repeating because it’s such an important point.
It’s all mostly having to do with humans. Even if you’re interacting with software, some human designed that software, some human is managing that software. So in this sense, it’s the only logical step for this move to happen, that we would kind of perceive B2B sales as having more B2C elements, I guess.
Andrew Walker: Yeah. And that’s where the world should be going. That’s where technology can be really exciting and fun and beneficial in a big way. And there’s a learning curve. There’s a learning curve for you, for me, and to get up to speed. And then things change, right? And then we got to learn some more. So you can imagine how much education and knowledge there is.
And I will share this last thing with you. One of the things for any B2B listener out there on your call is that there is a fair amount of sympathy or empathy that we have for our clients. They’re coming from a place of real latency and behind in sort of their knowledge base. And the last thing you want to do with anybody that’s playing catch up is to make them feel awkward or uncomfortable. So having empathy for their position, where they’re at and say, hey, I’m going to bring you here. I’m going to move you with me. Versus, come on, let’s go. Nobody likes to be educated and taught like that.
So a big part of what you’re doing, which I appreciate through sessions like this, as well as what we try to do, is, yeah, we’re running for-profit business, but we’re also trying to make sure that we get people educated, smart on the way because it’s all going to benefit all of us in the end. So anyway, thank you for having me.
Tim Butara: Andrew. This was such a great way to finish the episode. I really enjoyed our discussion. Thank you so much for being our guest today. Just before we wrap up the call, if people listening would like to reach out to you or maybe learn more about Shift7, where would you point them to?
Andrew Walker: Our website is the best spot, as always, www.shift7digital.com and a lot of different ways to contact us there, but thank you again for having me. Super exciting that you’ve taken the time for us, and it’s a great topic. We’re obviously passionate about.
Tim Butara: Awesome. The feeling’s mutual. Thanks for joining us, Andrew.
Andrew Walker: Okay, sounds good.
Tim Butara: Bye. Have a nice day. And to our listeners, that’s all for this episode. Have a great day, everyone, and stay safe.
Thanks for tuning in. If you’d like to check out our other episodes, you can find all of them at agiledrop.com/podcast, as well as on all the most popular podcasting platforms. Make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss any new episodes. And don’t forget to share the podcast with your friends and colleagues.
The May 2022 tED (the Electrical Distributor) magazine Special Report “The Future of Business” featured Shift7 CEO Andrew Walker.
Check out what Andrew has to say about What’s Next in the article Marketing for the Future: As customer requirements and habits continue to shift, it’ll take new marketing strategies to stay in front of changes.
Listen in as Shift7 CEO Andrew Walker, made a guest appearance on The MDM Podcast for Season 6, Episode 2 – Digital Transformation: What does it really mean for distributors?
Shift7 Digital CEO Andrew Walker draws on his extensive B2B consulting experience with distributors and manufacturers — including Global Industrial — to share what makes for an effective technology strategy. Listen to hear why a product-first focus doesn’t work in distribution e-commerce, the benefits of content storytelling and other ways to differentiate your company’s online experience.
Digital transformation is a growing buzzword in distribution. But what exactly do distributors need to transform? Rethink the product-first focus of your website, for starters. That’s the advice of Andrew Walker, CEO of digital marketing firm Shift7 Digital. Working often with manufacturers and distributors, Walker explains in an MDM podcast that there is great opportunity in shifting your online focus to the intentions of your customer or prospect.
That means addressing elements such as the pain points that are likely to lead a customer to seek out your products in the first place. Could they be facing a problem on the job? An inventory issue? Just got a new contract? Brought on a new employee? Write about that on your site, says Walker. “All these things are moments that precede the product,” he says. “And it also is an opportunity to differentiate themselves from an experience perspective.”
The goal is to engage and elicit emotion and/or action, Walker explains. One client, Global Industrial, chose to tell stories on their website “with a bit of levity, a little comedy, a little bit of a fun,” he says.
Every distributor will have a different approach, but the ultimate goal is to bring a human element to what can otherwise be a mundane listing of products.
“The products themselves can be a little bit just sort of generic and vague and kind of hard to piece through, especially those that are distributing things that are part of a complicated process or project,” says Walker. “And so, listening to the customer, and understanding what they’re interested in through storytelling and navigating them through some examples and personas, some day-in-the-lives is really, really powerful.”
To know if you’re hitting the mark, know why your customer is visiting your website in the first place. This requires data points, says Walker. Ideally, they would come from spending time in-person with clients (or at least over a Zoom) to understand what their day-to-day work life is really like.
The deeper a distributor’s understanding of their customers’ workflow, pain points and needs, the more likely that distributor’s website will be able to take traditionally offline experiences to the web and do so in a way that lets the customer have a self-driven experience, says Walker.
“It really enriches the experience and makes it more self-service, as we like to call it, more able for people to be autonomous and doing things without human interaction, which is a good thing,” he says.
Listen to the entire podcast with Walker for more digital transformation tips, including:
– Best practices around making educational content come alive on your website
– How to provide customers with more self-service enablement
– The role of AI in the process
– Positive business results of digital transformation investments
Listen in as Andrew Walker, CEO of Shift7 Digital, makes a guest appearance on B2B Nation Podcast for Episode: How B2B Marketing is Helping Transform Manufacturing
It seems like we hear most about the manufacturing sector when we’re being told about the trouble it’s in. Politicians bemoan the loss of manufacturing jobs. Local economies suffer when manufacturers close their doors or re-locate their plants.
Manufacturing in the US is not without challenges. The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) will tell you, however, that manufacturing output in the US has risen pretty consistently over the past decade.
If you work in B2B marketing, or aspire to work in B2B marketing, there are some interesting things happening in the manufacturing sector that are worthy of your attention.
First, digital transformation is taking hold in manufacturing, and it’s upending decades-old business models. In the past, manufacturers often sold through distributors. That meant brand awareness and end-user customer experience were not priorities for many manufacturers. But as manufacturers increasingly turn to the Internet to sell direct to customers, all of that is changing.
In addition to transformation, there’s the global pandemic, which as it has in other sectors, is acting as an accelerant for change. One example: manufacturers that make personal protective equipment (PPE) needed to adapt from selling gloves and goggles to a select few businesses or distributors, to promoting products to a vastly expanded market when the pandemic arrived.
Andrew Walker is the CEO of Shift7 Digital, a digital agency that specializes in helping manufacturers navigate digital transformation. Andrew has a front-row seat as digital marketing changes the manufacturing sector. He joins us to talk about it in this episode of B2B Nation.
B2B Nation is a podcast from TechnologyAdvice that shares expert opinions and advice for B2B marketing professionals. Listen along as Director of Custom Content Mike Pastore sits down with entrepreneurs, CEOs, and thought leaders to learn about the complex avenues available to B2B marketers.
Listen in as Randy Higgins, Chief Strategy Officer of Shift7 Digital, makes a guest appearance with Host Brian Walker on the State of Commerce Experience podcast for Episode 28: What eCommerce means for B2B Manufacturers
Randy Higgins, Chief Strategy Officer at B2B manufacturing agency, Shift7 Digital, is the featured guest in this episode. Brian and Randy discuss Shift7 Digital’s role in helping businesses overcome the disruption of the pandemic and improve their digital experiences amid a monumental shift in buyer and distributor behaviors.
As eCommerce accelerated in the wake of the pandemic, a shift in focus away from branch sales saw B2B manufacturers facing huge disruption to their traditional distribution model.
To delve deeper into what’s been happening in B2B manufacturing over the past year, Brian Walker speaks to Randy Higgins, Chief Strategy Officer at Shift7 Digital, the leading digital agency for manufacturers.
Together, they discuss the changing roles of manufacturers and distributors, how the B2B sales process has been transformed, and the opportunities this has created, including:
– How the increase in self-service is pushing manufacturers to improve their digital experiences and what the best in the sector are doing to stand out from the crowd.
– Why B2B buyers are willing to pay more for a better commerce experience, and how manufacturers can adjust for this.
– And why manufacturers need to be considering the impact that Amazon Business and other marketplace channels could have on their sales strategy and what they should do to respond.
This episode offers many fascinating insights on how the B2B manufacturing space is changing and what manufacturers need to do to adapt to rapidly changing consumer behaviors.
If you’re a manufacturer looking for best practice insights on how to effectively sell your products in a post-covid world, you’ll definitely want to listen to this episode.
Featuring meaningful discussions with commerce industry experts and thought-leaders from around the world.
The podcast will focus on the evolving nature of digital commerce, key industry trends, current market dynamics, and how B2B and B2C companies can differentiate themselves to thrive in the current climate.
2020 rocked countless industries to their core and digital engagement became the only way to do business for so many. Our whole business is thinking about digital marketing – all day, every day – and not even we could have predicted how important digital marketing would become a year ago. Although 2021 is underway, and there’s light at the end of the tunnel on the COVID pandemic, at least one thing hasn’t changed: digital marketing is here to stay and it needs to continue to be a top priority for businesses who want to compete – no matter the industry.
If the past year has taught the business world anything, it’s that digital is more critical than ever.
Our VP & Executive Creative Director, Derek Van Horne, and Director of Digital Marketing, Iris Kelley, shared their top five predictions for how brands will engage digital marketing in 2021 with MarTech Series.
What’s bigger than Amazon when it comes to e-commerce? Nothing. Except, well… Amazon. Over the past several years Amazon has remained relatively quiet on their B2B ventures, but after they shared metrics at the end of Q1, it was reported that their B2B market opportunity with their Amazon Business platform could be as large as $1.5 trillion in the US and $2.1 trillion internationally. For context, this is larger than their B2C market.
It’s easy for manufacturers to see the news of Amazon Business as a “if you can’t beat ‘em…” situation, but it’s so much more than that, and it’s foolish to think that either succumbing the marketshare pull or ignoring it entirely is the solution.
See our CEO Andrew Walker’s advice on combating against this competitive trillion dollar company here.
In 2020, digital marketing became one of the only ways for so many industries to do business, and for many, this was crippling; they simply weren’t prepared for the transition and found themselves scrambling to pull plans together, in some cases, after it was too late.
What everyone knows now is that digital marketing is here to stay, even after COVID will be a distant memory, and it needs to continue to be a top priority for businesses who want to compete – no matter the industry. But what does this mean for your specific brand? “Digital marketing” is a huge umbrella and can mean so many different things.
Where should you prioritize your dollars for 2021? Our CEO Andrew Walker shared his thoughts in Entrepreneur Media.
Last year, the name of the game for so many businesses was simple: just keep swimming. Staying afloat alone was a monumental task for many, and long-term plans were temporarily shelved – a business strategy that prioritized defense was the only option. It’s no surprise that the biggest initiative for so many was taking on a more robust digital strategy as a defense. Although we’re not at the finish line of the pandemic, there is now light at the end of this never ending tunnel and businesses are able to start thinking long-term and a robust offense is once again on the table.
Maybe organizing your online product info, a quick e-commerce cart, or digital marketing campaign was part of your defense last year, but how are you going to make these now-essential business pillars part of your long-term offense? How are you going to invest and make it last? Here are three quick keys to rebounding and getting back on offense.
Really… It sounds overly simplistic, but the last thing you want to do right now is waste the momentum you’ve built. Even if you’ve done everything right, now is not the time to stop and congratulate yourself. In fact, now is the time to build on what you accomplished over the last 18 months. Generally speaking, we saw organizations fall into one of two categories last year: they either made tiny incremental digital investments to defend themselves and stay afloat, or, they used last year to double down with online customer experience so that when the dust settles, as it’s already begun to do, they’ll be ahead of the curve. The companies in the latter bucket are using analytics to drive smarter digital marketing and are already wondering what are the next functions for their digital presence? What expansions make sense for their e-commerce channels? Even if your company falls into the former bucket, all hope is not lost and you need to continue to build on whatever digital momentum you have, however small.
Part of keeping your momentum means truly investing in digital. This means it needs to be its own line item in your annual budget; not a special task force that dissolves after the pandemic. Having the right infrastructure and talent steering your digital strategy is crucial. This means both internally and externally – your internal marketing team has to be up to the task, as do any agencies, vendors and technologies with which you work. This probably sounds expensive, and honestly, it might be more than you’re used to spending here – but without it, you’re only continuing to put a band-aid on the problem. Understand that from now on, marketing is digital marketing; it’s not going anywhere, and it’s time to get on board.
Something that might not immediately come to mind when you’re working out your new permanent digital framework: make sure everything talks to each other. Unifying your digital strategy onto one tightly-integrated cloud-based architecture can be the difference between a cohesive, customer-friendly experience and a disjointed mess. Tech advances over the last 10 or so years have made it possible for everything to live within one stack. Whether you pick Salesforce, Microsoft, Adobe, or any other number of solutions, you can continue to raise the bar in the quality of your customer interactions by getting everything together on one platform, with CRM at the heart of it. Eventually, this will lead to being able to further customize the experience for your customers and answer questions like, what suggested products are they most likely to click on? What does their homepage look like when they login? Which e-newsletters are they getting? These questions are impossible to answer without the data to inform them, and when you’re getting data that comes from a single source – or sources that can translate it into one set of data – it makes your life infinitely easier and your customer’s journeys with you much better.
The pandemic isn’t quite behind us, but it’s time to level-up your business strategy and start thinking long term. Because, as they say, the best defense is a good… well, you know.
Getcha popcorn ready! In the spirit of how great it feels to receive a personalized playlist from someone that really-gets-you, we’ve created a watchlist that provides the professional version of that hard-to-duplicate feeling.
If you’re looking to sharpen the skills that allow you to help your B2B manufacturing business advance the way you do business online, then we think you’re really going to like this. We’re eager to hear what your favorite “track” is.
Tune in to watch these segments live on Salesforce+. All you have to do is join for free at dreamforce.com and then get ready to Dreamforce and discourse.
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I generally find that my years follow a theme. 2018 was the year of getting my hands dirty and building a foundation.
Everything I did last year, personally and professionally, was about taking risks in the name of setting a foundation to make things smoother in the future. 2018 was both taxing and fun, challenging and exciting. I knew everything I did served a greater purpose, but it was sometimes difficult in the moment.
The most significant challenge I faced last year was facilitating a successful rebrand of Shift7 Digital.
This was a decision that pushed every single person in the company to our limits; we were facing tight deadlines, with new obstacles every day. Ultimately, though, it differentiated us in a saturated industry and was the main reason our company saw so much success last year. The rebrand truly set the foundation for our future success.
We’ve refocused our energy to be entirely on B2B manufacturing clients; we trained our sales team to be hungry, hunting, and delivery-focused. We’ve seen enormous success, ultimately winning 22 new clients, blowing our own expectations out of the water.
This was a risk that, as CEO, challenged me. I am extremely fortunate to have a team that is genuinely excited about the work that we’re doing and the clients we’re working with, but change is scary in any organization. It shifts our stability for a bit. I tasked myself with keeping spirits high during a turbulent time. It paid off; we had an all around awesome ad profitable year, with our Shifters showing a revival of commitment to the brand.
However, as successful as 2018 was, it was difficult because I was being pulled in a thousand different directions. I knew I needed to be extremely hands-on in order to build a solid enough foundation for me to step away.
And now I’m ready to step away.
In 2019, the theme will be FOCUS.
Our entire rebrand was built around our hypothesis that the Manufacturing marketplace is ripe for digital transformation, and going deep on that hypothesis is our emphasis in the business right now. I believe we’re going to go further and attract the right clients by focusing on the one thing we want to be known for: bringing digital transformation to manufacturing. I have no interest in trying to be everything to everyone, and I’m excited to go deep.
I’m also ready to step away from some of my daily responsibilities. I don’t have to be so hands-on anymore, because I have an incredible leadership team. I want to empower others to make the important decisions. Because of the energy we’ve invested into this leadership team, I know they’re more than capable of continuing to drive Shift7 forward. They’re amped about the roles and assignments they have. Personally, I can’t wait to witness what I know will be an explosive year.
I’m ready for an incredible 2019. Are you?
Many sales professionals have grown increasingly worried as new digital technologies enter their space and change how they interact with customers. And, in a world where AI is speculated to replace hundreds of millions of workers by the year 2030, a little worry is expected, even warranted.
At the same, sales teams that refrain from embracing digital set themselves up for severe disadvantages. By becoming defensive to digital initiatives, they’re missing out on increased growth opportunities, finding better ways to connect with customers, and providing superior user experiences.
For example, we have a manufacturing client that goes to market in one of their customers segments exclusive with an outside sale team. They have a fairly large sales team that manages multiple accounts, and from their perspective, they’ve saturated the market. They do not see many more growth opportunities based on the channels they’re using, and they feel their sales team is already doing everything they can to excel. But, and this is a big BUT… they haven’t tapped into the many advantages digital has to offer. This is something we are working on with them. It’s a big task because it doesn’t just mean introducing a new tech stack, it requires that we change a way of thinking that’s permeated the sales world for decades.
That way of thinking is “I have my black book of contacts, and that’s the value I bring to this organization.” The relationship means everything. The fear is that when a digital approach is adopted, the company becomes the owner of the relationship, rather than the individual. Suddenly, the relationship means nothing. And therefore, my place here means nothing. But that’s absolutely not the case.
Mitigating the fear
In reality, the adoption of digital sales technologies does not destroy those valuable relationships. It actually can help to build and nurture them. Imagine a customer experience where every time an issue needed resolution the customer would have to pick up the phone and call a sales rep to talk it through, costing them time and testing their patience. Customers today are demanding and have grown to EXPECT a seamless, easy-to-use digital experience; in the end, digital tools like automation lessen the burden on them, as well as the sales rep.
Plus, by allowing digital tech to take care of something like day-to-day issue management, customers learn to turn to the sales rep when they actually need them. And the sales reps, in turn, can use their knowledge and talents more effectively. For instance, a customer who is purchasing a complex product can call on the sales rep to better understand it firsthand. That human-to-human interaction is irreplaceable.
There’s also an efficiency angle. Sales reps can spend up to two-thirds of their available time on administrative tasks related to selling, like accounting, invoice searches, etc., which distract from providing active solutions and helping the business to grow. A digital approach allows these to be accomplished through self-service. That means less time spent on mundane, repetitive tasks, more time spent on relationship-building.
Finally, digital sales technologies can also catapult organization-wide progress by providing access to invaluable insights and analytics. Gone are the days of guessing—big data is replacing intuition as a sales tool, and the results include improved customer targeting, more efficient use of time on sales calls, and a better understanding of different accounts and buyer behaviors—even the smallest learnings can make a big difference.
All in all, digital technology and marketing automation isn’t replacing our sales teams. It’s allowing them to evolve, gain access to new insights, and build stronger relationships with potential customers—the human touch isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
It’s here, the moment that was bound to happen: your business needs a new website, product catalog, or application. Or, at the very least, a redesign of what exists today. You’ve explored the idea of keeping the project in-house but are open to hiring a digital partner. You’ve also started to research content management systems, agonizing over which makes the most sense for your B2B organization. This is going to be a bigger undertaking than you anticipated.
We’ve seen a handful of clients end up in a similar scenario. And while the sticker shock of hiring an agency may be enough to turn you the other way, the more complicated your content and functionality, the more likely you are to rack up costs going at it alone, ultimately paying more in the long run.
Then there is the technology angle: what technology is right for me? A lot of B2B organizations spend a lot of time anxiously dwelling over different CMS platforms, thinking it’s a make-or-break decision. That thinking, though, is a way of the past. At this point, major systems in this category, what we call the “B2B Top 3”—platforms from Sitecore to Adobe to Episerver—offer similar results, it’s just a matter of personal preference (or a draw from a hat). Rather than determining what CMS to use, your time—and money—is better spent on building a partnership that will yield actual results.
Once you’ve decided that hiring a digital agency is the best approach for your business’ bottom line, there are a number of additional considerations to be made. Some are more obvious. For instance, you should have a complete understanding of your business needs and budget, so that you can clearly discuss them with prospective partners. Three other very important, sometimes forgotten, considerations include:
If it does, ask them about past engagements, where they’ve found success and what challenges they’ve met. If it doesn’t, stay open to the partnership, but proceed with caution. At Shift7, for example, we focus solely on the Manufacturing industry. Because our focus is so niche, we understand its many nuances. The customer journey, for one, is very complex; we’ve seen other agencies fail to deliver because of this.
This might seem like a no-brainer, but…do your research! Make sure the agency is credible. Check out their website. Ask for client testimonials and references. In B2B, we’ve seen agencies big and small who cannot “see around the bend” because they have not executed similar programs—you don’t want to fall victim to the same situation.
A vendor supplies a product or service, most likely in exchange for money. Their stake in the game is small. A partner, on the other hand, builds a relationship, becoming an extension of your business. Their product or service is a component of the relationship, but it goes much deeper than that. At Shift7, we are interested in partnering with you to drive business outcomes—it’s about the journey, not the destination.
Regardless of the amount of revenue you bring in each year or the savviness of your in-house IT team (or lack thereof), building a B2B website is a daunting task. Make sure that you have the right team in place to get the job done. When you do, everything from the technologies you use to the ongoing enhancements you make will follow suit.
Name a product that you can’t purchase online. If you’re having a hard time thinking of something, good. That’s the point. Manufacturers are starting to recognize that even the most complex products can be sold online and those doing it are seeing results. And now, with Amazon infiltrating B2B, manufacturers don’t just need a website, they need an engaging experience that provides tools and information to the end customer when and where they want it, which ultimately leads to more sales and customer loyalty.
That’s easier said than done—but it can be done with the right approach. It begins with understanding the needs and goals of your customers. Once you know that, you can create experiences and provide capabilities that enable those goals to be achieved. In this world of digital transactions, there are three key capabilities to consider: Commerce, Product Information Management (PIM), and Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ). Most of our manufacturing clients have at least one of these capabilities enabled, but may not be maximizing efficiency, and could benefit from a new strategy.
How do you determine when to make an investment in one (or all three) of these? It’s important to first understand the purpose of each one, how they work together, and their unique benefits. Let’s break them down.
Many companies have been selling products on their website for years. This is nothing new. But it is new (or newer) in Manufacturing. Manufacturers have been selling through distribution for years but not all have made the leap to sell products on their “own” site. Well, it’s time to rethink that strategy. Your own Commerce site is what allows you to create the perfect experience that caters to your customers. Amazon may sell your product but they probably are not cross-selling with your products. No, likely they are cross-selling your product with their own brand or one of your competitors. You have the unique ability to sell your products on your site with all of the specs and rich product content that you probably already have (which Amazon doesn’t), in an experience that you control and customer data that you can now own and learn from. If anything, you’ll find that you might need other tools to help better accomplish that, making your owned experience engaging, informative, and easy to navigate. Here’s where PIM comes in.
Manufacturers always have a lot of data. You have complex products with many attributes, spec sheets, data sheets, imagery, videos, etc. But many of you don’t have the tools to effectively manage that data. And now, as the number of channels you serve and sell through continues to grow and grow rapidly, you desperately need tools that can support multiple channels and be the engine behind your website. Enter PIM. A PIM system provides a centralized platform to ingest, enrich, and distribute product information to all of your channels.
That ability to centrally manage product information for all channels is key. Maintaining such a high level of consistency across every touchpoint allows teams to ensure the integrity of their product data, ultimately engaging customers and driving increased sales across channels. Your website is only as good as the product content it holds. And, you need a PIM to harness the power of that rich data and get it into the customer’s hands at the right time.
PIM is a foundational capability to succeed in the digital world, and we recommend it be prioritized first.
Manufacturing orders can get complex, especially with the number of variations of often similar products that many manufacturers allow. As a result, the sales process is often slowed because the sales team is unable to quickly deliver a quote, or worse, what’s quoted is wrong. CPQ changes that by managing these complex rules behind the scenes and only exposing valid configurations to the customer. Imagine if you could put all of those highly configurable and complex products online for the user to configure, quote, and ultimately purchase without a human’s involvement whatsoever. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Well, you can, and it’s not as hard as you might think. You already know all of the configuration options, you just need to load them into a system intended to store them and allow the self-service to begin.
As the manufacturing digital landscape becomes more competitive, building a sound strategy around these three capabilities is paramount. While each capability is unique and can offer tremendous benefits to manufacturers looking to transform digitally, it’s when they are effectively integrated within the same ecosystem that you’ll see and feel a real impact.
For more information on how you can take advantage of Commerce, PIM, and CPQ, contact us.
We live in the age of the empowered buyer. We have technology at our fingertips 24/7, and at any given moment we can pop online, research, browse, and purchase in less time than it would take to get to a store. Online orders arrive as quickly as same-day; our favorite shows can be streamed on-demand; and, answers to just about any question in the world can be found in a quarter of a second or less. (Thanks, Google.) To say that things have drastically changed compared to a decade ago is an understatement.
Yet, some industries, like the manufacturing space, still operate with an early-2000s mentality (or worse). Where a commonly held belief is that a website is a nice-to-have but not a necessity—let alone that it should look good or deliver an intuitive, user-friendly experience.
In fact, we see this a lot at Shift7. We’ve had many conversations with manufacturing executives who don’t believe us when we say that having a good website is important. They argue that their customers don’t use a website; rather, customers go to a store, or (gasp!) pick up the phone and call a sales associate. In reality, though, their customers most likely do visit their website, realize it’s tough to navigate, disorganized, and slow, and never visit again.
Where does this “I don’t need a website” thinking stem from? Well, for one, a lot of manufacturers have a belief that their product is too complicated to purchase online. There are 1000s of SKUs and each SKU has a bunch of specs. Who would know where to begin? While we understand the concern, technology has evolved tremendously to quell this issue. Imagine someone saying that there would never be a device that could make phone calls, play music, provide the weather, and access the internet, all in one. In comes the iPhone and all our minds are blown. The same goes for manufacturing. We have the digital tools that can do the work (and make it so. much. easier.). Manufacturers just aren’t aware of it or are afraid of the learning curve. Plus, they’re naturally more cautious organizations, and digital adoption equals risk.
There’s also another soft misconception in the manufacturing space that digital marketing isn’t effective—and this most likely is related to that notion that ‘our customers aren’t online.’ Our research tells us otherwise. We’ll find a community of welders on Facebook or recognize that a lot of manufacturing-related searches are starting on Bing. SEO is important, as is advertising on Facebook because both allow the manufacturer to get in front of the right eyes. Yet, still, they shy away and are afraid to make the investment.
At Shift7, our goal is to shift these widely held misconceptions, eliminate the fears, and educate our clients on the reality of the current situation. And then, we work to implement the right strategies, technologies, and tools to shift them into the future (and ideally, shift their bottom line, too).
As we approach a digital implementation, our number one rule is always to ‘know thy customer.’ It’s also one of the top areas we see manufacturers failing; hence, their propensity to think and behave as they did in the past. Manufacturers aren’t aware that their customers are, in fact, online, and they definitely don’t know their online behaviors.
We remediate this by researching and defining different manufacturing buyer personas. We’ll track online behaviors and work alongside sellers and distributors to better understand how they are shopping for and purchasing products. Then, we can take this information and strategically use it to dictate a web experience that’s tailored to a particular business (and buyer), build an email marketing campaign, and develop smart digital ads that will get clicks and generate sales.
The bottom line is that manufacturers need to embrace digital experiences & technology to compete in today’s marketplace. As customer expectations change and they become more empowered to shop whenever and wherever they want, this becomes even more critical. Not to mention, manufacturers also face a growing number of competitors who are using technology to their advantage, e.g. Amazon Business.
All in all, the benefits of making the shift to digital far outweigh the risks. We believe it’s not an option, but mandatory! We’ll be exploring the benefits, risks, and shifts that can be made over the next couple of weeks in our video series, “Holy Shift.” Stay tuned for that.
If you have any questions or are interested in learning more about how Shift7 can help your business, contact us.
Let’s take a trip back in time. The year is 1984, the internet is in its advent, and e-commerce is a mere figment of the imagination. In the manufacturing world, like a lot of other industries, most sales and distribution occur via “door-to-door” tactics—manufacturers travel around with their actual product or examples of it, going from one construction or job site to the next. They model their products directly for their end customers, and those customers choose to purchase or not. Next is the introduction of wholesalers and resellers, big box players like Grainger and Home Depot, which offer physical brick and mortar stores, geographical expansion opportunities, and more customer “reach” than ever before—together, all of these combined provide more revenue for the manufacturer than ever before. These are the glory days!
Fast forward 35 years to present moment. It’s 2019, the age of the empowered buyer, and oh, how times have changed. The old ways of manufacturing sales have been completely disrupted by digital experiences & technology. Fewer and fewer sales are happening in stores or over the phone, let alone at job sites. The only sites that matter now are web sites, which are no longer just a nice-to-have, but a necessity. If you aren’t getting in front of your buyer through online channels, you’re at a severe disadvantage, and if you don’t make a change, you could easily lose your business. Especially with behemoths like Amazon on your tail.
If these current times have you thinking “holy sh*t!,” you’re not alone. In fact, a lot of manufacturers are feeling the pressure. And that’s why we at SHIFT7 Digital work solely with manufacturers, helping them to ‘fast forward’ out of the past and into the future that is happening right now.
In an all-new, totally original video series, we will educate manufacturers on the digital tools they need to know and use every day to better this part of their business. I’m talking online experiences, digital marketing, product information management, and how to master e-commerce.
Welcome to the path forward, or as we like to call it, the Holy Shift moment.
Stay tuned for next week’s episode, “The Future was Yesterday.”
Future Proof series, our team of experts will walk you through how you can take control of your digital experiences, start to finish. From creating a roadmap to understanding your customers and everything in between, this series will take you from “holy $#*!t” to “holy shift.” Welcome to the path forward.
Let’s talk about the history of manufacturers and how they did sales and distributions over the last couple of decades.
First of all, what made manufacturers successful, historically? A big component of their success was having sales agents and reps who were out in their cars, hitting the pavement, and meeting with their end customer in person to share new collateral and catalogs and demonstrate their products. That worked well for a while. Then, new distribution channels came along like retailers and wholesalers with big box stores offering regional expansion. Think Lowe’s, Airgas, Fastenal, Grainger, and more.
While all of that was wonderful, times have changed.
At SHIFT7 Digital, we love to use analogies to put things into perspective for our clients. So consider this: In the early days of Nascar, a pit stop for a “quick” tire change would take about 60 seconds, maybe a little less if you had a skilled pit crew. Nowadays, do you know that turnaround time? 12 seconds or less for a swap of all four tires. Pretty impressive.
The point here is that Nascar teams had to evolve and become more nimble to compete. The same goes for manufacturers. Just as painful as it is to watch the seemingly slow motion of a 1950s pit stop, it’s painful for us to witness manufacturers carry on as they did in the past and think that they’ll achieve similar success as they always did.
The fact is, the world has gone digital, and what’s worked in the last hundred years isn’t going to cut it in the next hundred. So, here’s what manufacturers need to stay ahead of the curve:
Digital Strategy — This can mean different things to different people. In this case, we’re talking a strategic plan for taking teams, business processes, and systems digital with modern technologies and tools.
UX — Essentially, keeping your customers happy by offering an easy and convenient User Experience.
Analytics — Using data to drive continual improvement of your UX and achieve business outcomes.
CRM —Using Customer Relationship Management technologies to ultimately drive sales and customer retention.
CMS — Creating and managing content that your customers want using the technology of a Content Management System.
PIM — Managing product information via a Product Information Management system, allowing you to market and sell products easier and in more channels.
eCommerce — Selling your product online. This. Is. Crucial.
Digital Marketing — Selling and marketing your products using digital technologies and distribution channels.
Not sure where to begin? That’s what we’re here for. Follow along with our Future Proof video series over the next couple of weeks as we break it down for you. And of course, don’t be afraid to give us a shout with questions at Shift7Digital.com/contact-us.
In the meantime, stay tuned for next week’s episode, “If It Ain’t Fixed…Break It.”
The world of B2B manufacturing is changing—ready or not. But if this has you thinking, “holy sh*t!” don’t worry — you’re not alone. SHIFT7 Digital is here to bring the world’s leading manufacturers into the future. In each episode of the Future Proof series, our team of experts will walk you through how you can take control of your digital experiences, start to finish. From creating a roadmap to understanding your customers and everything in between, this series will take you from “holy $#*!t” to “holy shift.” Welcome to the path forward.
When’s the last time you used a landline? How about a pay phone? (Do those things even exist anymore?) If you’re at a loss, we’re not surprised. The fact of the matter is that it’s 2019 and just like we use mobile phones over landlines, it’s the same with your website—it’s time to modernize and invest in your digital experience.
You might be thinking, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But, hate to break it to you, that is a laggard mentality—and who wants to be a laggard? No one. At SHIFT7, we say break it. Even if what you’ve been doing has been working (sort of), we guarantee that there’s room for improvement. It’s a chance to be a leader in your industry and to leave the rest of the laggards in the dust.
Moving forward with digital transformation begins by asking yourself some critical questions* such as:
What digital investment have you made in the last two years?
Have you developed a Digital Roadmap?
Do you have an understanding of your end customers’ online shopping needs and buying behaviors?
Does your company have defined goals and objectives for your digital experiences and channels?
Once you have a better idea of where you stand in your digital maturity, the next step is to create a solid digital strategy that touches on every aspect of the business, from marketing and sales to user experience, product management, technology platforms, and more.
If this sounds overwhelming, that’s okay. Companies like SHIFT7 exist solely for this reason—we want to help our partners create the best digital plan for their unique business needs and to ultimately improve their bottom line. Our success is proven by theirs.
If you’re interested in getting started, or at least want to have some questions answered, get in touch.
And, of course, stay tuned for next week’s episode, “With Great PIM Comes Great Responsibility.”
*Note: you can find these and more in our Manufacturing Digital Maturity Index.
The world of B2B manufacturing is changing—ready or not. But if this has you thinking, “holy sh*t!” don’t worry — you’re not alone. SHIFT7 Digital is here to bring the world’s leading manufacturers into the future. In each episode of the Future Proof series, our team of experts will walk you through how you can take control of your digital experiences, start to finish. From creating a roadmap to understanding your customers and everything in between, this series will take you from “holy $#*!t” to “holy shift.” Welcome to the path forward.
You may not know your customer as well as you thought.
While you might believe that they are loyal to your brand and your product, what’s to keep them from venturing into other great options—like those on the front page of Google’s search results—when shopping online?
I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: It’s the age of the empowered buyer. Your customer is definitely browsing, researching, and buying online. It’s easy, it’s convenient, and it’s just the way it is. And the only way you’re going to stay top of mind is if you meet them where they are—in the ethers of ecommerce and online marketing.
I know what you’re thinking. How do I get there?
As a manufacturer, this is one of the top questions you can ask yourself about taking your marketing direct to consumer – whether contractor, engineer, or scientist. How do I get the right product, in the right place, at the right time, all on my terms? As you can imagine, it’s much easier said than done.
It takes research to really understand where your customers are, both online and offline. Then, you need to have the customer journey maps to support it. From there, you can create a robust marketing plan that targets your ideal customers with the exact information they want (and need) to commit to purchasing your product.
As we like to say, if you market it, they will come.
Interested in learning more about going digital with your marketing efforts? Connect with us at Shift7Digital.com/contact-us. Plus, continue to follow along with our Future Proof video series to learn more about how manufacturers can thrive in a digital world.
The world of B2B manufacturing is changing—ready or not. But if this has you thinking, “holy sh*t!” don’t worry — you’re not alone. SHIFT7 Digital is here to bring the world’s leading manufacturers into the future. In each episode of the Future Proof series, our team of experts will walk you through how you can take control of your digital experiences, start to finish. From creating a roadmap to understanding your customers and everything in between, this series will take you from “holy $#*!t” to “holy shift.” Welcome to the path forward.
Andrew Walker, CEO, SHIFT7 Digital
As a leader of a digital agency that’s in a huge growth period, there’s a lot at stake. Days are stacked with a laundry list of to-dos and meetings, a lot of which are virtual and across multiple time zones—we’ve now got offices in New York, Raleigh, Chicago, and are looking to expand farther west. I’ve got my hands in operations, sales, marketing, HR, you name it, and I like to keep myself accessible to everyone on the team. I always try to operate with a people-first mentality.
In fact, I recently found myself thinking about leadership, the challenges leaders face, and what it takes to be a good leader in 2019. And, unsurprisingly, people came to mind immediately. Why? For a number of reasons. One being that without people, there’s no one to lead or be led (and no one to keep the business alive!). People are the lifeblood of the organization. So I find it imperative to make sure they feel supported in all they do, from taking initiative and risks to feeling confident enough to vocalize an idea.
I also want to ensure that my team is happy and enjoying their work. I often ask my executive team and key direct reports, “are you having fun?” I think that if you’re doing what you like, you’re passionate, and you’re having fun, success will follow, both on personal and organizational levels. It’s a win-win.
As I mentioned earlier, we’ve got offices across the country. For this reason, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of communication. I encourage overcommunication on the regular, in an effort to create full transparency among action items and to ensure nothing falls through the cracks. As a leader, it’s my job to make sure that everyone is on the same page, and keeping an open line of communication does that.
Leadership, of course, comes with its fair share of challenges. And one of the main challenges facing leaders today also has to do with people—hiring the right ones. I apply a slow-to-hire approach, and believe that when you have the right people in place and play to their strengths, you’re going to get the most out of them. As a result, your organization will run like a well-oiled machine.
Recruiting, therefore, is critical. We use tools like a strengthsfinder, Hogan assessment, and other sorts of DISC personality assessments. We’ve also made a point to clearly define our core values so that we can attract people who match them. We honor things like accountability, adaptability, and—you guessed it, fun. When you’ve got like-minded people working together they do really well, and it carries over across different disciplines from design to engineering to sales.
Another challenge leaders face is getting too bogged down in the day-to-day operational aspects of the business and current state of the market. To be successful, leaders need to be thinking six months, 12 months, five years down the road. I’ve found my own success with this by creating a clear vision or north star and sticking to it. I am unwavered in my thinking when it comes to that vision, and that mentality carries through when I have conversations with clients, recruits, colleagues, and peers. It’s absolutely vital to stay clean in your thinking about the future and your beliefs about where the business is going to go.
I thoroughly enjoy leading my team at SHIFT7 day in and day out, despite frequent long days and lots of responsibilities. To those readers who would like to step into a leadership position themselves someday, my advice is twofold: first, be a sponge. The more embedded you get in your line of business, knowing each and every detail, the more successful you’re going to be down the road when it’s time to rise up and manage, lead, and direct. When you’ve got solid experience in the ground level work, you’ll be better able to create a more holistic understanding of the business—the kind that’s required by a strong leader.
Secondly … never stop having fun.
As manufacturers look to the future with the goal of optimizing their digital experiences, there is much more than meets the eye. While a shiny new website can help to modernize the business and achieve some goals, there is more beneath the surface of a webpage that should be addressed.
Because these backend elements are not front and center, they often get overlooked or intentionally disregarded, thinking that they must not be that big of a deal. We’ve had a number of clients who do not realize the true importance of their commerce and product information management (PIM) systems until we have a chance to educate them on it. And even then, there is still a learning curve.
Sometimes the question will arise as to what system is the best or most essential: content, commerce, or PIM? The answer is that there is no answer. Each system should not live in a vacuum; in fact, it’s the triad that creates the most impact. The ultimate goal, then, is not to put all of your eggs into one basket, but to finetune the balance of all three, and that is where partnering with an expert like Shift7 can make the difference.
Before we get too far, let’s make sure we are on the same page by defining each piece of the puzzle.
At Shift7, we know the ins and outs of the manufacturing world and how to best leverage these digital technologies and tools to “future proof” a business—plus bring in more business. We also know how to make the most out of digital investment no matter how far along in the process that business is.
A few manufacturers we’ve worked with have been in business for decades, some even up to 100 years. For someone with that sort of history, diving headfirst into PIM—a necessity, but also a substantial investment—isn’t always the best choice. Rather, the goal should be to find a healthy balance of product content, investment in PIM, and investment in other areas like commerce. On the other hand, with a younger client who already has a solid PIM system in place, we’d look to optimize channels and create more advanced marketing strategies around them.
To help guide the decision-making process, we consider the manufacturer’s current operations and objectives. In the table below you can see how this plays out. The goal is to find a balance, and when you do, success follows, and the investment will seem well worth it.
If the business focuses on a high volume of transactions and has a high volume of content, chances are it’ll need the triple play.
If there is a high volume of transactions and a low volume of content, the business can get by with only a new commerce system.
If there is a high volume of content but a low volume of transactions, PIM and content will suffice.
If there is a low volume of content and a low volume of transactions, you can start with content only, and hopefully work toward more transactions.
One of the biggest challenges we face is not the technology and the ‘doing.’ Rather, it’s change adoption. Because a lot of these companies have been around for a while, they only know things as they’ve always been done. Getting the organization to rally around and adopt new concepts is difficult—especially when it requires the company to entertain an altogether new business model or sales model. (And we can advise on that, too.)
So, where does that leave us? If you’re a manufacturer, you’re probably wondering where and how you can begin to “future proof” your company. It’s hard to say without a conversation first and knowing exactly where you stand in that table, but most likely, updating your PIM, and then finding the ideal balance of it alongside commerce and content will get you on the right path.
If you’re interested in learning more or scheduling a free first-time consultation to discuss how to get ready for your business’ short and long term future, reach out to us on our contact page.
Is your manufacturing company ready for the next five years? How about the next 10? If your immediate response was not a resounding “Yes!,” read on.
Traditionally, manufacturers would create their products and outsource the sales and marketing functions of those products to a distributor or dealer. Then, it was up to those third parties to connect with customers directly. The model was very linear with the manufacturer on one end, the customer on the other, and the dealer/distributor somewhere in between.
Now that’s all changed. Customers have greater demands. Buyers are more empowered. And information and products are not only more widespread than ever, but also readily available at the click of a button. For manufacturers to compete they need to meet their customers wherever they are—usually online—losing the middle-person in some cases, and using them in others. The linear model of old has turned into a web of opportunity—except a lot of manufacturers aren’t navigating the threads with ease, they’re getting stuck.
At Shift7, for instance, we see our manufacturer clients in various states of pain. Usually, they don’t know where to put their resources, time, and energy and as a result, get stuck in reaction mode. Their attempts to meet the needs of various distributors, dealers, customers, and internal stakeholders fall short and they only get things done ‘halfway.’ In the end, nothing is actually organized and there’s no value added to the tasks they’ve completed. It’s our job to help remedy that, bring added value into the equation, and optimize processes for the future. Below, I break down a few key points for manufacturing companies planning their next five years…and beyond.
Lay the Foundation
We’ve talked about the importance of getting the foundational elements right in an earlier article, namely your content, commerce, and product information management (PIM) systems. The goal is to find a balance of these three systems that works for your business. A lot of our clients are unaware of how important PIM is, and that it is truly the foundation of the optimization strategy.
Think about it this way: a manufacturer is a product maker—you better have your product suite in order! While you can have a superior product, it will lose out to lesser products if you do not have thorough and consistent content for it, e.g. solution-oriented product descriptions and technical specs, that live across multiple channels, from your website to a catalog to your distributors’ and dealers’ websites, catalogs, and more. A PIM takes care of aggregating your products and content for you, thus creating the best experience for you, your buyer-partners, and most importantly, your end customers.
Once the PIM system is in place, the next step focuses even more closely on building onto that customer experience. The goal is to create the most effective experience for the customer at their point of engagement, wherever that may be. How?
Know Your Customer
Historically, a lot of manufacturers outsourced sales and marketing efforts to other firms. Because of this, they have little insight into who their actual customer is, where they’re located, where they shop, and how they explore different channels. This lack of customer research is a huge miss! Especially because all of this information is out there, and whether or not you decide to use it to your advantage, one of your competitors probably is.
Understanding the customer journey is imperative to creating a useful, usable, and desirable experience—one that builds retention and loyalty. A customer journey map is a great tool that sheds light on the entire transactional process, from the initial trigger, e.g. need a new product, to what your customer is thinking and feeling at each touchpoint throughout the process beginning at awareness through purchase and beyond. At Shift7, we work closely with our clients to create user personas by interviewing actual customers, we do research, and build customer journey maps based on our findings. The amount we can learn is impressive, and when strategically applied, sets our manufacturer partners up for success.
Be Aware of the Empowered Buyer
Finally, the notion of the “empowered buyer.” It’s that idea that you may not know your customer as well as you thought, which, I realize, contradicts what I said above. The point here is awareness. Understand that it’s becoming exponentially more challenging to understand buyer behaviors. It’s important to create an experience that is consistent and accurate, but that does not guarantee that your customer won’t decide to purchase from somewhere else out of convenience. Understand their perspectives, find and engage them, and realize that you’re not going to win them all (and that’s ok).
Preparing your business for the future doesn’t have to feel daunting. It begins with performing a thorough review of your current business practices and digital expertise, identifying strengths and weaknesses, and then creating an action plan to get you to where you want to be. Get a solid foundation in place, know your customers, and remember, you don’t have to do it alone! Consider partnering with a digital expert who understands how your business has operated over the last 50 years and knows exactly how to prepare it for the next 50.
Today, Shift7 Digital, the modern digital agency for manufacturers, is revealing how manufacturers can maximize their digital presence to drive more meaningful touchpoints with customers. In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, U.S. e-commerce sales jumped 49 percent in April, compared to early March prior to the shelter-in-place orders. At the same time, more than 35.5 percent of manufacturers say they are facing supply chain disruptions, according to a study by The National Association of Manufacturers. Now, more than ever, manufacturers are being forced to be creative with workarounds to make their business run in the face of major supply chain disruptions.
“The last five weeks have been a microcosm of the last five months of transformation taking place within the manufacturing industry,” said Andrew Walker, CEO of Shift7 Digital. “While the onset of Covid-19 resulted in many consumers being paralyzed with fear, we’ve seen a definite shift in shoppers seeking out the brands they trust and engaging with them more directly. With that, manufacturers today, particularly in this environment, must readjust priorities and focus on becoming more visible online. This pandemic is creating a catalyst for change that in many ways, is long overdue for the manufacturing industry.”
Shift7 supports manufacturers like Lincoln Electric, Corning and USG, including adding nearly 40 manufacturing clients to its roster and growing its team by 36 percent in just the last year.
With the uncertainty and strain of today’s environment, it’s critical that manufacturers are making the most of their primary experience channel – their own website.
Here are seven ways to shift the digital focus so brands can survive and thrive in quarantine and beyond:
Frequent communication with internal and external stakeholders is always critical, but especially now. Launch a dynamic microsite to manage real-time communication with customers for timely access to your brand and business.
Brick and mortar distributors continue to be shut down around much of the country so meet your customers where they are: online. Ensure all of your products are on your website and syndicated to your resellers and distributors. Build a “task force” to ensure all products are visible and accessible to all customers. Solutions like Product Information Management (PIM) can assist greatly.
With cloud-based solutions, an MVP eCommerce website can be launched quickly to establish minimum capabilities to support eCommerce. This not only gives customers direct access to your products, but also helps to support revenue levels.
Your customers should be able to handle most of what they need themselves within your website. Make sure they can self-service their order status and enhance your customer portal with up-to-date order and shipping information that makes finding what they need as easy as possible.
When your sales team cannot be face-to-face with your customers, arm them with content and insights that will keep them selling seamlessly. This includes basic necessities like CRM capability, high-quality video conferencing, answers to FAQs, and more.
Don’t forget that your customers need access to parts and service information. Build a service portal with rich content and parts availability that allows them to get the information they need quickly without jumping through digital hoops.
Even experts don’t know how long it will take to get back to “normal” from this. Move funds for this year’s trade shows and events to digital marketing and advertising tactics in order to reach customers to which you no longer have in-person access.
Shift7 Digital collaborates with businesses to help educate them about the changing landscape, including analyzing their digital presence, integrating the brand experience across platforms and streamlining a company’s digital properties.
Shift7 Digital is revolutionizing the digital experience for manufacturers and their customers. Backed by a team of experts with deep industry insights, Shift7 truly understands the challenges and opportunities facing the B2B market today and delivers a customized, yet prescriptive process for partnering with companies as they evolve from a product-centric to a customer-centric approach. Shift7 is modernizing manufacturing to help businesses transform through digital marketing to drive connections, commerce and revenue.
Today, Shift7 Digital, the modern digital agency for manufacturers, announced its partnership with Salesforce Commerce Cloud Quick Start Solutions. Shift7 Digital is the only B2B manufacturing focused agency that is part of the exclusive partner program. Created in the wake of this year’s economic uncertainty, the Quick Start Solutions are Commerce Cloud packages designed to launch an ecommerce site, manage the experience, and start growing, fast. The solution is a complete package of product, implementation, and managed services to get your B2B website live and accepting orders within five weeks.
“This program is a testament to the tremendous need for manufacturers to focus on building a stronger ecommerce presence, as well as our ability to be the best possible digital marketing partner for manufacturers,” said Andrew Walker, CEO of Shift7 Digital. “In some cases, standing up a full stack ecommerce business for a client who is starting from scratch can take over a year. This program distills everything down into the must-haves, making it easy to use and allowing for a launch that is measured in weeks, not months.”
Salesforce is currently used by more than 150,000 customers worldwide. This turnkey program will be completely seamless for any companies that already use Salesforce and will allow stand up an ecommerce solution that can be scaled to each customer’s individual needs.
Shift7 Digital collaborates with manufacturing businesses to help educate them about the changing landscape, including analyzing their digital presence, integrating the brand experience across platforms and streamlining a company’s digital properties.
Looking to improve customer experience in 2021? You’re not alone. Many companies rank an improved customer experience at or near the top of their priority lists. The optimization takes plenty of time (and budget—more on that in a moment) to accomplish. It’s a challenging journey.
If you’ve landed on this page, you’re likely convinced the customer experience is mission-critical work, and you’re not under any illusions that it will be simple. You might have a vision defined for the experience you want to create for your customers. The next question leadership might ask is, of course, the big one: what’s this going to cost?
We tackle this question all the time. And the answer is (you’re gonna love this) it depends.
However, it’s safe to say that it’ll probably cost more than you think. Particularly in a large enterprise with the complexity often found in robust manufacturing environments—many SKUs, configurable products, technical customer personas and a complex go to market model. You’ll need to bring multiple new technologies into the architecture and get them connected to deliver that seamless customer experience you’re dreaming about.
For those all-important budgeting conversations, we tell clients to plan their budgets across a few key areas:
To achieve your vision, bringing new systems into your current architecture can fill gaps beautifully. Things like PIM, CMS, eCommerce, Marketing Automation, OMS, Punchout, the list goes on. In today’s SaaS world, these are typically annual contracts you will negotiate and account for monthly over multi-year terms.
What to expect: anywhere from $50K to 80K of year per software.
Software Vendor Implementation Fees
Depending on the software and complexity to implement, the vendors themselves may be involved in its implementation and integration. Plan for these project-based fees.
What to expect: if your vendor requires it, budget up to $50K per software.
In most cases, our clients use an outside partner to lead and execute the many phases and projects that bring customer experience to life. This spans all chosen technologies and works to connect new systems and core back office foundations like CRM, ERP and PLM. Our recommendation: selecting fewer partners that can deliver work across technology platforms will save you time, money and headaches as compared to having a specialized partner for each.
What to expect: anywhere from $400K to $1.2M per phase/technology.
Don’t forget this part! Think of it like space flight. The launch isn’t when the mission ends. It’s when it begins.
Make ongoing enhancements to the experience you’ve built while you work to grow adoption and conversion. You might be able to use existing business processes and teams. But in most cases, you’ll define and hire new roles (or engage new partners) in ongoing retainer work to operate new channels and handle demand.
What to expect: $50K to $100K per month for ongoing services, plus additional headcount costs.
The cost is significant, and it doesn’t end when the new experience launches. It’s daunting enough to convince leadership to spend on a digital overhaul, and that prospect gets even trickier when it comes time to maintain and improve it. The fear they feel is understandable; it’s easy to see a project like this and focus solely on the cost.
But make no mistake: the returns are astounding. An optimized and connected customer experience is what dishes out the largest piece of market share pie—especially in industries (looking at you, manufacturing) that are generally dragging their feet. It’s up to you to manage a comprehensive view of all of it and to sell the vision to your leadership team.
Also, it should now be noted, you do not have to tackle this monumental task alone. It’s in our DNA at Shift7 to help companies like yours, and we’ll be here if you want a dedicated, experienced partner to bring your customer experience vision to life.
You can learn more about what we do here. But whatever you do, be sure to tackle strategic roadmap work while it’s top-of-mind. It minimizes risk, improves return and is the critical first step in getting a clear view of all the phases and the overall plan to have a customer experience you can be proud of.
Remember the good ol’ days of dial-up internet? Doo-de-doooo, bleep-bloop, scratch, scratch, ding! You know what I’m talking about.
A lot has changed since then. Now the internet is omnipresent. It’s with us in our pockets, on our nightstands, at the grocery store, in our cars. We don’t hear it, it’s just there. It’s changed the way we shop, work, travel, communicate—it’s completely changed the way we live.
For this reason, businesses today have no choice but to accept it and evolve or get left behind, B2B companies – especially manufacturers included. What used to be done over fax, phone, a warehouse sale, for instance—has now gone digital. And without a solid ecommerce strategy in place, manufacturers risk losing potential customers and will definitely lose sales. If they continue this way for too long and they’ll become as obsolete as those modem screeches of the 90s and early 2000s.
What’s more, manufacturers face a number of digital disruptors. Private label brands are coming onto the market via resellers and distributors. Behemoths like Amazon and Alibaba are also launching their own product lines that compete with those of manufacturers. All of these things pressure the manufacturer to do something different for revenue generation.
The good news? There are as many ways to optimize your ecommerce capabilities as there are disruptive forces in the marketplace. It starts with understanding your business objectives and then deploying the right tactics to achieve them. It could be a B2B portal, a configure price quote application, a mobile experience for your sales team—it could even be a direct-to-consumer website where you can sell your products directly. You don’t have to be a disruptor, you just have to get started.
And the best part? It doesn’t have to be hard. Let a digital agency like Shift7 be your guide.
Interested in getting started? Connect with us at Shift7Digital.com/contact-us.
Plus, continue to follow along with our Future Proof video series to learn more about how manufacturers can thrive in a digital world.