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Manufacturing, the Empowered Buyer, and Shifting Into the Future

By: Andrew Walker, CEO of Shift7 Digital

July 31st, 2019 /

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.

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