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Understanding eCommerce for Manufacturers: It’s Time to Make the Shift

Tomorrow’s growth will come from today’s user experience

April 08th, 2022 / Tags:

This image shows a female factory worker at a computer. She’s wearing a hard hat and a yellow vest while typing. A monitor on her right shows various charts and graphs.

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.

Your customers benefit but so do you

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.

Your customers aren’t all the same – give each segment what they want

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:

1. Your strategic customers

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.

2. Your mid-size customers

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.

3. Your long-tail segment

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.

How we do it at Shift7

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 research
-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.

Impressive results

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 and 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

This could be your company. Explore our Manufacturer’s Complete Guide to B2B Commerce and then let’s get started.



TL;DR – Key Takeaways:

-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

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