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Determining Readiness for eCommerce: Evaluating Knowledge of eCommerce Audience

by Kris Harrington

The more a manufacturer knows about their customers, the easier it will be to communicate with them. The level of information a manufacturer has available for their target market and existing customer base are the two most important criteria to evaluate when determining a manufacturer’s knowledge of their eCommerce audience. Segmenting these users into defined user types will help develop a manufacturer’s marketing and digital strategy as well.

Understand Who Your Customer Is

Having a good understanding of customer buying patterns and behaviors is paramount for an effective eCommerce experience, so it’s important that a manufacturer is already capable of collecting general customer information before entering eCommerce. Information about end users should primarily be the goal, but if a dealer network is utilized, then dealer information is important as well. This information should consist of contact information that will aid future marketing campaigns via eCommerce, and add to the buying experience that customers have become accustomed to.

Types of Customer Information

Collecting information about product owners is something that is important when entering eCommerce. Documented owner information consisting of names, emails, addresses, and phone numbers should all be collected and stored within a sellers ERP system. A seller will benefit from collecting, updating, and storing installed base details for every sale made. Information and details consisting of owners and locations can be obtained from manufacturer to dealer and from dealer to end user. This information will provide valuable insights for sales teams, and allow them to take a proactive approach to capturing re-orders from past customers.

Recognizing Buying Patterns

Buying patterns and behaviors should be noted and consistently tracked across all divisions within a seller’s organization. For products that are considered seasonal, buying patterns are relatively predictable given their active use-period. This information is again useful in developing marketing campaigns to allow manufacturers to maximize conversions throughout each quarter. Having a clear plan that actively targets individual users and addresses them according to their industry needs is a personalized approach that bodes well for eCommerce.

Managing the Dealer Dilemma

The Dealer Dilemma should be addressed before implementing a digital sales strategy because of the implications it may have on downstream partners and their revenue. A level of dealer pushback should be expected when considering the transition to eCommerce, which can oftentimes be a major roadblock in the transition to an omnichannel approach. It may appear to the dealer that they are less important to customers when they choose to make their purchases online—but they actually provide a complementary service. The dealer provides the service, maintenance, and repair for manufacturers equipment, and their physical location provides a brand presence that is not possible through eCommerce alone. The dealer also provides local customer support and a place to try before you buy. With this in mind, it should be relatively obvious that the dealer’s continual interactions with customers allows them to gain valuable insights into customer buying behaviors. Developing a mutually beneficial strategy to navigate the Dealer Dilemma will enable both manufacturers and dealers to share customer information with one another.

Putting the Information to Work

Site personalization is a growing trend in advancing digital strategies. It’s important to analyze how well an OEM understands the customer journey and if they have a good feel for customer buying patterns and behaviors. Visualizing the customer throughout the purchasing process is good practice because it allows the manufacturer to see what plays into a buyer’s purchasing decision. This applies to the eCommerce experience and translates into the development of the user experience (UX) as well. Utilizing the information gathered from existing customers, an organization will be capable of catering their eCommerce experience to a more specific target audience.

Knowledge is Power

A manufacturer will need to determine how well they know their audience in order to understand how to sell to them more effectively. Keeping up-to-date records for historical sales and installed base information should be considered a regular practice. Knowing end users full name, email and product ownership information (year of purchase, brand, model, serial number/VIN etc.) is highly beneficial to an organization, and can be even greater benefit if you open your website from a distribution to a direct sales channel. The primary goal of this evaluation is to determine how well a manufacturer understands their target audience. However, there are greater implications than just the buyer-seller relationship. A manufacturer must be able to communicate with their dealer networks in order to obtain local buyer information. This information will help a manufacturer develop an effective marketing strategy that is beneficial to their dealer networks as well.

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