20 APR

How Manufacturers Can Capitalize on B2B eCommerce Amid Disruption

by Kris Harrington

Manufacturers are finding new sales opportunities and additional ways to serve customers despite continued disruption.

The ongoing disruption of COVID-19 is providing forward-thinking equipment manufacturers with a unique opportunity to turn their eCommerce capabilities into a strategic advantage. Here’s how your company can take advantage of recent trends to both strengthen your customer relationships and grow your sales and market share.

Adapting to Uncertainty

Over the past year, digital commerce has asserted itself as the new normal. The reality is that manufacturers with eCommerce already in place are managing better than those without. The unexpected surge in ecommerce orders due to COVID-19 is making it increasingly difficult for companies that failed to invest in a digital sales strategy in the past.

“I was speaking with the CEO of a manufacturer who has made considerable investments in their eCommerce and Amazon channels, and he believes these investments are the reason his company can sustain through this as their traditional channels have largely shut down,” said Brian Beck, a manufacturing eCommerce expert.

This doesn’t mean that manufacturers who did invest in B2B eCommerce have it easy. They’re reprioritizing specific areas of their business models to accommodate the new demand while also addressing buyer uncertainty―something that’s easier said than done.

Emerging Obstacles

The rapid increase in eCommerce has put a strain on companies struggling to keep up with heightened demand.

MSC Industrial Supply Co., a maintenance, repair, and operations (MRO) product supplier carrying an inventory of over 1.7 million products, is now scrambling to find more inventory due to the drastic increase in purchases. “Like other suppliers, we are experiencing a backorder situation for these items, but we are working with our supplier partners, who are working diligently to get product back in stock as quickly as possible to address current and future demand,” said an MSC spokesperson.

This positive sales trend is continuing, despite the fact that some eCommerce sellers are providing subpar buying experiences. Factors such as delivery instructions, purchasing limitations, supply chain disruption, and handling regulations have impacted the overall buyer experience.

One of the largest challenges manufacturers utilizing B2B eCommerce will need to overcome is directing support for new delivery protocols that have never been needed in the past, such as contactless deliveries. Non-contact deliveries limit unnecessary exposure. This is a feature that some manufacturers will need to build into their eCommerce platforms.

The good news is that these new challenges will provide forward-thinking equipment manufacturers with an opportunity to brand themselves as customer-focused industry leaders.

Mastering Change

Manufacturers have been adapting to the circumstances by developing new strategies. While some workplaces have reopened, 33% of U.S. workers are still remote.

With this in mind, manufacturers can increase their sales and customer satisfaction levels by proactively accommodating buyer needs and concerns. Communicating new developments to buyers through email campaigns and website announcements, and even offering more flexible payment terms are a few tactics to help encourage customers to buy.

 

 

Companies big and small are composed of a diverse set of employees, each with their own concerns and uncertainties. Organizations that have been most successful at managing the impact of COVID-19 have acknowledged this fact and are addressing their customers in the same way.

An individualized and personal approach to communicating with buyers has helped mitigate some of the anxieties present in the current market, but manufacturers will need to continue developing new strategies to both retain and grow their customer base.

Overcoming New Challenges

Though manufacturers are faced with many challenges, these can also be viewed as opportunities to produce positive outcomes and increase market penetration. Establishing an eCommerce presence can be a daunting task, but it is clear that eCommerce can help increase sales and customer satisfaction – and will likely become a mandatory requirement as younger, more tech-savvy employees join the workforce.

These are the most prevalent challenges for manufacturers with B2B eCommerce, and the strategies they can use to keep their sales strong.

Disruption

Disruption can manifest itself in many forms for manufacturers; unprecedented decline in revenue, increased demand, extreme buyer uncertainty, or a rapid change in business models. Focusing on digital marketing, communications, customer experience, and eCommerce user experience will allow manufacturers to overcome—and perhaps even benefit from these new disruptions. Adapting customer support models to be more effective in addressing the influx of buyers will reinforce a sense of stability and reassure customers that they are still a top priority.

Outlook Stability

With more of the population staying at home, dealers are still anxious about staying afloat. A manufacturer should strategically shift their support beyond just buyers, but to downstream partners as well. Supporting dealers by offering more generous payment terms on original equipment and providing drop shipping options for parts (shipments made directly from the OEM to the dealer’s customer) will allow them to feel less pressure and continue promoting a positive brand image.

Changing Buyer Habits

Buyers have drastically shifted the way they make purchases. Those buyers who were reluctant to transition to online shopping were forced to shift their preference to digital sales channels. This trend will only grow as younger, digitally native employees join the workforce.

Manufacturers should better position themselves by aligning with new buyer needs. This strategy will continue to be useful long after the pandemic. Buyers are using eCommerce more than ever, providing an efficient and seamless purchasing process that will show them what they’ve been missing. Shift channel preferences by maximizing the customer experience and enhancing purchasing support.

The Opportunity Has Arrived

Though COVID-19 abruptly changed the way manufacturers carry on their day-to-day operations, B2B eCommerce has enabled them to keep selling, meet their customers’ needs and remain a viable business.

A significant portion of buyers have transitioned to digital purchasing, and continuing to align with buyer needs has never been more important.

History has shown that significant disruption can produce significant opportunities. Indeed, many manufacturers are already using this opportunity to their advantage and growing their customer base. Developing an approach that addresses the current influx of buyers will better position manufacturers for the future. One of the best takeaways from the past year is how manufacturers have learned to serve their buyers more effectively than ever.

Contact us to learn more about how GenAlpha can help your manufacturing business maximize revenue potential and provide customers a B2B eCommerce experience that addresses their needs.

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