The Changing Landscape of B2B Commerce for the Manufacturing Industry

Just like the industrial revolution back in the 1700s changed the face of manufacturing, a digital revolution is now underway. The rise of digitization is quickly changing how commerce in B2B manufacturing happens.

The current disruptive phase in manufacturing is termed as ‘Industry 4.0’, combining IoT, big data, cloud computing, and the rise of e-commerce. To remain competitive, manufacturers must embrace digital technology. However, change seems to be slow. According to research by McKinsey, only 16% of manufacturers have a digitalization strategy in place.

Let’s see how the landscape is shifting.

Changing Customer Expectations

Gone are the days when simply having a brick and mortar store was enough. Thanks to the prevalence of the internet and technology, consumers today are aware and well-informed. The B2B buyer isn’t the same as a B2C buyer.  For instance, they need control over delivery, they want to buy on terms, and they have to deal with multiple stakeholders in their organization.

Since B2C platforms offer a seamless experience, your B2B consumers will expect the same. 74% of purchasers today research at least 50% of their purchases online before committing. Naturally, they find buying from a website more convenient and faster. Once they’ve decided what to buy, 93% of buyers prefer buying online. And their expectations are shifting as well.

Instead of price and product, customer experience is becoming a key brand differentiator. Customers expect a personalized and automated purchase experience. To follow through, brands must be willing to undertake a digital transformation of their processes. Manufacturers that focus on offering a superior customer experience apart from selling quality products will win the race. If your manufacturing business runs on legacy systems with no automation, the customer experience will be compromised. Manufacturers that give customers a digital self-service platform that allows for checking order status, stock inventory, product information, and more will leave the competition far behind.

In a shifting B2B landscape, e-commerce may hold the answer to the question of thriving, and growing a business. The digital revolution has certainly changed the rules of the game and remaining competitive will mean embracing B2B e-commerce.

The Rise of B2B E-commerce

Perhaps the greatest change in the B2B manufacturing market is the rise of B2B e-commerce.  According to Frost & Sullivan, B2B e-commerce sales will touch $6.7 trillion and account for 27% of all B2B sales by 2020. In fact, the B2B market is expected to double the B2C online market’s size[3]. Naturally, B2B players are looking to upgrade their e-commerce platforms.

As B2B consumers prefer to make their purchases digitally, manufacturers must focus on building direct relationships with their customers via a B2B commerce platform. The right B2B e-commerce platform can speed up against order processing, reduce errors, and save your business from expensive mistakes. This means that customers get a great purchase experience and your cash flow improves.

A B2B e-commerce platform is a unique opportunity for manufacturers to service their customers’ constantly changing needs. By providing a seamless ordering experience, brands can improve their revenue stream and differentiate themselves from the competition. Apart from greater revenue, manufacturers can cut costs associated with serving customers manually as digitalization eliminates the need to hire expensive on-site staff for order fulfillment and customer service.

Influenced by B2C experience, B2B buyers now expect self-service options that offer more information and relevant content. The right e-commerce solution enables manufacturers to sell directly, understand customer behavior, and increase product engagement. Moreover, an e-commerce platform generates a huge amount of customer data that can be analyzed to create targeted marketing campaigns, improve sales, and boost engagement. For instance, Salesforce Analytics allows B2B brands to leverage valuable customer data to create more personalized journeys.

Adapting to a Changing B2B Landscape

Clearly, the B2B manufacturing landscape is shifting. To be successful, businesses must learn to put customer data to good use, rethink their interactions your buyers, and invest in tools that build a 360° view of each customer. At the center of this shift is embracing B2B e-commerce.

Because customers today are more tech-savvy than ever, they expect a fully digital purchase experience. They want streamlined and automated processes where they can see, in real time, the progress of their order. This means that B2B manufacturers will need to immediately take to e-commerce in order to exceed customer expectations with a seamless purchasing experience.