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Manufacturing & Distribution eCommerce

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Top 10 Benefits of a Manufacturing & Distribution eCommerce Platform

Building a robust Manufacturing & Distribution eCommerce platform has become increasingly important to stay competitive in today’s digital markets. Although many companies have become successful using traditional wholesale practices, there are new technologies, buyers with different demands and a need for faster communications that require a platform that offers multiple user services and ordering options. Millennials have changed the face of purchasing and marketing, and many successful sellers for the next 30 or 40 years will be those who embrace advanced and current technologies to deliver goods and services to those that have grown up in a digital world. It’s come to the point where even if you’ve done business successfully the same way for decades, the next generation of buyers has not, and will not want to deal with outdated and inconvenient purchasing processes. There are too many other options online for them to switch to. Customers also demand more customizations, special pricing and the ability to order from other manufacturers from marketplace platforms of curated products that are industry-specific.

Both manufacturers and distributors must collaborate with a larger group of stakeholders, which include buying committees, social media connections, specialty vendors and key organizations in the supply chain. Each of these groups wants access to information 24/7, and they want to work more closely with manufacturers and distributors through responsive platform features instead of playing complex games of phone-and-message tag. Data and technology have transformed almost every part of everyday life, and to ignore that reality--just because that’s the way a company has operated for 100 years--is shortsighted and risky. Established customers die, relocate, find new suppliers and choose new iterations of products. Barriers to entry and commercialization are rapidly falling because of leaner processes and new technologies like additive manufacturing eCommerce integration. These factors keep attrition rates high, so it’s essential to replace lost business with new sales based on modern marketing practices.

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Preparing for Your New "Digital" Customers

The Digital Divide Will Begin to Separate Companies

In the United States, the potential for factory earnings by adopting digital best practices is estimated at $3.7 trillion by 2025. [1] The most innovative and successful manufacturers today put their customers first by delivering great online experiences to each visitor. Those companies that don’t optimize for the digital age will fall increasingly behind as younger decision-makers take over senior positions in businesses, and the divide will grow greater. Remember what happened to Blockbuster, who started life as an innovative company, but failed to continue innovating their business. One study found that brand attraction depends more today on enriched interaction online, convenient self-service and appealing digital experiences. [2] Another report found that 67 percent of the average buyer’s journey is made digitally. [3]

That’s why it’s so important for decision-makers to recognize the digital mandate and upgrade their platforms to meet the needs of today’s informed, powerful online buyer. The benefits of an enterprise B2B manufacturing & distribution eCommerce solution include the following advantages:

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Generating Alternative Income Streams

A robust, integrated manufacturing platform provides the self-service tools and streamlined management necessary to open alternative income streams such as marketplace sales platforms, short production runs and customized products. Customized platforms designed specifically for manufacturing and distributing usually have stronger customer self-service features that enabling faster decisions from multiple, customer-specific pricing, detailed information on inventory, materials, supply chain, compliance guidelines from multiple countries and taxing jurisdictions involved in global marketing and faster shipping with integrated connections to various carriers.

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Sharing Information Bi-directionally

In today’s business environment, it’s imperative to share information internally and externally to streamline processes, update inventory, collaborate and market with customized content. Manufacturers and distributors can automate intelligence gathering, enable real-time information sharing, generate custom reports based on a stakeholder’s level of authorization, monitor employees and gain valuable insights about their customers from platform analytics and user behavior. It’s also important to engage customers by communicating with them, knowing their needs, soliciting their opinions and responding to their complaints and concerns.

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Automating Product Catalog Feeds

Companies can promote new product launches, update product particulars, change prices and create custom pricing tiers. Companies can create catalogs-within-catalogs for special buyers, preferred customers and authorized buyers within a given client’s company. Managing big product catalogs and thousands to millions of SKUs becomes simplified. That’s why platforms designed for Enterprise B2B custom implementations, such as Clarity ecommerce works so well.

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Delivering a User-Friendly Experience

A well-designed platform automatically generates the right display for customers, prospects and multiple decision-makers based on the type of device each person uses. Customers can have custom dashboards for ordering products and special features such as product configurators to speed order completions. Scheduling shipments, recurring orders and returns should be easy and hassle-free, and the right eCommerce platform can make those processes easy and automatic.

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Managing an Evolving Workforce

Manufacturers and distributors often deal with associates from multiple countries, cultures and even time zones. Some staff members might work from home while others work at multiple branches, factories and sales offices. Unlike past generations, few companies can survive long if they run “sweatshop” operations. Companies find it increasingly difficult to attract and retain top talent, and an integrated platform can make it easier by providing employee self-service options, online on-boarding and other HR tools. Efficiency and collaboration drive productivity more than salary savings and negative reinforcement. Most companies now allow workers to BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), which allows the staff to work anywhere. Mobile technologies on the floor allow workers to connect with customers, stakeholders and managers.

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Earning Better SEO Rankings

B2B manufacturing eCommerce operations often don’t realize how strongly B2C convenience has permeated modern culture. Today’s business buyers no longer rely on loyalty, word-of-mouth referrals, relationships with sales staff and price as the main drivers of where they buy. Business buyers are also retail consumers, and they want the same conveniences that they get from retail sites. Unhappy customers can easily search the Internet for alternative suppliers, so it’s critical to rank highly in organic searches. A world-class manufacturing custom eCommerce platform, like Clarity eCommerce, is always correctly coded for on-page SEO for each product, allow category landing pages, provide product and category XML sitemaps, and the platform can build brand awareness with the right content and off-page backlinks from other respected websites. Regular monitoring can detect broken links.

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Developing an Inbound Marketing Strategy

Today’s B2B eCommerce platforms can make the most of what customers do online. The data includes how long visitors spend on each area of a website, which products cause visitors to pause and what areas seem to be pain points. Content can be monitored the same way regardless of whether it’s on the website or posted elsewhere. Keyword usage, requests for assistance and other browsing habits can help to create a full visitor’s profile that manufacturers and distributors can use to craft custom promotions and website displays and to refine content to make it more appealing. Marketers can use inbound marketing insights to give customers the content they need directly through email campaigns.

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Adding New Technology

Manufacturers and distributors face a market where more and more products have Internet-enabled sensors that report key data. Sensors can track consumer devices, calibrate driverless cars in automotive manufacturing, automate deliveries of parts and subassemblies and track production progress in real-time. Collecting data from these sensors and disseminating it to the right departments require a robust platform where everything is well integrated. A platform geared to manufacturing can enable predictive maintenance and monitoring of equipment condition throughout the operation.

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Tracking & Measuring Results

The manufacturing process often moves slowly from inception to finished product. That’s why it can be difficult to measure the benefits of enterprise B2B eCommerce from indirect promotions such as content marketing and social engagement. An enterprise-class platform doesn’t forget, and it doesn’t lose information. The system can monitor long-term sales relationships, customer communications, sales leads, customer behavior on-site and off-site and market trends to spot opportunities and threats. Automated triggers can send the right information to authorized staff when key conditions are met. The system can also send customized marketing messages based on this intelligence. A robust system can even monitor a company’s reputation online, find product reviews and discover any negative or positive mentions of a given company.

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Integrating with Multiple Systems

Integrating new technologies often causes major problems for companies that use legacy systems, manual processes and older technologies. Each update and software addition can create challenges, downtime and inefficiencies unless the platform has a strong API layer where ERPs, CRMs, and EMRs like Salesforce, Oracle, Dynamics, Sage, NetSuite and hundreds of other line-of-business applications can be connected securely to specialized endpoints that disseminate the information to multiple operating areas. Updates will then create fewer problems because the endpoints will still deliver the information where it’s designed to go despite software changes. The staff will only have to enter information once to distribute it everywhere it needs to go. These are just a few of the benefits of integration. Clarity Connect is a companion platform to Clarity eCommerce, which provides that integration platform to interconnect your front office (website, portal, eCommerce storefront, etc.) to your back office (Financial app, Fulfillment, Shipping, Logistics, Inventory, ERP, CRM, etc.).

Get Ahead of Rapidly

Evolving Digital Technology

Upgrading your business to function successfully in today’s manufacturing and distribution markets must take center-stage in your long-term planning. Digital marketing is only going to become more pervasive, and it already plays a critical role in almost every area of business. Building a robust platform can be daunting unless you enlist an experienced developer to guide you through the pitfalls and to highlight the opportunities. The manufacturing and distributing industries need to embrace modern digital marketing to remain successful, and an experienced, collaborative developer could be a great business partner and resource for your operation. Give Clarity a call today to discuss your eCommerce project, and let us help you come into the digital age with a competitive advantage.

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[1] Microsoft Buys Xamarin to Boost Cross-Platform Development

[2] Smart Insights: Mobile marketing statistics 2016

[3] Gartner Says by 2017, Mobile Users Will Provide Personalized Data Streams to More Than 100 Apps and services Every Day

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