Making the shift to digital is complicated. To help manufacturers make the most of the opportunity, we’ve outlined top tips to get started.

By Andrew Walker, CEO of Shift7 Digital, the modern digital agency for manufacturers

The way manufacturers boost business is changing – traditionally, brands create products and outsource sales and marketing to distributors and dealers, who would in turn, connect with customers directly. This approach is linear and limits the potential of manufacturers. Today’s customers have greater demands and buyers are more empowered than ever before. With information and products more readily available, manufacturers need to meet their customers wherever they are – primarily online.

A recent study shows two-thirds of manufacturers plan to invest significantly in their online experience and technologies in the year ahead, while a recent survey from Salesforce shows that 74 percent of business buyers say they’ll pay more for a better B2B experience.

However, it’s complicated to make the digital shift and many manufacturers don’t know where to put their resources, time, and energy and as a result, get stuck in reaction mode. In an effort to help manufacturers make the most of their digital opportunity, we’ve outlined top tips to get started.

  1. Online Experience is Everything… and Means Everything: If your website isn’t generating leads, chances are your user experience is subpar, and that spells trouble with the continued demands of B2B buyers. 80 percent of buyers will switch suppliers if the experience is poor. Brands will need to continue to think through how customers are discovering the product, their website interface and the sequence of actions customers take as they navigate the site and the impressions they take away from the experience – everything from beginning to end. Start with the foundational elements – your content, commerce, and product information management (PIM) systems. The goal is to find a balance of these three systems that works for your business. A PIM takes care of aggregating your products and content for you, thus creating the best experience for you, your buyer-partners, and most importantly, your end customers. Once the PIM system is in place, the next step focuses even more closely on building onto that customer experience. The goal is to create the most effective experience for the customer at their point of engagement, wherever that may be
  2. Product Organization is King: Deeper into the user experience, if a website’s products aren’t organized in an intuitive, easy-to-use way, buyers will take their business elsewhere. Those making purchasing decisions must be able to find what they’re looking for within seconds of visiting a website. Manufacturers are catching on here, and four out of five will invest in product information tools to support online distribution channels.
  3. Customers Write the Rules: Historically, a lot of manufacturers outsourced sales and marketing efforts to other firms. Because of this, they have little insight into who their actual customer is, where they’re located, where they shop, and how they explore different channels. This lack of customer research is a huge miss! Especially because all of this information is out there, and whether or not you decide to use it to your advantage, one of your competitors probably is. Today, customers expect consistently high-value digital experiences. It’s no longer just about the product – they want meaningful relationships with brands and they hold the power in where, how and if they want to engage with a business. Acknowledge your customers as the decision-makers they are for your business and make sure your digital footprint matches their needs.
  4. A Positive Purchasing Experience is Essential: In order for customers to know you, understand who you are, and take action – you must have the ability to transact. This can happen on your site, a third-party site, a marketplace, a dealer or a distributor partnership.   Customers are researching and shopping, and eventually will move to purchase – this moment will come and go if you don’t have the capability to exactly meet your customers’ needs. Understanding the customer journey is imperative to creating a useful, usable, and desirable experience—one that builds retention and loyalty. A customer journey map is a great tool that sheds light on the entire transactional process, from the initial trigger, e.g. need a new product, to what your customer is thinking and feeling at each touchpoint throughout the process beginning at awareness through purchase and beyond.
  5. Know the ROI: As with all business decisions, investments in digital can’t be made without knowing how they will service the business. Set up measurements and analytics tools to be sure that your investment in digital is hitting its KPIs and working to drive traffic for the brand.

Preparing for the future doesn’t have to feel daunting. It begins with performing a thorough review of current business practices and digital expertise, identifying strengths and weaknesses, and creating an action plan. Manufacturers should remember that there are an array of digital experts at their fingertips who can ensure your brand is at your customers’ fingertips.

About Shift7 Digital
Shift7 Digital is revolutionizing the digital experience for manufacturers and their customers. Backed by a team of experts with deep industry insights, Shift7 truly understands the challenges and opportunities facing the B2B market today and delivers a customized, yet prescriptive process for partnering with companies as they evolve from a product-centric to a customer-centric approach. Shift7 is modernizing manufacturing to help businesses transform through digital marketing to drive connections, commerce and revenue. For more information, visit http://www.shift7digital.com.

andrew walker shift7 digital
Andrew Walker

Andrew Walker
For B2B companies, the time to invest in digital is now. As CEO of Shift7 Digital, Andrew Walker is navigating the course. Shift7 Digital is a collaborative digital experience agency helping B2B organizations create strategic digital solutions to better connect with their customers.  Andrew pairs his deep expertise in experiential design and marketing technology with extensive experience in digital communications across a variety of industries, including Financial Services, Manufacturing & Distribution, Retail, and Consumer Products. Andrew’s team identifies and implements B2B companies’ digital transformation needs so they can connect with their customers on a deeper level.

In today’s ever-changing, high touch marketing landscape, Andrew’s down-to-earth style remains constant. He leads with compassion, the desire to learn from others, and when all else fails, a sense of humor.   His ability to make deep connections, innovate on the fly, and remain flexible makes him a uniquely collaborative leader. Above all else, Andrew believes relationships matter most, a tenet that enables Shift7 to consistently drive business outcomes for their clients. Contact: awalker@shift7digital.com