This blog is part of our Digital Transformation for Manufacturers series. To see all content in this series, click here.
Digital transformation is happening right now. Manufacturing is shifting from traditional marketing and commerce to a digital-first strategy. If companies don’t make changes, they will miss out on reaching their target audience, meeting buyers’ needs, and gaining current and future revenue. In fact, 90% of B2B buyers would turn to a competitor if a current supplier’s digital channel couldn’t keep up with their needs.
This digital transition has accelerated as B2B buyers’ expectations change and B2B marketers elevate their digital game. The global B2B e-commerce market is forecasted to grow at a compound annual rate of 18.7% from 2021 to 2028, reaching an estimated $25.65 trillion in revenue. But many manufacturing companies are currently operating without an effective eCommerce portal, making digital sales a significant area of opportunity.
The first step to joining the digital transformation is understanding how manufacturing business models need to change to adapt to buyer expectations.. That way, you can map out a plan for where you’re headed. To get started, here’s what you need to know about Industry 4.0, what it means for manufacturing, and how to prepare for the future.
What is Industry 4.0, and what does it mean for manufacturing?
Industry 4.0 is a term to describe this new phase of digital marketing. It relates to the idea that we’re entering the Fourth Industrial Revolution, marked by cyber-physical systems (think artificial intelligence, cryptocurrencies, and drones). When it comes to marketing, Industry 4.0 means we’re moving into a time where digitalization will expand a B2B marketer’s online presence and streamline a B2B customer’s buying experience.
For manufacturing companies, Industry 4.0 presents an opportunity to unite marketing and commerce to reach your customer more effectively through your website, various digital channels, and eCommerce platform. New digital technologies allow you to optimize the buyer’s journey—from planning, awareness, and interest to decision, purchase transaction, and beyond.
Digital tools make it possible to communicate product information efficiently, organize and manage updates, and support a buyer through each step of the process. Think of it as graduating from disjointed spreadsheets and PDF files to integrated tools and systems. Your buyers need information about your products, FAQs, and spec sheets. They want to order samples and review warranty information. And then, they need to be able to easily purchase and reorder products. Digitalizing all of these steps ensures your buyers have everything they need to learn about your product, make a decision, and take action.
Through access to real-time data, these tools also give you a deeper understanding of your buyers, as well as the ability to measure the effectiveness of your digital marketing. Is it getting you closer to your business goals? Where do you need to make changes? You can track data to learn where your buyers are coming from, what they’re referencing as they make decisions, and how they move through making a purchase. You are also able to see where potential buyers get stuck or drop off from moving forward, allowing you to implement improvements.
How to prepare for Industry 4.0
Preparing for Industry 4.0 requires companies to take action. Manufacturers must work to support each step of the buyer’s journey. Consider where the buyer is and what they need at each point, aligning your digital presence to proactively meet those needs. Here’s an overview of how you can do just that:
Create a strong digital foundation.
To deliver a seamless digital experience, you need to know where you are and where you’re going. Build a roadmap to your company’s future based on actionable data, clear KPIs, and an understanding of your buyers. Identify your business goals, look at how you measure up against the competition, and align internal teams.
Get the right people to your website.
It’s time to increase customer awareness. Start with a clear understanding of your existing customer base and target audience. Then establish a regular schedule of relevant content to boost SEO and credibility. Begin to leverage analytics to see where you can make improvements to your website or marketing strategy.
Engage prospective buyers.
Increase buyer engagement by simplifying navigation and adding opportunities for conversion. It should feel effortless for customers to find what they’re searching for, request more information, customize products, and contact a sales representative if needed.
Make it easy to choose the right product.
As your buyers move into active product research, provide hands-on support that guides them to a purchase. Speed up purchase decisions by enriching your product information and positioning salespeople as strategic advisors.
Empower buyers to purchase online.
Don’t delay your commerce launch—if you don’t have a commerce platform, now is the time to launch one. Be sure to establish internal buy-in and plan employee training for your new e-commerce capabilities.
Drive recurring revenue.
A superior digital experience leads to recurring revenue because it builds strong customer relationships, increases buyer satisfaction, and encourages referrals. The key here is to enable self-service, automate wherever possible, and rethink the role of your sales team.
To dive further into these six steps, download our Digital Guide for Manufacturers. Inside, you’ll learn about buyers’ and manufacturers’ pain points and how to use technology to overcome those challenges, improve your customer experience, and prepare your company for Industry 4.0.