George Anderson


Joining the Manufacturer Ecommerce Revolution

In a recent infographic, Digitalcommerce360 reports that total ecommerce sales for US manufacturers grew 22.5% in 2018, to $356 billion. That growth rate is up from 2017, when sales grew by 14.0%. The trend is strong over the long term, too: ecommerce grew 39.6% from 2016 to 2018, from $255 billion to $356 billion.

This is all good news for customers of manufacturers. Yet as Digitalcommerce360 reveals in another infographic, fewer than 40% of companies have fully implemented a supply chain strategy for B2B ecommerce.

Clearly, manufacturers have recognized the need to define their ecommerce strategy (and then execute it). But what’s standing in the way?

1. Executive leadership doesn’t share the vision

While ecommerce has revolutionized the B2C world, manufacturers have been slow to adopt online selling. Because manufacturers have continued to rely on phone/fax/email ordering for so long, executives may not realize just how much customer preferences have shifted to digital self-service.

How to address it:

Gather the data, both on the market’s growing preference for B2B ecommerce, and on the benefits which B2B ecommerce would offer your organization. Then make the case for ecommerce to executive leadership.

2. Customer expectations aren’t clear (or they change too fast)

In the infographic we mentioned earlier, Digitalcommerce360 reports that the #1 thing holding companies back from defining their ecommerce strategy is changing customer expectations.

It makes sense that organizations would hesitate to launch ecommerce if customer needs seem like a moving target. But we’d like to suggest that capitulating on this point is a mistake. Not knowing what your customers want is no excuse for not delivering it. In fact, it’s much easier than you might think to get a pulse on your buyers’ needs.

How to address it:

Find out what your customers want. You can do this through online surveys, phone surveys conducted by Customer Service Reps, and more. Your customers’ actual needs might surprise you. Chances are, you’ll find they would prefer to buy online through 100% self-service. More here: Why 97% of Procurement Managers Demand A Customer Portal.

3. We don’t have a clear goal for ecommerce

This one is a real problem. If you haven’t defined where you want to be, you’ll never get there. This is especially true of B2B ecommerce, which offers tremendous opportunity for business growth. You can’t simply stand up a B2B ecommerce portal and hope to become an ecommerce master. No, you need to set a goal for your ecommerce performance.

How to address it:

We’d like to suggest that everything about your ecommerce initiative should orbit a single question: What percentage of our overall revenue do you want to get through ecommerce? This is a powerful question. It forces you to grapple with ecommerce infrastructure, ERP integration, customer onboarding, and more. (Hint: Corevist covers the entire ecommerce stack, including integration—and we act as your trusted advisor for onboarding, adoption, growth, and retention, too.)

Still not convinced you should define your revenue target? Consider this: Grainger, a leader in B2B ecommerce performance, has set a target of 80% of total revenue coming through ecommerce. (Same link as above.)

While Grainger’s 80% goal is pretty audacious for most manufacturers, the principle still holds. Whether it’s 20%, 10%, or even just 5%, set a target. Then ask yourself what it will take to get there.

4. What if ecommerce doesn’t “stick” with customers?

This is a corollary to #3. You can’t simply launch an ecommerce store and hope your customers become committed web channel users. In fact, if you launch a B2B portal without guiding your customers through the transition and showing the real value which ecommerce provides, the web channel may never become “sticky” for them.

How to address it:

Because a web channel is a significant change in how you do business, you need to put yourself in your customers’ shoes. After all, the web channel is for them, not for your company. To help your customers get maximum value out of your new B2B portal (and to ensure the web channel delights them and wins their trust), you need to Nail The 4 Stages of Ecommerce Stickiness.   

Moving forward: FREE case study

Wondering how all this looks in real life? Download this case study on Mannington Mills. You’ll learn how this top manufacturer of flooring launched a Corevist Online Ordering portal, then responded to customer needs by adding a catalog with rich content. The result? 150% sales growth in the web channel.

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