Manufacturers in the UK currently face a host of challenges. Having weathered COVID-19 and its subsequent lockdowns, they now face global supply chain issues and must navigate the realities of life after Brexit.
At the same time, their customers expect manufacturers to provide the same level of experience they have become accustomed to in the consumer realm.
The best hope for manufacturers when it comes to meeting those challenges and expectations is to make customers the centre of everything they do and while embracing collaborative experience management. While doing so might not change the external forces impacting manufacturers, it can make it easier to deal with them.
And, by providing the best possible experience to their customers, manufacturers have a lot to gain. After all, research has shown that customers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience. Additionally, those customers are more likely to stay loyal, which is critical when you bear in mind that 65% of a company’s business typically comes from existing customers.
B2B is different
Achieving success with B2B customers is very different to dealing with consumers. Knowing that, how can collaborative experience management help manufacturers face external challenges head-on and build great customer experiences?
In order to understand the differences between B2B and B2C, it’s important to remember that B2B buyers have unique needs and demands. Certainly, they might expect a sales and support experience similar to the kind they have in the B2C space, but that doesn’t mean manufacturers can do like-for-like overlays and expect results.
When it comes to buying, for example, B2B customers have considerations that B2C customers simply don’t face. These include purchasing on behalf of an account rather than as an individual; higher volume orders; regular replenishments that could be automated; contract pricing; as well as quotes and negotiated pricing.
Additionally, manufacturing customers are usually known buyers, who have long relationships with the company, and are used to multi-contact journeys involving sales and service teams. They’re also more likely to appreciate recommendations that help them find the right product when they’re searching, such as recommendations imbued with deep product information like product interdependencies, or recommendations around what product offering they should look at based on their industry.
The power of collaborative experience management
The same kind of differences apply to every touchpoint a B2B customer has with a manufacturer. But, no manufacturer can hope to provide its customers with the kind of experience they want if its departments are siloed and not working collaboratively to provide that experience.
Fortunately, technology can make a significant difference on that front. Ideally, manufacturers should look for technology tools that allow their marketing, sales, and IT teams to collaborate effectively, and seamlessly coordinate their efforts to serve customers and increase revenue.
When it comes to marketing, the tool should respond to the buyers’ needs with experiences that create real revenue gains through upselling, cross-selling, and recurring revenue models. It should also have analytics features that allow marketers to gain a better understanding of how individual buyers or groups are using the manufacturer’s site and be able to run tests to see how to improve their experience.
Additionally, the tool should work from the knowledge that as product catalogues get more complex, customers need more than self-service to be successful. This will allow for a better handoff between the manufacturer’s commerce site and its sales team, by turning the digital channel into a tool they use to sell. Relevant account insights will also help them serve as experts, further improving the customer experience.
Finally, it should allow business users to manage most aspects of customer experience, rather than needing to rely on IT to make day-to-day changes. This will allow IT to focus on integrating back-end systems, like ERP and CRM, with customer-facing systems like eCommerce. This will enable manufacturers to provide a collaborative and consistent user experience.
The next few years will see massive and ongoing shifts in the UK manufacturing sector. In order to stay competitive within the context of those shifts, manufacturers will have to provide the best possible experience for their customers. Meeting their unique needs will require a far more nuanced approach than simply adapting the best B2C practices.
Instead, by taking an approach which focuses on collaborative experience management, manufacturers give themselves the best possible chance to stand out, get ahead of the competition, and increase revenue, profitability and customer loyalty.
About the author
Kurt Dressel, Commerce Lead for Liferay UK, is an IT executive with more than 20 years global experience supporting client companies in their digital transformation and modernisation.