Why ignoring B2B eCommerce will hurt manufacturing

Posted on 2 Nov 2015 by The Manufacturer

B2B eCommerce is not a substitute for Electronic Data Interchange; rather, it complements it. Sana Commerce’s Eleanor Walsh explains.

The manufacturing industry is increasingly recognising the importance and benefits of EDI (Electronic Data Interchange).

Eleanor Walsh, sales manager, Sana Commerce.
Eleanor Walsh, sales manager, Sana Commerce.

Many of the B2B businesses that we are talking to, naturally, want to take this to the next level, pushing and developing it further.

However, while the industry is currently enjoying decreased costs, enhanced speed, accuracy and business efficiency thanks to this technology, businesses will soon reach the limitations of EDI.

When that happens, that desire to progress your business further could be squandered.

Let’s assume that 75% of your orders are currently processed with Electronic Data Interchange (a common number, in our experience).

For that 75%, order processing is automated, saving time and money – and proving EDI to be a major asset.

However, the other 25% of your customer base is still limited to traditional means of order processing; telephone calls, chasing sales agents for information, etc.

Not only can this produce potentially damaging inconsistencies within your sales process, but it also results in your sales team spending a lot more time on administrative work.

Another consideration is the difference in customer experience; depending on whether they’ve used EDI to order from you, one customer may be enjoying a clean, efficient and streamlined process, while another is relying on the manual efforts of a sales agent.

EDI accommodates a particular type of customer; one that has the capacity to implement the system and manage associated administrative work.

Eleanor Walsh, Sales Manager at Sana Commerce, will be discussing the importance of B2B eCommerce and how it enables a high level of customer satisfaction at The Manufacturer’s Annual Leaders Conference (TMALC) on November 25 – Day One of the Conference.

Download the manufacturing case study that Eleanor will be discussing here.

It also assumes that your customer will place large, recurring orders for which no product information is required as the product is already ‘known’ (due to the frequency of the order).

If a customer falls outside of this remit, however – as they so often do in an industry such as manufacturing, where specific yet ad-hoc orders are the norm – you will likely fall into difficulties.

With this in mind, while EDI is an essential element, it is not the entire solution.

It is at this point that the manufacturing industry must make a decision.

One option is to continue with EDI alone and accept that there will be barriers and limitations to their business processes.

The other option? Incorporating B2B eCommerce into an existing technology suite, enjoying the wealth of benefits that come from combining a forward-thinking webstore with a current EDI platform. 

Let me be clear; B2B eCommerce is not a substitute for EDI; rather, it complements it.

Think of EDI as the safe and steady partner; for the most part, it gets the job done – as long as that job is familiar and consistent (think regular orders of the same generic product).

B2B eCommerce is the more agile partner. It has the ability to fill in information gaps, quickly identify individual products, provide greater details and specification and actively encourage cross/upselling.

(Think occasional, specific orders that can often act as a catalyst for greater, more frequent purchases – at which point EDI comes back into play).

Combined, the two systems offer a processing powerhouse, ensuring a seamless and effortless experience for both sales agents and 100% of customers.

This year, Forrester highlighted that, by 2020, the B2B eCommerce market will be twice the size of the B2C eCommerce market.

As the manufacturing industry continues to develop and evolve, so too will your customers – and a B2B eCommerce platform will no longer be the luxury of a few businesses; it will be a necessity for all.

The Manufacturer’s Annual Leader’s Conference 

The Manufacturer’s flagship event, TMALC brings together the industry’s leading figures for two days of insightful discussion and opportunity to create true business change.

The 2015 focus will be on the circular economy and the opportunity for manufacturers to explore new streams of revenue.

Entrepreneurial manufacturing leaders will impart their knowledge and give insight about how they plan to grow their business, supported by leading academics and qualified solution providers for a truly rounded conversation.

Find out more here.