In the B2B Manufacturer 300 report from 2019, e-commerce sales accounted for less than 6% (5.9%) of all sales for manufacturers. However, this is largely because manufacturers have been slow on the e-commerce uptake. This isn’t because they don’t recognise the benefits of e-commerce - they do - but instead, lack of funds is a major inhibitor.
Despite this, customer demands are increasing. They want faster, more efficient service and delivery. So, it’s time for manufacturers to start looking into solutions to help them overcome supply chain disruptions.
The B2B buying experience is changing
In the B2B space, the activities that occur after an order is submitted are vital if you want to deliver an excellent customer experience. You don’t want to leave your customers waiting for items that never arrive.
If you’re thinking this sounds suspiciously like a B2C expectation, you’d be correct. B2B customers are developing increasingly B2C-like expectations when it comes to their professional buying experiences. And this is creating an array of complexities for B2B companies, like manufacturers.
The modern buying experience is about more than placing an order and expecting the item to be delivered on time. That’s the minimum expectation. The best experiences are proactive and intuitive. Think along the lines of personalised product recommendations, tailored search results and suggestions to help customers quickly find what they need.
The best experiences also allow customers to self-service. For example, they can draw up price estimates/quotes, build their own product bundles and view order status without having to reach out to customer service or sales representative. Not only is this more convenient, but it also saves them from waiting in a queue and explaining their situation to someone who may or may not understand exactly what they mean.
How this impacts logistics for manufacturers
This level of service and quality of experience places your warehousing, delivery and other logistics under a bright spotlight. And this is even more intense in a B2B e-commerce scenario.
After all, the typical B2B manufacturer often handles fragmented processes, systems and data. That makes providing that ‘Amazon-like’ buying experience all the more challenging.
An e-commerce solution can help…
The right e-commerce solution will not only help manufacturers better overcome this challenge but also turn it into a competitive advantage.
It’s easy to forget about logistics when you’re choosing, upgrading or implementing an e-commerce solution. But logistics can actually help you better focus your strategy.
For example, you should understand your customers’ needs - that’s a given. This will help you narrow down on what features, functionalities and integrations you need from your e-commerce solution. But how will that solution fit into your logistics process?
If you’re making it easier for your customers to purchase goods from you, that theoretically means more sales. Can your current logistics setup support that? That’s why you need to consider logistics when you’re choosing an e-commerce solution.
3 key areas to consider when meeting logistics challenges in manufacturing
1. User expectations
The reason why we’re saying ‘user’ expectations instead of ‘customer’ is because your customers aren’t the only people who will be using the solution. Don’t forget about your employees who will be using the interface on a daily basis. So, their user experience is as important as your customers’.
Your ideal solution should help your customers, salespeople, customer service team and everyone else involved in the B2B commerce cycle operate more productively.
2. Promotes mobility
Efficiency is maximised when your team can access the right (real-time) information at the right time, regardless of the location or device used.
Here are some functionalities to consider:
- GPS capabilities
- Available in a mobile app format or via a browser
- Ability to use barcode scanning
- Integration with back-office software (e.g. ERP system) so any data inputted via the commerce solution automatically transfers to the ERP. This can improve the order fulfilment cycle
3. Connected Commerce
In the same way that the customer’s buying experience should allow them to self-service and reach out to your customer service or sales team for support, logistics should also be supported by a connected commerce environment.
This means the solution should be integrated with back-office software, such as the ERP and PIM systems. This will offer full visibility across the board for both your customers and employees. Now they can easily access real-time updates on delivery progress, from package location to delays and returns.
Discover more tips to help you choose the right B2B e-commerce solution
The complexities surrounding logistics obviously runs deeper than what we’ve covered here. However, the key takeaway is that logistics should be invited to the table when you’re choosing B2B e-commerce software. While your choice of solution can help you improve user experience and facilitate an increase in product sales, your logistics should be stable enough to support this.
So, include logistics experts in your commerce planning meetings.
Get started on your e-commerce journey today by downloading our short guide which covers tips on choosing the right commerce solution.