Driven by the need to give customers the digital experience they want, manufacturers are finding that omnichannel strategies are much better suited to the current rapidly-shifting technological environment, and this is changing the way they do marketing.
Implementing an omnichannel strategy is like walking a mile in your customer’s shoes. It means viewing his (or her) experience from their point of view, and then orchestrating that experience to ensure it is continuous and consistent across a number of channels.
Prospects start their experience in one channel, then go through a smooth transition into additional channels as they move towards the buying decision. From the customer viewpoint, the shifts are perfectly timed, with fluid and invisible hand-offs between them. The customer can begin his journey using a mobile app, for example, then access the same messages while browsing the Internet, watching television or receiving email.
In the manufacturing environment, B2B customers expect all the same benefits that consumers enjoy from a B2C service. With marketing becoming increasingly more digital, what B2B prospects want is to engage with companies on their own terms. Companies that are unable to provide the cohesive experience their customers expect risk losing to competitors who do better.
How Manufacturers Implement Omnichannel
Manufacturing is currently undergoing a major digital transformation. Tagged Industry 4.0, this shift features the deployment of big data and analytics to support activities such as sales and marketing alignment and the understanding of customer behaviors. With robust data serving as the foundation, companies are able to deliver the right content to market segments when and how they need it, using experiences that are personal and fluid across all the touchpoints. This enables manufacturers to attract new business, while improving the end-to-end visibility of available products.
Getting all this right depends on collaboration between suppliers/vendors and distributors, which impacts both warehousing capacity and the manufacturer’s ability to keep up with demand, among other aspects. Clearly, implementing omnichannel isn’t just about marketing, but to reap the benefit of it in terms of revenue requires incorporating the entire process, starting from the procurement of raw materials and ending with distribution of the final product.
A Powerful Experience
The ability to span the divide between online and offline worlds is what makes the omnichannel experience so powerful. When digital content, business processes, and online assets all work together on every device the prospect uses, the message accompanies the customer throughout their journey. The process begins even before the customer makes contact, while they are searching for information, and continues seamlessly as they transition from one device to another. Simultaneously, the data gathered provides the company with the data it needs to ensure the customer’s experience is complete.
Driving Success for Manufacturers
Statistics from CEB Global show the typical B2B buyer is almost two-thirds of the way into the purchase decision before engaging a supplier sales rep. This highlights the importance of reaching prospects in the early stages of their journey. For manufacturers attempting to capture prospects’ attention, the omnichannel strategy allows automated delivery of targeted content. Any interactions the customer engages in provides additional data that can be used to streamline the omnichannel experience further, which enables you to integrate and adapt your strategy to the customer throughout their journey.
This approach gives prospects the resources they need, while the manufacturer gains access to data and analytics that enable it to identify prospects. Tracking visitors’ actions and the interests they express provides even more context and enables better customer conversations.
Reaping the Benefits
It’s a commonly-accepted principle that it costs more to attract a new customer than to retain an existing one. Investing in an omnichannel strategy results in happier clients, who are more likely to remain loyal and to refer others, which is an obvious benefit and ROI. In addition, when clients become familiar with self-service options, the demand for employee assistance reduces, which increases profitability and improves operational efficiencies. Some of the benefits enjoyed by manufacturers who have embarked on the omnichannel journey include:
#1: Improved customer satisfaction, resulting from a simpler buying process and more accuracy in deliveries
#2: Increased revenue, resulting from a better global reach for products
#3: Enhanced efficiencies and lower costs, thanks to a fully automated quote-to-order process.
To achieve this kind of result, it’s important that manufacturers moving to an omnichannel approach consider their entire product portfolio for the web channel solution and build it as a one-stop-shop, with smart recommendations and contextual customer engagements to help detect buying signals. This creates a convenient buying experience for the customer based on all relevant data, and a harmonized process across all interaction channels.
Supporting Your Omnichannel Strategy
For a manufacturer, putting together an omnichannel strategy that supports a consumer-grade customer experience requires a digital platform with a strong foundation consisting of several technological components:
The first requirement is a digital asset management (DAM) platform, which serves as a storage facility for all content. This provides a single point of entry from which to control and manage all versions of online material. Given that the information could be in the format of multiple languages, compliance criteria could vary across different regulatory bodies, devices might require different formats and geographical regions different pricing, single access is essential to avoid having conflicting versions.
Content Management System
A content management system (CMS) is a software application that enables companies to upload and direct content to specific places. It allows the marketing team to add pages, blog posts, videos, documents, case studies and other information without needing to wait for an external party to do it. The CMS enables management of online stores, customer portals, help desks and downloadable software, and various tools support search engine optimization efforts to deliver results.
Marketing Automation System
Process automation is common in manufacturing companies, whether to manage front and back office processes via an ERP or track relationships using customer relationship management (CRM). Automation gives marketers a simple way to record and score leads generated on other digital properties, understand buyer personas and nurture leads using automated marketing communications.
Google Analytics provides detailed reporting on manufacturers’ digital marketing efforts, including showing what content the audience prefers. Not only can you monitor a prospects’ experience while it’s in progress, but you can see how many visitors are on site, the pages viewed over a specific time period, geographical location, source of the visit and so much more. This information helps pull together and identify where the prospect is in buying cycle, providing incredibly valuable intel for marketers.
Having a digital platform of this nature is important, but it’s more effective when integrated with enterprise back-end and customer-facing systems. Integration extends the reach of the platform to include content from other operational silos, enabling a true omnichannel experience to address every type of interaction.
If all this sounds daunting, that’s because it is. Few manufacturers have the resources to dive headfirst into the digital seas, and mistakes can be expensive. Getting help from experts who have successfully navigated similar transformations can make a huge difference to the efficiency of the process, and enable companies to address technical, strategic and change management issues as they arise.
Omnichannel marketing has become a key factor in the B2B environment, as customers engage with companies in multiple different ways. Too many manufacturers struggle to make the jump from business-centric to customer-centric practices, and lose out on market share as a result. If your marketing team needs direction and assistance implementing the shift to the omnichannel universe, contact us today to see how we can help.