There once was a time when manufacturing websites were nothing more than a few flat, static pages. And that was OK. As long as the product specs were available and the contact info was up to date, website visitors were content.
Today, however, those same website visitors have higher expectations. They want what B2C websites have, like the bells and whistles that they experience on B2C’s UI/UX-enhanced sites. And they want those features today.
Despite the ever-growing cases of website envy, Bob Barr, a contributor at Manufacturing.net, a media outlet that covers a wide range of manufacturing sectors and topics, cautions business owners from rushing to develop replicas of popular B2C sites. In his article, “What eCommerce Features Are Best For Manufacturing?” Barr explains the potential issues that could come with implementing those tactics as well as what should be considered instead.
To avoid unnecessary costs and superfluous functionality, Barr composed a list of seven features that are well suited for the manufacturing industry. They include:
1. Personalization. When manufacturing customers shop consumer websites, they find a sophisticated range of features that personalize the experience to their individual buying preferences. Today’s eCommerce technology enables manufacturers to deliver a similar level of personalization through real-time product recommendations, bestseller lists and capabilities that leverage the customer’s buying history and other information to create a tailored digital experience.
2. Search. It can be argued that robust search capabilities are even more important for manufacturing brands than they are for other B2B and B2C businesses. Complex catalogs and detailed product specs demand search capabilities that enable the use of advanced search criteria and terms to quickly locate desired products and determine availability based on current inventories.
3. Buying and Browsing. Until recently, attempts at eCommerce in manufacturing focused on giving customers the ability to look up product information or manufacturing data sheets, or similar (think brochureware), if anything. But today’s tech-savvy customers want options. In addition to being able to quickly find relevant information, manufacturing eCommerce sites need to offer robust product catalogs, expanded information, how-to guidance (even in form of videos), instant support through “click or chat” features, and, in some cases, the ability to purchase directly from the manufacturer.
4. Content Management. The best manufacturing eCommerce platforms prioritize content management. Without a strong product content management (PCM) solution, it is impossible to enable customers to sort or browse information across a range of product dimensions. Content management takes on even greater significance given the depth of most manufacturers’ product catalogs and in many ways, forms the basis for manufacturers’ entire eCommerce platform.
5. Account Management and Analytics. Those manufacturers that have made the plunge and are offering purchasing experiences have done a good job providing basic information that allows customers to view order histories and other buyer-facing information. But most manufacturers have been less successful at integrating seller analytics into their eCommerce platforms. The current generation of eCommerce technology fills the gap with analytics that reveal key insights about customer behaviors, and helps companies understand where and why customers are leaving their sites.
6. Social and Mobile. Social and mobile channels are transforming both B2C and B2B eCommerce. Although ratings, reviews and social channel integration may not be relevant for all B2B companies, manufacturers with high volume sales of products that cost less than $10,000 per unit can potentially benefit from social media plug-ins and active social media engagement. Mobile access can enable customers to check order status from their mobile devices, place orders via mobile apps or mobile browsers and perform other anytime/anywhere tasks that are becoming standard in B2C commerce. And manufacturers should by no means ignore the possibilities of leveraging mobile in sales force automation — worthy of a whole article unto itself.
7. Product/Order Configuration. Manufacturing customers often require the ability to configure products to precise specifications. First-rate eCommerce technology allows shoppers to configure and view multi-featured products in real-time, confirming desired product dimensions before they place their orders.
For further descriptions on the features that manufacturing websites can benefit from, stay tuned to the NetSphere Strategies blog by subscribing below. We’ll be sure to cover the eComemrce items relevant to those in the manufacturing sector and more.
More Business articles from Business 2 Community: