Published on by Adam Buckeridge, Director of Client Experience
Have you taken time to ask yourself what you learned during the COVID-19 pandemic? Maybe it was how to use video conferencing software, or how to work effectively from your kitchen table. Maybe you learned what brand of sweats is the most comfortable, and where to get them at the best price online.
Believe it or not, there is a lesson in those soft folds of shapeless fabric. Chances are, you did quite a bit of online shopping in 2020, and you learned what kind of product experience is best for you as a customer. Have you considered applying that lesson to your business?
There can be little doubt that COVID is impacting every industry, including manufacturing. As consumer purchasing habits changed, so did the products stocked by retailers, leading to changes in business practices for the manufacturing sector as well. And whether you sell direct to customers (D2C) or B2B, it’s past time for you to embrace the digital customer experience for manufacturing.
What is the Digital Customer Experience for Manufacturing?
Digital customer experience is an important concept. It encompasses the entire experience a customer has with your company online. It includes everything about your products, from photos to descriptions to prices and the eCommerce portion of your site, with how you interact with them over email or chat.
This experience begins the moment they research your product, to when they land on your page. And it doesn’t stop after they check out – or reach out to learn more from your experts.
Why do Manufacturers need a Digital Customer Experience?
In the manufacturing industry, connections are everything. There’s no substitute for an in-person interaction in which knowledgeable sales professionals answer every question a potential customer has. This in-person interaction allows us to ask a number of questions, and from that to quickly provide bespoke support. Also, because it’s presented by one individual who is part of a unified sales team, the experience is cohesive and easy for both parties.
But while that may be the ideal, chances are you have found yourself with fewer in-person interactions over the last year to help you make new connections and strengthen existing relationships. Whether you’re prepared or not, more customers are looking for what they need online. And they don’t want to feel like they’re working with a series of different companies when they shift from a product description page to their shopping cart or a contact form.
The key, then, is how prospective buyers receive the information they need.
Digital Customer Experience for Manufacturing: Crowd Favorite developed a custom plugin and website that allowed Victaulic clients to utilize a familiar "checkout style" process to select all the required PDFs, and merge them automatically with personalized data from the user. A true custom submittal builder- read more here.
How do you create a strong customer experience?
Creating the digital customer experience is more about taking full advantage of the data you already have than recreating the wheel. If I were to ask you to get me all the information on one of your product lines, how long would it take? How many people would you need to involve to collect SKUs, photos, product descriptions, coupon codes and so on? With so many different groups in control, it’s no wonder the customer doesn’t always have a single unified experience with you online.
To successfully integrate this mountain of unorganized or siloed data, you can take advantage of a wide variety of powerful technology platforms in the marketplace today. Just keep a few things in mind as you evaluate the offerings.
Because you’re bringing data into a content management system from all over your organization, look for a flexible Open Source solution that won’t lock you into a single platform down the road. The solution should also embrace the power of APIs. Not only will that help create the digital experience customers expect through robust content management, APIs can deliver powerful insights to help you better understand customer needs.
Another important consideration is the scalability of the system. You need to ensure that your network can handle traffic surges at peak times or busy seasons, so you can take full advantage of this newly optimized resource you’ve invested in.
Enabling the Digital Customer Experience for Manufacturing
Bringing together disparate data is not only key to enabling the digital customer experience, it provides further benefits. It can help break down silos in the company between marketing, sales, product development and IT. It paves the way for D2C sales if you decide to expand your business model. Even if you stick with traditional, in-person B2B sales, your customers will still appreciate having more information available at their fingertips. After all, if there’s one thing we can agree on after the last year, it’s that everyone wins when you can accomplish more in your sweatpants.