Beyond the factory floor: How to navigate post-pandemic B2B manufacturing landscape

398
Image credit: zhu-difeng./stock.adobe.com
Sponsored Content by Adobe Commerce

The manufacturing and distribution sectors have traditionally been slow to adopt business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce, but this drastically changed in the wake of the pandemic. 

From being a crisis response of buyers and sellers during the pandemic lockdowns, B2B e-commerce in manufacturing has become the new normal and is now on its way towards further growth.

Adobe Commerce’s 2023 B2B Commerce Growth Strategies Survey has found that most manufacturers and distributors have moved past their initial investments in B2B e-commerce. To these business players, it is no longer a question of whether to invest in digital, but rather how to invest and overcome the obstacles that arise when companies transition to a new way of connecting and catering to consumers. 

Equipped with lessons learned from the pandemic, here are the key initiatives for B2B sellers seeking to improve their own digital performance. 

Study the consumer’s pulse 

According to Adobe’s snapshot of the B2B landscape in 2023, the shift to digital has fundamentally changed how customers interact with the companies they buy from. Sellers must ask themselves what their customers want, what pain points they encounter as they shop online, and what processes should be modified to enhance their experiences. 

The answer to these questions can be found in first-party data, such as site searches.

“Companies underrate the value of data they capture from their e-commerce sites,” said Ed Kennedy, Adobe’s digital strategist for manufacturers and distributors. “Auditing site search results can tell you a lot about customer preferences and needs faster than market research.” 

Adapt personalisation to the B2B context

Lisa Berry, a senior business systems analyst at e-commerce consulting firm Gorilla Group, explained that unlike in business-to-customer dynamics, it is not a buyer’s personal preferences that matter in B2B, but rather what specific part of their job they want to do efficiently. 

“You need to take the user out of the mix and focus on the corporate entity and the role of the user,” she said.

Using SEO as an invisible guide

The significance of search engine optimisation (SEO) cannot be overstated, especially now that many businesses looking for new suppliers, better prices and available inventory normally turn to engines like Google. 

SEO acts as the invisible guide for buyers and ensures that an e-commerce platform is reaching its target audience seeking products or services online. 

Through keyword optimisation, sellers can make sure that they are reaching businesses and that they stand out in an oversaturated online marketplace. 

Transparency boosts loyalty 

Karie Daudt, director of commerce strategy at global digital consultancy Perficient, said it is no longer enough for e-commerce sites to show how much inventory is on hand. 

Buyers want to see almost every step of the transaction, starting from the shop floor to shipping, and seek to know where the orders are and how soon they can be delivered to their locations. 

“Is it on a ship waiting at a backlogged port? Lots of companies don’t want to show that, because they want the flexibility to move things around. But those days are over. Transparency is what drives loyalty,” Daudt said. 

Using e-commerce for international expansion 

In an era where connectivity is king, the prospect of global expansion through e-commerce is leading businesses towards embracing new frontiers. 

E-commerce enables businesses to sell into new countries and regions, but that requires localising websites for language, currency, regulations, and culture. 

Adobe’s digital strategist Ed Kennedy said that while some companies build new e-commerce sites for each new market, it is often more cost-effective to establish new sites off a standard design and codebase while leaving areas of each country’s website free for local teams to tailor to their customers. 

The 2023 B2B Commerce Growth Strategies Survey drew insights from executives from 151 B2B companies around the world. Half of the respondents came from companies based in North America, a quarter represented Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and the remainder hailed from Asia/Pacific and Latin America. 

To read more about the Adobe Commerce’s survey, visit business.adobe.com.