Digital connectivity fills our lives as people become more dependent on their smartphones for daily tasks, whether measuring a package, paying for coffee, or ordering a week’s worth of groceries. Amazon has emerged as a household name and the Amazon Effect has radically changed the way businesses deliver products. Consumers are now comfortable—and even prefer—shopping online instead of in brick-and-mortar stores.
Amazon’s market share will continue to dominate: 80 percent of e-commerce growth in 2018 was attributed to Amazon's empire. Manufacturing businesses need to work diligently to compete, which requires evaluating ways to improve all operations, including addressing gaps in their marketing efforts.
Shift in Consumer Expectations
Manufacturers across all industries are seeing a shift in customer expectations because of e-commerce. What are consumers expecting out of manufacturing businesses?
- Visibility: People browsing online want to know all about the products they’re interested in before they make a purchase. Help educate your prospects and customers by providing as much detail as you can, including spec sheets, size charts, or manuals.
- Connectivity: Consumers expect options for contacting a business, whether through phone, chat, or social media. As a manufacturer, you can’t hide behind an outdated customer support line. Embrace the digital technologies that can connect you with your consumer. Building strong digital relationships with your consumers can help cut out the middleman for performing market research—simply gather your customers’ opinions through your website or social media platforms.
- Transparency: Buyers want to be part of their purchasing journeys from order to successful delivery. Take a page from the pizza industry’s book—hungry customers can follow their pizza order from dough to door; manufacturing companies should be able to inform buyers when the product has left the distribution center and is on its way.
Marketing in a Manufacturing Company
Are your marketing efforts up to the task to meet these shifting consumer expectations? Manufacturing companies spend only 8 percent of their annual budget on marketing. For comparison, the education industry spends 11 percent, and the consumer packaged goods industry spent a whopping 24 percent. When you’re working with a smaller marketing budget, it’s important to make every dollar count.
If your customers are expecting visibility, provide your distributors and retailers with extensive information to help buyers make a purchase. For example, a clothing manufacturer shouldn’t rely on the retailer’s default size chart on the retailer’s website. By providing a customized size chart for your brand, you’ll help shoppers feel at ease when browsing your clothes, leading to a more satisfied customer who has the potential to purchase again in the future.
It may not seem like manufacturers should adopt chat and social media, but distributors, wholesalers, and even customers that expect connectivity will appreciate a direct line to your company. Consider sharing industry articles on your social media platforms that can help educate your audience; your team could author articles about industry trends to help educate your distributors and resellers. Twitter and LinkedIn are vital lifelines where you can reach and engage with industry influencers and buyers directly.
Finally, it would be a disservice to your customers if you didn’t keep them updated throughout the order-to-delivery process. Not only does this transparency create trust between you and your buyer, but it also provides multiple touchpoints with your buyer to reiterate your brand and messaging. An email confirmation of purchase is a way to upsell additional products. A delay in delivery should be seen as an opportunity to reaffirm your buyer of your thoughtful customer service. In this digital age, keeping purchasers in the dark is a way to lose them quickly.
Competing with a nearly trillion-dollar behemoth such as Amazon can be intimidating for manufacturing companies—but the disruption of the retail industry creates opportunities for all companies to embrace this evolution of the consumer experience. If your company can adapt to these changes, you’ll have more than a fighting chance of thriving in the age of Amazon.