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E-commerce strategy is more important than ever as today’s customers are increasingly shopping online. This also includes B2B businesses since B2B customers compare their experiences in B2B with their experiences in B2C.
Our recent survey on e-commerce showed consensus regarding several points on the execution of e-commerce strategy, among manufacturers.
A preference for an online shop that has the company’s own products
When looking at what manufacturers are currently doing with e-commerce to be more customer-centric, two interesting statistics came up in the survey. First, looking at the how: 66% of respondents mention they offer instant selling on their e-commerce platform. When digging deeper into the statistics, the numbers stay on the same level if we look purely at those with their own webshops (70%) or service portals (67%).
Second, looking at what: an overwhelming majority of manufacturers sell only their own products through their e-commerce platforms. Only 18% have come to a level of creating a one-stop-shop experience where they sell their products and others’ products
As Brian Beck says, “manufacturers, distributors, and brands across the world are being pulled into e-commerce by today’s digitally native business buyers who are going to the web to research and purchase products. Today’s B2B customer is leveraging the web as a primary channel, and these survey results clearly indicate that the sellers that embrace digital channels are winning. ROI from digital transformation is evident, as most respondents indicate sales increased as a result of implementing e-commerce. But this doesn’t come without investments in digital capabilities. Resources are required for e-commerce success, and over 40% of respondents indicated they have a team of more than 10 people dedicated to their digital commerce efforts.”
E-commerce strategy is owned by the business side
First, and even though there are many IT-related elements to e-commerce, it tends to not be an IT-driven function, as only 5% of respondents claimed e-commerce was owned by the IT department. In a slight majority of the case, it is owned by the business side (51%). For 44% of respondents, it is owned by a team comprising of stakeholders from IT and the business side.
Various sizes of teams dedicated to e-commerce
Similarly interesting, an overwhelming majority of respondents (70%) reveal that they have had an online sales presence for more than 2 years; 18% have been active for 1-2 years, and a small minority (12%) have had an online sales presence for less than a year. This shows that for many manufacturers, e-commerce is not something new, and the real challenge is not starting it up, but taking the next step.
However, even though many manufacturers have been involved for more than two years with online sales, there is still a split in terms of human resources involved. 38% of respondents have a small team dedicated to e-commerce within their organization (1-4 people), while 43% have a large team of more than 10 people.
As Elina Kronbäck mentions, “it is highlighted by some respondents that there is uncertainty how their organisation is able to secure successful roll-out of the e-commerce site and really get the approval and engagement from the customers. This might have a dependency on the resourcing or competence situation in the organisation but it could also indicate that there is a need to start including customers to co-develop existing and new e-commerce platforms to secure the customer engagement and approval.
- E-commerce is clearly not owned by the IT-department across manufacturing organizations, which is most likely the best approach to it.
- An all or nothing approach to e-commerce: there is an equal amount of manufacturers that currently have very small teams dedicated to ecommerce compared to those that have large teams of 10+ resources dedicated to it.
- Some of the challenges manufacturers will need to overcome when rolling out their e-commerce platforms will revolve around creating a global solution usable in all countries and expanding online sales to all product lines. On the technical side, having a platform that can integrate with a customer’s ERP/buying portal is critical in order to offer instant purchases, although it seems a large majority of manufacturers may have already overcome this issue as 66% do already offer instant selling.
- The more worrying number is that only 18% have moved towards creating a one-stop shop experience. There is an overabundance of digital tools for customers nowadays.
- To generate traffic and retain visitors all the way to the purchasing process, being able to offer a full suite of solutions beyond one’s own products will be key in order to thrive in the digital sphere and more importantly, compete against non-traditional marketplaces like Amazon and Alibaba.