The COVID-19 pandemic has altered the way industrial goods are sold, leading to a rapid surge in e-Commerce activity and shifting buyer preferences. As the customer-preferred methods of sales interaction have changed in favor of digital engagement, purchasing decisions also started to be made increasingly on digital channels.
Nearly halfway through 2021, the big changes afoot in buying behavior still offer manufacturers plenty of reasons to act promptly in accelerating e-Commerce growth. A large number of industry players are scrambling to adjust their selling approach to the new buying reality in efforts to gain an edge over competitors in international commerce and drive online revenue growth. Their strong ambition for global e-Commerce expansion is reflected in the results of The State of International e-Commerce in Manufacturing survey report.
Copperberg partnered with Intershop and Evident to look at how industrial firms move forward with their e-Commerce internationalization initiatives. The findings from this report will assist industry players in developing effective plans to fuel global e-Commerce expansion in today’s online buying climate.
e-Commerce Ambitions Are Considerably Strong, But So Are the Perils That Stall Progress
Industry players feel ambitious about digitizing their sales and buying processes for enhanced revenue—and their chances of success are actually high.
Survey respondents expect an uptick in online sales as a result of fresh COVID-19 restrictions and B2B purchasing behaviors. Some firms, whether they are guided by a partially or entirely implemented e-Commerce strategy, already benefit from selling digitally across the world and generate global revenue bumps of over 51%.
The talk of e-Commerce expansion is turning to action as manufacturers prepare to take an even bigger leap forward:
“Over 60% of organizations have a strong digital ambition to take over e-Commerce leadership in their respective markets.”
While a majority of industrial firms battle to gain the leading edge in e-Commerce, other manufacturers face an uneasy truth: those who aren’t fully habituated to selling and competing in a digital world may face major challenges that could halt e-Commerce progress. Survey data tells that concerns have proliferated in part because:
- Immature customers prevent the rapid adoption of digital services
- Industry players struggle with the integration of back-end systems
- The growing complexity of supporting multiple business models persists
- There is a lack of digital skills and knowledge
Industry experts note that siloed sales and service channels, as well as the potential difficulties imposed by regional requirements, are other likely obstacles that may prevent firms from realizing their e-Commerce ambitions.
Centralized e-Commerce Is Picking Up Momentum
The road to global e-Commerce expansion is unlike anything manufacturers have seen before, mainly because the industry is known as falling behind in digital innovation. When COVID-19 hit, this started to change. As industry players steered through industry volatility, they began speeding up digitization efforts to adapt from local to global commerce contexts and ensure continuous growth. Under these circumstances, sentiment for centralized e-Commerce grew.
“74% of all manufacturers operate a centralized commerce platform. Respondents predict that two years from now there will either be no changes to the way they currently organize e-Commerce activities, or they will have centralized.”
Centralizing e-Commerce is, for many, a move to guard the firm’s corporate identity and better increase internal efficiencies. However, the primary reason to favor centralization is the lack of commerce expertise in the regions.
Each region nevertheless has the potential to stimulate local growth and global expansion, but not before the parent firm tunes in to the needs of its subsidiaries. A majority of manufacturers acknowledge the role of headquarter support in ensuring local e-Commerce success and pour resources into supporting regional subsidiaries largely through technological assistance and product content.
Yet sometimes, global e-Commerce programs risk pushback from regional subsidiaries as the persistent fear of losing autonomy or the lack of proper resources may press local firms to hold off on providing support.
Firms Are Shifting Attitudes Around Selling Complex Products and Services
Industrial buying behavior has reached a tipping point:
“Today, almost two-thirds of all B2B purchasing decisions are made on digital channels, without contact to sales.”
This shift has raised a problem: maintaining customer centricity while digitizing the buying and selling of industrial goods or services. Other issues are related to selling products and services that are seen as too complex for spurring online sales growth.
Manufacturers may keep a wary eye on the sale of complex industrial goods, but they are mostly confident about achieving an online revenue growth of 10-45% in the years to come. This comes as a result of recent strategic investments into localized marketing. Industry players also prioritize revenue increases from global e-Commerce expansion as they look to improve customer centricity and put forward investment programs that factor in product information, e-Commerce solutions, back-end integrations, and customer portals.
There is also a possible solution that helps firms shift attitudes around selling complex goods: visual product configuration. Through the use of visual configuration tools, manufacturers are better equipped to develop engaging buying experiences that directly facilitate the purchase of any complex product.
Manufacturers Should Be Betting on Modern Technology in the Quest for e-Commerce Leadership
B2B e-Commerce is projected to surge to new highs over the next few years, yet 43% of manufacturers rely on homegrown e-Commerce solutions that leave firms unsure about their international sales growth.
That is not to say industry players show reluctance to modern technology. 30% of respondents took the plunge and invested in modern e-Commerce platforms—which offer industrial organizations a stable and scalable environment to efficiently support local subsidiaries while tapping into advanced features for global differentiation. Even more remarkable is that many of those who capitalize on modern technology embark upon the ambition to be at the leading edge:
“85% of respondents using modern commerce solutions want to become leaders in their markets.”
Some of the manufacturers paving the way for e-Commerce internationalization bet on “buy and build” strategies. They look for a robust platform with highly advanced and customized features that increases their ability to optimize local responsiveness for global leadership.
The Manufacturer’s Grip on International e-Commerce Is Tightening Steadily
Industrial firms have properly understood the need for commerce internationalization, which presented itself on numerous fronts: from changes in buying behavior to the pandemic-induced upswings in online sales.
Manufacturers are ready to expand their commerce presence, but doing so requires investments in modern e-Commerce solutions that support online revenue growth both locally and internationally.
Read the full survey report for more insights into the current state of international commerce in the manufacturing sector and benchmark against your peers. The report also presents expert perspectives and recommendations on how to approach e-Commerce internationalization and boost online revenue growth.