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Bridging the Digitalization Gap in B2B Manufacturing

Discover 3 ways to effectively reduce friction in the buying process to help bridge the digitalization gap in B2B manufacturing with the goal of improving the customer experience and ultimately increasing customer loyalty and revenue.

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Charlie Brook
Senior Content & Campaigns Manager
21. Jun 2024
5 min read
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Two factory workers in blue overalls and plaid shirts study information on a tablet, showcasing the seamless integration of technology in the B2B manufacturing sector, with machinery humming efficiently in the background.

As everyday consumers become more accustomed to the online B2C customer experience, a digitalization gap has begun to form for B2B companies as they struggle to keep up with shifting consumer expectations. 

Influenced by their lives as consumers, B2B purchasers now expect frictionless digital experiences, easy access to information, limitless selection and availability, and fast delivery. For this reason, B2B manufacturing companies are finding they must accelerate digital transformation initiatives to stay competitive, particularly as 86% of manufacturers believe customer experience is a key competitive differentiator. 

In this blog, we explore practical strategies for bridging the digitalization gap in B2B manufacturing with the goal of improving the customer experience and ultimately increasing customer loyalty and revenue.

Reducing Friction in the B2B Buying Experience

Research shows that 60% of B2B customers find buying products online more convenient, and 62% prefer to reorder online. And yet, only 13% of industrial OEMs offer digital solutions—with just 10% providing online self-serve tools for reorders. 

While B2B buying has historically had more friction than buying as a consumer, even with the rise in online B2B shops, challenges persist. From long and complex sales cycles to inconsistent pricing structures to a lack of personalized service, it’s no wonder that the need for digitization in B2B affects customer experience. 

However, this move towards digital involves significant investment in new technologies and applications and sometimes a complete overhaul of legacy systems. Thus, the challenge lies in swiftly and effectively addressing the gap while ensuring that the business continues to operate smoothly during the transition. 

Here are three ways we’ve seen B2B manufacturing companies effectively reduce friction in the buying process by bridging the digitization gap.

1. Adopting Flexible and Scalable Digital Solutions

Complex sales cycles lead to long and confusing buying processes, which can negatively impact customer experience. However, by adopting flexible and scalable digital solutions, companies can enable their customers to browse, purchase, and reorder products with ease—no matter the changing customer needs or market conditions. In this way, companies can ensure long-term customer satisfaction, scaling their operations seamlessly as they grow.

STAUFF’s digital store is based on Spryker’s B2B suite, which gives them access to a wide range of functionalities to digitize their commerce experience. For example, multi-language support, advanced account management, integrations into existing ERP and CRM platforms, and product information management. To serve complex needs, they even offer bulk ordering with advanced customization, which includes defined delivery for single products, upload of CSV for bulk ordering, and account and access management for procurement departments.

STAUFF uses this solution as a foundation but—as it is flexible and scalable by nature—can build on top of it to create a buying journey that matches their individual demands and surpasses their customers’ expectations.

2. Streamlining Processes 

One of the main sources of friction in the online buying process is speed. Today’s customers are much less forgiving of inefficiencies and expect to receive their products quickly—without errors in their orders.  

For this reason, automation plays a huge role in closing the digitalization gap. By automating manual tasks, with features like automated quoting, application of discounts, or customer-specific pricing, companies speed up the sales cycle and reduce errors, leading to a decrease in operational costs.

Automated reordering, for example, helps businesses increase sales and facilitate frequent or repeat orders by delivering a streamlined and simple B2B buying experience with ‘quick order’ options that enhance convenience, save customers time by bypassing the product browsing and selection steps, and allow customers to complete purchasing more efficiently. 

Integrations also play an important role in streamlining processes, making it easy to connect and pass data between systems. For Siemens Healthineers (SHS), the modular and API-driven architecture of their digital commerce solution allowed for seamless integration with their key systems, including Genesys, Microsoft, ServiceNow, and Tacton.

Before updating their commerce setup, SHS suffered from longer delivery times, especially in rural areas, and delivered a fragmented patient experience from online to offline. But with Spryker’s composable commerce platform, SHS was able to launch quickly and open up new revenue streams via subscriptions, smart contracts, and marketplace—all while increasing customer access to their service. 

3. Enhancing the Customer Experience with Customization

By digitizing the buying process, B2B manufacturing companies gain access to performance metrics, allowing them to track the impact of their strategies regularly and identify areas for improvement. This also opens up a world of online customer data that can be leveraged to gain deeper insights into their behaviors and preferences. This is relevant because both personalization and customization are essential to the modern customer experience. 

Customization, for example, significantly enhances customer satisfaction and loyalty with offerings that meet each customer’s specific needs and preferences. SLV found that their complicated online shop, which was time-consuming and frustrating for customers, negatively impacted the customer experience. With updated technology, they were able to build an out-of-the-box product configurator, which empowered customers to design products to meet their specific needs. 

The extensibility of their new platform even allowed for the integration of AR visual commerce, enabling customers to visualize how lighting products would look in a certain place. Moreover, guided selling workflows offered an intuitive approach to customers for customizing their individual lighting systems. This transition to an updated system helped SLV close the digitization gap, driving a 45% revenue growth and doubling website visits. 

Finally, the product configurator also helps companies minimize order mistakes and friction in the buying process by limiting customers to purchasing only the parts compatible with their main product. Thus, no consultant is needed to make orders.

Bridging the Digitization Gap 

As demonstrated by companies like STAUFF, Siemens Healthineers, and SLV, embracing digital transformation can lead to substantial growth and a stronger market presence, ultimately ensuring long-term success in the modern B2B landscape. If you’re looking for more ways to reduce friction in the buying process to improve your operational efficiency, customer satisfaction, and revenue growth, you can find even more in-depth insights and resources on transforming your customer journey through digitization here.

  • B2B Commerce
  • Customer Experience
  • Customer Loyalty
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