Embracing unified commerce processes, systems and solutions to meet and beat the major issues facing specialty manufacturers
By Karie Daudt, Sr. Director of Marketing
There is no doubt the last decade has brought about significant changes in the way many industries do business. From my perspective, specialty manufacturing has experienced more than its share of major disruptions. Yet most of the conversation addressing those challenges has focused on B2B ecommerce, and the point of sale alone. In my mind, the industry is actually ignoring the primary factors currently impacting the revenues and profitability of specialty manufacturers.
At Insite Software we believe that success relies on unifying commerce, not just focusing on the digital components of B2B ecommerce. This includes addressing the needs of both on- and offline commerce, or unified commerce. Faced with complex, hybrid buying and selling environments, specialty manufacturers need to embrace the idea of unified commerce, perhaps more than any other industry.
In this blog series, the experts from Insite will discuss the top 7 challenges faced by specialty manufacturers in 2017. More importantly, we’ll outline ways to apply the unique features and benefits of a unified commerce solution to meet the following challenges:
It’s not uncommon for a channel partner to contact several people within a specialty manufacturing organization with a request. This can create mass confusion on the part of the responding organization, not to mention resulting inefficiencies that can result in massive costs. Most specialty manufacturers don’t understand how unified commerce can actually help resolve this situation by providing single point-of-entry portals that combine commerce and content.
Specialty manufacturers often produce literally hundreds of products, making it impossible for sales teams, manufacturing reps and channel partners to understand, let alone sell, these massive catalogs. A unified commerce solution can streamline this process, making it easier to create specialty catalog solutions and even specific promotions.
Studies show that indirect and direct sales teams can spend more than 50% of their time on activities that are not directly related to sales. This might include searching for content, trying to create custom catalogs or presentations, or even locating simple product information. Field sales has an even greater struggle due to lack of access outside of the office. The right commerce solution can address these challenges by providing the right content at the right time, in the right way. It can do the heavy lifting of updating CRM and other enterprise systems from any mobile device, thereby unifying the commerce cycle in terms of both process and technology.
It’s no secret that specialty manufacturers are struggling to get channel partners to focus on selling their products. In fact, specialty manufacturers no longer have the influence to pound their partners into selling those products. As the channel partner model has changed due to massive mergers, so too has the need for massive improvements in service as a direct path to sales. Well-designed, unified commerce solutions can identify new ways to service these customers, opening the door to better partnerships.
Specialty manufacturers continue to train the same way they always have – with printed or poor online assets densely packed with tons of irrelevant information. To truly engage a channel partner, these organizations need to utilize the best aspects of B2B ecommerce and prepare their channel partners with interactive media and guided selling tools. The right commerce solution will make those tools available no matter where the channel partner or salesperson happens to be…unifying the experience from any device and from any location.
Pricing factors and larger customers make a strong business case for eliminating the middle man and going straight to the specialty manufacturer. For some companies, as much as 15% of their business may be direct or they may be forecasting more direct business in 2017. Distributor operations are designed to handle the demands of direct business, but manufacturers are not. A commerce solution that can focus on the needs of indirect AND direct business may be the solution to this growing challenge.
This challenge is universal for manufacturers and for businesses everywhere, and yet many specialty manufacturers are missing opportunities to drive revenue and substantial profit via direct sales spare parts and services. A unified commerce system can help plan for growth in this area, without directly impacting channel partners.
Addressing the entire commerce cycle, not just ecommerce, can break down the barriers to service for channel partners, create new capability for direct sales, and conquer the problems we’ve outlined here.