In recent years, ecommerce has become a vital part of business operations across all industries - including manufacturing.
Manufacturing companies, which have traditionally relied on brick-and-mortar stores and distributors to sell their products, are increasingly recognizing the potential of ecommerce platforms to help them reach a wider audience.
In making the decision to move products online, manufacturing companies can establish a stronger online presence, build brand loyalty among customers and increase revenue. While it can be difficult for an established manufacturing company to pivot and embrace the digital landscape, making the transition from factory to online store offers huge benefits.
Benefits of selling online for manufacturing companies
New Pool of Potential Purchasers One of the biggest benefits of selling online is a wider audience of potential customers. Not limited by geographic location or retailers/distributors, companies who sell directly to consumers online generally have higher profit margins and more control over pricing.
So Much Data Moving products/services online means manufacturers have access to more valuable data about customers. From demographic information to purchase history and preferences, the information available from online customers can be used to:
- Improve product offerings
- Offer personalized experiences
- Create new marketing strategies
- Make better business decisions
Increased Revenue Ecommerce transcends constraints faced by brick-and-mortar stores. Customers from anywhere in the world can make purchases at their convenience.
Ecommerce trends in the manufacturing industry
The manufacturing industry has been relatively slow to adopt ecommerce compared to other industries such as retail and consumer goods. However, this is changing as more manufacturing companies recognize the potential of ecommerce to drive sales and reach new customers.
B2B ecommerce One trend in the manufacturing industry is the rise of B2B ecommerce. Many manufacturers now sell their products directly to other businesses through online platforms. This allows them to bypass traditional distributors and reach a wider audience of potential customers.
Subscription-Based Ecommerce Models Another trend is the use of subscription-based ecommerce models. Some manufacturing companies offer subscriptions for their products, which provides a recurring revenue stream and builds customer loyalty.
Investment in Tech Manufacturing companies are increasingly investing in technology like 3D printing and augmented reality to enhance the online shopping experience for customers. This allows customers to visualize products in a more realistic way and can lead to increased sales.This is especially helpful to manufacturers selling complex products or processes.
Choose the right ecommerce platform for your manufacturing company
There are endless options for ecommerce platforms. Many companies utilize third-party marketplaces like Amazon or eBay to sell products. Some opt to create an ecommerce website using tools like Shopify, WooCommerce or Squarespace.
Third-party marketplaces can be a good option for manufacturers just starting out with selling online. They provide a ready-made audience of customers and handle many of the logistics such as shipping and payment processing. However, they also come with limitations such as a lack of control over branding and customer data.
Building your own ecommerce website provides more control over branding and customer data, but it also requires more resources and expertise. Manufacturers need to invest in website development, payment processing, and shipping and fulfillment logistics. They may also need to hire additional staff or partner with an agency to manage ecommerce.
Building your ecommerce website
If you decide to build your own ecommerce website, there are best practices that should be followed:
- Your website should be visually appealing and easy to navigate.
- It should be optimized for search engines to ensure that potential customers can find your products.
- You will need to choose an ecommerce platform that best fits your needs. Each platform has its own strengths and weaknesses, so it's important to explore options.
- Consider the logistics of shipping and fulfillment. You will need to choose a shipping carrier and set up shipping rates for your products.
- Returns and exchanges: Once you begin selling online, you will need to determine how you’ll handle returns and exchanges, as well as customer service issues.
Creating a product catalog and optimizing product listings for search engines
Once your ecommerce website is up and running, you will need to create a product catalog and optimize your product listings for search engines. This involves writing compelling product descriptions, using keywords that potential customers are likely to search for and taking high-quality product photos.
It's also important to optimize your product listings for mobile devices, as more and more customers are shopping on their smartphones and tablets. This means ensuring that your website is mobile-friendly and that your product pages are easy to navigate on smaller screens.
Shipping and fulfillment for ecommerce orders
This can be a complex process, especially for manufacturing companies that are new to ecommerce. You will need to choose a shipping carrier and set up shipping rates for your products. You will also need to determine how you will handle returns and exchanges.
One option is to use a third-party logistics provider (3PL) to handle your shipping and fulfillment. This is a great option for manufacturing companies that don't have the resources or expertise to handle these tasks in-house.
Payment processing and security considerations
Payment processing and security are critical components of ecommerce. Manufacturing companies will need to choose a payment gateway to process payments from customers. Popular options include PayPal, Stripe, and Authorize.net.
It's also important to ensure that your website is secure and that customer data is protected. This involves using SSL encryption, implementing secure passwords, and regularly updating your website's software to prevent security vulnerabilities.
Marketing your ecommerce store - SEO, PPC, and social media
Once your ecommerce store is up and running, you will need to market it to attract customers. This involves using a mix of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategies, Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and social media campaigns.
SEO is the process of optimizing your website and product listings to rank higher in search engine results so that people searching online can find you easily. The four main types of SEO include:
- On-page Optimization of website elements, including keywords, meta descriptions, internal linking, and url structure.
- Off-page Backlinks, referring sites and increased engagement on social media platforms
- Local NAP best practices, creating and optimizing a Google Business profile
- Technical Page speed, site errors, duplicate tags/content, etc.
SEM is paid advertising geared to drive traffic to your website. This can be an effective, fast way to reach potential customers who are actively searching for your products.Types of SEM include social media ads, banner ads on industry-related sites, and Google ads.
Best practices for managing your ecommerce store
Managing an ecommerce store requires ongoing effort and attention. Best practices include regularly updating your product catalog, monitoring customer feedback and reviews, and analyzing website analytics to identify areas for improvement. You should also regularly test your website to ensure that it is functioning properly and that there are no technical issues that could impact the customer experience.
While ecommerce opens up a whole new world of opportunities for manufacturers, there are challenges that come with selling online. In order to do things the right way, companies may need to invest in additional resources, such as a dedicated ecommerce team or new technology. They may also need to adjust their pricing and marketing strategies to compete in a crowded online marketplace.
The benefits of selling online significantly outweigh the challenges. It offers a unique opportunity for manufacturing companies to increase reach, customer base and revenue - three keys to business success. Whether you choose to sell through a third-party marketplace or build your own ecommerce website, there are many opportunities to tap into the ecommerce landscape and achieve success.