Before the coronavirus pandemic ever hit, the industrial and manufacturing world was already seeing major disruptions in the market as new, unheard-of, relatively small businesses suddenly sprang up seemingly overnight.
The view at trade shows shifted dramatically as companies which had only hosted very small booths for a mere year or two were suddenly front and center in massive numbers. How did these young enterprises grow so popular and so successful so quickly?
In short… they set up shop where they knew their buyers would be shopping. Online.
1. Manufacturers Want To Make Online Purchases.
Even before millennials overtook all other age groups in B2B purchasing, the home B2C habits of industrial buyers were already leaking into their work practices. Now it doesn’t matter if someone is looking for a new spatula, a new forklift, or a new industrial storage tank. One of the first places they’ll look is online– especially on Amazon.
Manufacturers who insist on selling their products through catalogs may still be getting sales, yes– but that may simply be because the buyers have no other choice. For now, that is.
When was the last time you bought a bar of soap or a brand new suit out of a magazine; or tried to track down an old friend’s contact information using a physical paper phone book?
Chances are most of your purchases are no longer made that way anymore. Your B2B buyers are in the same boat. Most of them, especially the younger ones coming into the business, likely have little interest in digging through catalogs anymore when the internet can answer their questions far more quickly.
If you’re not putting any purchasing options or even product information in an ecommerce sales channel, it may not be long before some other competitor comes along and sets up (online) shop in your corner of the market. The convenience of their service may quickly outweigh your product quality or professional reputation.
Even if your product costs tens of thousands of dollars and usually has a six-month or even a six-year buying cycle, many manufacturers underestimate just how much their clients may want to make their purchases online. Daniel Loeschen of MXD Process has seen purchases as great as $18,000 go through their website without a single phone call with a physical representative.
2. Manufacturers Want to Research Your Product Before Buying.
You’ll notice that online purchasing wasn’t the only factor mentioned above. Product information also influences buyer choices greatly, long before they ever fill their (online) shopping cart. B2B buyers and all of the other influencers who affect their purchasing decision will be researching all their available options.
You need to have content and FAQs on your website so your prospects can self-educate.
In a way, publishing content and product specs online can greatly reduce the amount of repetition sales teams have traditionally endured in the past. It used to be that contact with a sales representative was required to gain answers about a product or service. Reps might spend hours on the phone or composing emails or even arranging in-person meetings to educate their prospects.
By collecting and posting information in an ecommerce sales channel, sellers can build up a reservoir of content which they can now employ to answer questions more quickly and effectively.
Now instead of answering the same question four times for four different leads, a representative can direct them all to a blog article or a product page or perhaps even a video series with all of the answers they need. And for every lead that has reached out to inquire, there are likely several more who have kept their distance but have still been conducting their own investigations.
Online buyers peruse not only specification sheets, but even customer reviews before purchasing as well.
Social proof goes a long way to either confirm a seller’s claims, or else poke holes in them. Even customers who buy highly expensive products for large enterprises will still turn to any platform, even one usually meant for a cell phone case or a set of silverware, to find out what previous buyers have to say on the matter.
3. If You Don’t Control Your Brand Online, Someone Else Will.
Believe it or not, even if an online market for your product does not seem to exist yet, there may already be the beginnings of one if you take the time to look.
If you have ever sold a single tank, machine, or vehicle in the entire past of your company (which, since you’re in business, you likely have) then that product is out in the world somewhere and you are no longer its owner. Do you know what that means?
If a warehouse or industrial facility were ever to close up shop or upgrade a piece of machinery, they then have to determine what they’re going to do with some old piece of equipment which very well might still be functional. And there’s a good chance that they may opt and try to sell it online, through Craigslist or Amazon or some other platform.
If someone else starts selling your product online, that means they are going to end up controlling your brand and your customer experience instead of you.
If a third party sells your gently-used product online and the buyer ends up dissatisfied, guess who may end up receiving the blame? Your company. You manufactured it, after all.
The customer may even try returning or exchange the purchase with its manufacturer directly– and then you’ll be stuck between a rock and a hard place. “We didn’t sell it,” you might try to explain. The warranty might now be void since it was resold. But the fact is, you still created it. That buyer might walk away dissatisfied, with every intention to blackball your company as much as they possibly can.
While losing one potential client isn’t the end of the world, imagine how many prospects might avoid your business as a result of reading a terrible review about your product; or your customer service?
Take control! You don’t necessarily have to begin with trying to “boil the ocean,” as Rohan Thambrahalli of UpstartWorks would say. You can start small when it comes to building an ecommerce sales channel – but the point is still to start.
Thanks for reading. Don’t forget to subscribe to our weekly newsletter to get every new episode, blog article, and content offer sent directly to your inbox. You can also subscribe wherever you download podcasts so you can listen on the go!
If there’s a particular topic that you’d like for us to talk about, or if you have a particular a challenge that you’d like us to take a crack at, send us an email. We’d be happy to answer them for you. If your topic gets picked for a future episode, you’ll win a free IndustrialSage t-shirt!