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Why manufacturers must realign their company’s initiatives to be digital forward

Sept. 7, 2023
B2B customers are increasingly demanding consumer-like online treatment for sales and service, and many companies aren’t set up to offer that.

The manufacturing industry is experiencing a rapid digital revolution aimed at improving operational efficiency and enhancing supply chain visibility. This transformation involves the adoption of technologies such as automation and Big Data.

However, as manufacturers rush to improve internal processes, many are forgetting a crucial piece of the puzzle: Customer experience (CX). Manufacturing is lagging other sectors in embracing new digital CX models. For instance, according to a global survey, only 37% of manufacturers say that existing customers use their digital channels for repeat orders. 

The goal: A customer-forward digital experience

As a new, digitally native generation of decision-makers comes forward, manufacturers are seeing less appetite for in-person and phone-based customer interactions. Instead of demanding a face-to-face meeting, these younger decision-makers feel more comfortable making orders over digital channels.

Customers now expect seamless, user-friendly digital experiences in B2B environments, just like they’ve become accustomed to in the consumer space. In a manufacturing context, this might mean using a single digital platform to purchase spare parts, access machine information, available upgrades, and training materials, and book services.

Facing tight deadlines and economic pressures

Digital transformation is hard. To succeed in the current market, manufacturing leaders must integrate their data and digital services to deliver the seamless and exceptional experiences customers expect. But it’s a tricky balance to strike.

According to McKinsey & Co., fewer than 30% of attempts succeed (a successful transformation is one where there is proof that performance and experience improved). Manufacturing firms in the U.S. are grappling with significant challenges in their digital journeys, and economic uncertainty coupled with inflation and rising operational costs have become a major concern. This is particularly true as global competition intensifies and more production is outsourced to lower-cost countries.

Maneuvering roadblocks: it’s a company-wide effort

The most crucial element of successful digital transformation is an innovation-focused culture, beginning with executive buy-in. To achieve their digital transformation goals, it is crucial for manufacturing companies to start by defining and communicating a strategy and objectives that align all departments – from IT to sales – towards a common initiative.

According to Valtech and Copperberg’s global survey of manufacturing leaders on the current state of digital transformation in B2B, only 19% of respondents said their digital budget is determined by a dedicated digital team or a cross-departmental team with representatives from sales, marketing, industrial operations and strategic development. However, 63% revealed that a company-wide digital agenda exists, it just hasn’t been implemented. Taking the task halfway will just create further problems in the future.

The entire hierarchy, beginning with the executive level, needs to come together in support of a digital transformation. This guarantees sufficient backing for digital initiatives, considering the needs of both staff and customers. Through this approach, manufacturers can lay a strong groundwork for delivering outstanding customer experiences and maintaining competitiveness in today’s dynamic digital realm.

About the Author

Charles Desjardins

Charles Desjardins is EVP & Managing Director of Commerce at Valtech