Manufacturing is starkly different today than it was a few decades ago. Manufacturers today must do a lot more than just build top-notch products. They must go an extra mile and cultivate high-quality relationships too so as to sell direct to consumer.
Did you know that 50 percent of people who land on a manufacturer’s website intend to buy? Traditionally, manufacturers have relied on distributors to sell their products. But there’s an emerging trend where even the big boys are now selling directly to consumers.
Here’s How Things Have Always Been
Conventionally, wholesalers and retailers have served as a critical link between manufacturers and consumers. These businesses would purchase massive quantities of goods from manufacturers at great prices. They’d then sell them to consumers at prices that were sometimes 2–3 times higher than the purchase price.
But why didn’t manufacturers sell directly to consumers? It all came down to economics; and the scales of it. Wholesalers had the human capital and infrastructure needed to handle the sales and marketing smoothly and efficiently.
Most importantly, they owned the retail space. Manufacturers, on the other hand, couldn’t marshal enough resources to create goods and market them directly to consumers. But that was long before the Internet came on the scene.
Entered the Internet, and Big Changes Started Happening
When the World Wide Web emerged, there was a massive transfer of might. Small, unknown companies could now build a website and start building and leveraging relationships with consumers. They could now bypass the wholesaler and still survive.
Today, manufacturers are increasingly bypassing wholesalers in favor of building lasting relationships with end users. They’re gradually wresting control from wholesalers and retailers. As a result, consumers are seeing enormous gains.
Unsurprisingly, the emerging trend is causing jitters all over the wholesale and retail world. These industry players are realizing that (sadly) they can’t compete with manufacturers in terms of pricing. If they tried that, they’d lose tons of money. Sure, wholesalers and retailers can also leverage the Internet. However, manufacturers would still have a huge advantage over them.
Interested in taking your manufacturing business to the next level? Here’s a couple tips to help you as you structure and operate the direct-to-consumer model.
1: You’re Building a Whole Ecosystem: Set Clear Goals
It’s critical that you understand you’re building a whole producer-consumer ecosystem. You won’t build it in a day, of course. So many factors come into play, and laser-focused planning and execution is vitally essential.
You must decide on specific key performance indicators, and formulate goal achievement timelines and other particulars. It’s best to start small and make new decisions along the way to reflect new realities as they happen. It’s something you want to ease your company into rather than dive into. You need to craft a direct-to-consumer strategy that rolls out slowly but steadily.
2: Build Relationships with Consumers Relentlessly
Success in manufacturing and many other businesses is all about consistently building new relationships with consumers. It’s also about strengthening existing ones. Once you get a new customer, keep them engaged. Make them feel that you aren’t only interested in cranking out products and selling them.
People need to feel they matter, that they’re the very reason you’re producing those products. If your brand isn’t making customers feel special, they won’t stick around for long. That’s why your marketing team must do whatever it takes to retain existing customers while netting new ones.
3: Collect Customer Data Consistently
As a manufacturer, you should keep improving operations and processes. While “going-with-one’s-gut” decision-making may still work, the data-driven version works better. That’s why you must keep accumulating customer data.
But collecting data is valueless if you won’t dive deep and fish out the gems hidden there. Properly analyzed data reveals different insights that you can then incorporate into your overall marketing strategy. Every visit to your website is an opportunity to learn how you can help consumers or serve them better.
4: Focus on Improving Customer Experiences
In this day and age, pretty much every manufacturer can have technology built for them. But if technology isn’t enabling you to provide exciting customer experiences, you don’t need it. To win customers’ loyalty, you must devise ways to keep them engaged, informed, educated, and sometimes even entertained.
Consumers are increasingly becoming aware of the fact that they’re the most critical part of a business. They’re also aware that they have gazillions of options. So, keep that knowledge in mind as you create content for them. Remember: it should also be personalized content that adds value to them.
5: Manage Possible Conflict with Existing Partners
Your existing partners are (wholesalers and retailers) will likely feel threated by your decision. Who wouldn’t? They don’t know how things will turn out in the end, and conflict isn’t unlikely. It’s your job to ensure that the marketing channel you’re building doesn’t push your existing partners away. You need them — at least for now.
See if there’s a way you can have them as an integral part of the ecosystem you’re developing. If you’re creative enough, you can even have them fund your new D2C strategy. Why not incorporate a store finder into your manufacturing website so consumers can find retailers and wholesalers easily? Why not also prominently display a list of your partners and their locations? Give your customers options.
6: Streamline Order Fulfillment
You need efficient systems for fulfilling consumers’ orders just like you do for wholesalers and retailers. Selling direct to consumer comes with certain challenges. Fortunately, they’re difficulties you can easily and cost-effectively address.
Shipping items to consumers in a day or so is becoming pretty much the standard everywhere. For that reason, you may have to modify your existing product distribution infrastructure. Also, you’ll need to tweak your operations a bit to accommodate single-order fulfillment. Luckily, you can easily find third-party order fulfillment partners and craft a winning agreement. You may also opt to work with shipping carriers.
Few things stay the same for long in the world of commerce. A way of doing things that sees enormous success today might not work five years down the road. Manufacturers are increasingly engaging with consumers directly instead of relying exclusively on retailers and wholesalers. It’s an idea whose time has come. And there’s no stopping it.
As a manufacturer, you can leverage the emerging trend in various ways to boost your revenues. You must set clear goals and decide on timelines for their achievement. You must also focus on building lasting relationships with existing partners and consumers.
Also, you need to collect consumer data on an ongoing basis. Finally, you should ensure that order delivery happens seamlessly. And that every transaction or interaction with a customer is a wonderful experience. Remember, the customer is now more empowered than ever. Companies with poor customer experiences may find themselves low on sales come the next quarter – even the manufacturers.
It’s up to management to take on the massive undertaking that is setting up memorable customer experiences. It’s the most effective way of improving direct to consumer sales performance. To make the process seamless, make use of sales productivity and enablement tools like Veloxy Engage and Veloxy Mobile. These will help companies make the most out of Salesforce by keeping track of customer activities, needs, behavior patterns, expectations and forecasts that will help improve the overall experience of your services.