Though they might be considered “unsexy,” companies selling extruded hoses, fasteners, ball bearings and other industrial products to other businesses play a vital role in the U.S. economy.
In 2021, manufacturing businesses contributed $2.3 trillion (12%) to the domestic GDP. These industrial goods are used as inputs for the production of other goods.
Spurred by consumer demand, a growing number of industrial producers are electing to do business online and expand their digital presence.
Research from McKinsey shows that 60% of B2B (business-to-business) customers find remote sales at least as effective as traditional sales and 62% prefer to reorder products online.
Industrial products tend to be complex, with a range of technical specifications and requirements. B2B ecommerce platforms are uniquely suited to nurture leads over an extended sales cycle and provide detailed product information to help B2B buyers make informed decisions with or without the help of a sales rep.
In addition, industrial buyers require custom quotes, tailored products and approvals from multiple stakeholders before finalizing a purchase.
Consequently, industrial ecommerce companies must provide a tailored customer journey for each client using personalization at scale.
Industrial Ecommerce Best Practices to Follow
B2B businesses selling industrial products are increasingly beholden to the standards B2C businesses have set. Here’s how to get ahead of the game.
Frictionless customer experience.
Industrial ecommerce companies can personalize the customer journey by researching the client’s industry, procurement process and unique needs.
Providing personalized product recommendations, detailed product information and ongoing content to educate the customer about the product are essential to any B2B transaction.
Transparent pricing and custom quote generation build trust by ensuring customers only pay for what they need.
Robust security and fraud prevention.
B2B companies deal with sensitive information, such as financial data, intellectual property and confidential information belonging to other businesses. Additionally, the average order value for a B2B transaction is much higher than B2C, making B2B businesses an attractive target for wire fraud.
Fraud prevention measures such as two-factor authentication, transaction monitoring and anti-phishing measures can prevent cyberattacks.
Having an omnichannel presence means serving customers in their preferred digital channel and providing a unified customer experience across channels. For industrial ecommerce businesses, this means providing a frictionless customer experience through their website, social media and email, in addition to having a presence in offline channels such as tradeshows or brick-and-mortar stores.
An omnichannel presence also requires seamless data integration between channels — meaning your CRM system is connected to your ecommerce website, social media, inventory management software and other systems to monitor real-time updates across channels.
Establishing a social media presence creates opportunities for social commerce. Here are some ways B2B industrial brands can use social media to drive sales:
Showcase products: Social media platforms such as Facebook enable brands to set up storefronts to showcase products, including product information and pricing.
Build relationships: B2B businesses often use professional social networking sites like LinkedIn to identify decision-makers at target companies, build relationships and schedule sales calls with new customers.
Provide customer support: Businesses can provide live or chatbot-facilitated customer support and schedule appointments through messaging services on social media platforms.
Advertising: Social media ads enable businesses to target audiences based on demographics and interests and tap new markets
Build brand awareness: Posting on social media builds brand awareness and increases website traffic, leading to conversions.
Integrated ERP solutions.
ERP solutions provide a central database for all business intelligence, providing real-time updates on sales trends, customer behavior and inventory turnover. This data empowers businesses to identify inefficiencies, reduce costs and improve business processes.
To reach its full potential, an ERP solution must be fully integrated within the organization’s technology stack — including email marketing software, accounting software, CRM system and other software systems.
Data-driven decisions are grounded in truth rather than intuition and help businesses optimize their operations and profitability. Here are some examples of data-driven decisions businesses can make:
Pricing: By analyzing data on total sales volume, customer behavior and market trends, ecommerce companies can make informed pricing decisions. For example, they may adjust prices to optimize profitability, offer discounts to encourage digital sales or adjust prices to match competitors.
Inventory management: Businesses can avoid stockouts or overstocks, reduce inventory carrying costs and prioritize certain products based on customer demand using data on inventory levels, lead times and sales volume.
Marketing: Data insights enable businesses to focus their marketing budget on channels generating the highest ROI and A/B test different strategies.
Supply chain: Data on lead times, delivery times and supplier performance lets businesses choose suppliers based on performance metrics and optimize delivery routes to reduce shipping costs.
Customer service: Customer behavioral data reveals website activity, purchasing habits and key metrics like customer lifetime value. This empowers businesses to improve the customer experience and reward loyal customers.
Streamlined supply chain management.
A centralized inventory management system lets businesses track inventory levels, orders and deliveries from a single platform. This provides insight into supplier performance and the order fulfillment process.
Here are some ways industrial ecommerce businesses can streamline supply chain management:
Real-time tracking: RFID tags and barcodes enable businesses to track inventory and shipments in real time, improving visibility across the supply chain.
Work with reliable suppliers: Ecommerce businesses can monitor data on supplier performance to prioritize suppliers and distributors with a proven track record of delivering high-quality products on time.
Optimize logistics and transportation: Real-time logistics data lets businesses choose the most cost-effective delivery routes and shipping partners.
Automated order processing: Order processing tools track inventory levels, process payments and track order delivery, reducing the chances of error.
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The Future of Industrial Ecommerce
Industrial ecommerce companies are prioritizing the customer experience by offering tailored customer journeys and implementing personalization at scale.
Increasing adoption of mobile.
Mobile devices are an important touchpoint in B2B transactions. Statista research suggests that in 2023, an estimated 17% of B2B sales will be generated digitally.
In addition to building a responsive website, B2B ecommerce brands could offer a companion mobile app that lets users make purchases, contact customer support and receive push notifications for order tracking and personalized recommendations.
AI and industrial ecommerce.
AI provides new opportunities for industrial commerce companies to streamline operations, automate processes and improve the customer experience.
Here are some use cases:
Personalized product recommendations: AI-powered recommendation engines provide personalized recommendations based on customers’ browsing and purchase history.
Chatbots: Chatbots can provide customer support by answering FAQs, resolving issues and collecting information before handing the customer off to a live agent.
Predictive maintenance: AI algorithms analyze data from sensors to predict when industrial equipment needs maintenance. This reduces the risk of unplanned downtime and stockouts.
Inventory management: Inventory management software analyzes ecommerce sales data to predict demand and optimize inventory levels.
Supply chain optimization: AI algorithms analyze data on shipping times, delivery routes and carrier performance to reduce costs and improve the customer experience.
Rise of subscription-based models.
Subscription-based business models compel companies to build lasting relationships with customers to generate recurring revenue. While the average order value is lower, subscription models create opportunities for higher average customer lifetime value. Predictable demand from a subscription business can help streamline inventory management.
Sustainable supply chain sourcing.
B2B customers increasingly prefer to partner with companies that minimize environmental impact. This means optimizing delivery routes to reduce carbon footprint, eliminating unnecessary packaging and ensuring manufacturing plants and other physical facilities adhere to green building codes. It also means refusing to do business with unethical suppliers.
Headless commerce is an ecommerce architecture that separates the frontend user interface from the backend ecommerce platform, allowing for greater customization and performance across multiple touchpoints.
Headless commerce has several advantages for industrial commerce businesses:
Business continuity: Companies can quickly deploy new frontend experiences without disrupting the back-end (i.e. no downtime).
Personalization: The front end can be customized to deliver relevant content based on individual customer data.
Better user experience: Build seamless user experiences across different devices and touchpoints including desktop, mobile and smart devices.
Easier integration: Integrate other software systems for a unified view of customer data.
Examples of Industrial Ecommerce Companies
Industrial ecommerce companies serve other businesses in a range of industries. These industrial products are used to maintain equipment or in the production of other goods.
Australia’s oldest plumbing merchant, Tradelink produces plumbing products and appliances for bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms and more. At Tradelink showrooms, skilled sales reps consult with customers to find the best products for their home renovations. Customers can also request quotes and book a free consultation via Facebook Messenger.
Known for its vinyl-cutting products, USCutter is a maker of vinyl products, digital printers, flatbed cutters and other goods. The website offers educational content, including case studies, video tutorials on product use, news articles and a forum for customers to ask questions.
Clarion Safety Systems is a maker of safety signs, labels and markings for product manufacturers, workplaces and public areas. Products can be customized through the website and customers can also request a custom quote online. Customers can also contact customer support via webchat.
Toolmaker Fastfix’s product page emphasizes technical specifications and the product’s use cases. The company provides one-hour delivery slots with alerts via text and email so customers know when to expect items. The website has a widget that pulls the latest customer reviews from Trustpilot to provide social proof.
Tygris makes anti-corrosion products designed to withstand hostile environments and improve the performance of metal components. The company offers free shipping on bulk orders. Customers can request custom quotes online and learn more about product usage through Tygris Academy.
BigCommerce and Industrial Ecommerce
Industrial ecommerce businesses need robust, highly customizable ecommerce solutions that grow with the business. Designed for scalability, the BigCommerce platform can handle large product catalogs, high traffic volume and complex integrations.
As a headless ecommerce platform, BigCommerce provides a range of customization options, including modular storefronts, customizable checkout and integrations with popular third-party tools.
BigCommerce supports various sales channels, including online marketplaces, social media platforms and point-of-sale (POS) systems, allowing businesses to reach customers wherever they are. Additionally, BigCommerce is PCI DSS-compliant and includes advanced security features such as fraud detection and prevention, two-factor authentication and SSL encryption.
With best-in-breed analytics and reporting, businesses can track their performance and make data-driven decisions.
A New Approach for New Expectations
BigCommerce’s B2B ecommerce platform enables you with powerful features to readily meet — and exceed — your buyers’ expectations.
The Final Word
Industrial ecommerce companies are under pressure to provide a robust digital experience equivalent to their B2C counterparts. By having an omnichannel presence, providing self-service options and using digital marketing and SEO best practices to build their customer base, B2B businesses can remain competitive.
Industrial ecommerce is a unique industry as products must be customizable to meet the unique needs of each business and the sales cycle is typically much longer as purchase decisions involve multiple stakeholders and a complex procurement process.
Consequently, industrial ecommerce companies must provide a tailored customer journey to meet the customer wherever they are in the decision-making process.