Ecommerce is a growing channel in the manufacturing industry, but to date it's mostly been viewed as just a channel to sell.  Ecommerce tools have focused on transactions, and sometimes as a digital sales assistant. But when viewed from the perspective and interaction of the customer, ecommerce tools provide an opportunity for relationship building, inventory planning, and insight into the motivations and behaviors of customers. 


Ecommerce solutions also enable interdepartmental transparency to better support the customer and grow the business.  Integration between ecommerce, CRM, and marketing automation is imperative if connected communications are an objective.  Through multichannel communications you can begin to see who's coming to your site, what they're looking for, what messages resonate, and how they like to transact. 42-images.jpg


Below are 8 considerations for your ecommerce program.


  1. Evaluate your ecommerce audience, both internal and external.  Of course your audience will consist of consumer, dealers, and wholesalers, but your ecommerce system is also accessed by internal teams like sales and customer service. 
  2. Ensure you understand the role of each audience member and what their ecommerce expectations are. Consumers want mobile friendly tools that are both secure and have an easy to understand interface.  Dealers and wholesalers want visibility into order history, potential up-sell and cross-sell opportunities, and inventory by warehouse. Sales reps want information-rich dashboards, CRM integration, quoting and approval functionality, analytics, and order history.  Customer service representatives also want access to order history but to excel at their job they need to see product attributes and up-sell and cross-sell configurations.
  3. Adjust your content, both inbound and outbound, for each persona. Given the multiple personas, and the varying demands of each, ensure your communications are segmented and personalized appropriately.  Provide proactive notifications to internal teams about orders placed and customer engagement with post-order communications. Score behavior and interaction with content in order to alert customer service and sales to potential advocates through loyal shopping and frequent content engagement.  Provide feedback forms to customers, dealers, and wholesalers in order to identify opportunities for ecommerce improvement.
  4. Use ecommerce to contribute to demand insight, influence ordering (like up-sell, cross-sell, and proactive ordering) and follow-up communications based on that data. Use the information pulled from your ecommerce, CRM, and marketing automation tools to create dashboards that demonstrate trends in purchase (time of year, geography, etc), opportunities for up-sells and add-ons, and sales cycle duration. This information can be used to create automated trigger emails that send communications in the month or so leading up to when that customer typically orders.
  5. Employ ecommerce engagement to drive content development. Analyze pages visited before the purchase, search history tied to the purchase, and keywords used in those organic searches that lead to ecommerce engagement. Understand engagement with previous demand generation campaigns, events, and social channels. Use this data to piece together the customer journey and define the behavior of the new buyer.
  6. Incorporate more engaging graphics into your product catalog. Consider adding videos into your product catalog that demonstrate the use of the product or provide "how-to" insight.  Develop interactive product catalogs that navigate the customer through complex product catalogs and the associated content. That navigation, and correlating Digital Body Language, can be captured in order to understand how customers consume content. This will allow you to improve your content and the customer journey.
  7. Integrate smart CPQ into your ecommerce program. Place tracking code on your CPQ pages to identify page conversions, time spent on pages, trends, and cart abandonment.  You can also use that behavior to deliver appropriate follow-up. For example, based on the Digital Body Language of an individual, you can offer content on a product they searched or provide customer support if page time was excessive and resulted in cart abandonment.  You can also view detailed data analysis, including granular data like a product's configurable attributes selected on each line item in the quote.
  8. Think beyond the purchase. For example, if someone abandons their shopping cart should they be entered into a sampling or trial offer campaign? After the purchase are you entering customers into nurture campaigns, product registration campaigns, or up-sell and cross-sell campaigns? Based on their individual Digital Body Language, what's the best communication outreach?


In order to understand the new buyer, ecommerce behavior must integrate across the organization and marketing must have activities in place to utilize that insight.  Ecommerce is not meant to replace sales; rather, when aligned with marketing, ecommerce should extend sales channels. 


Lastly, approach your ecommerce marketing and sales strategy thinking not just about the customers you have, but also the customers you want.  Your ecommerce programs should support multiple brands, languages, currencies, and complex catalogs and SKUs.  Likewise, your CRM and marketing automation tools should also support this scalability.


How are you improving your ecommerce programs?