This is a guest post. We welcome guest posts about helping manufacturers increase sales and/or advance their marketing function. Send in your idea and you too could be a guest blogger on MMG.
Guest blogger - Patrick Foster is a writer and ecommerce expert from Ecommerce Tips
Despite the many incredible advances of the digital world, numerous industries still aren’t taking full advantage of the many opportunities available to them through the internet. The manufacturing industry is one such example. Manufacturers are well-versed in traditional B2B relationships — and, of course, experts in engineering and production — but not necessarily very aware of the extent to which the business world around them has gone online.
What every manufacturer in today’s world should be doing is looking for ways to benefit from the vast potential of online retail. Selling online opens up numerous new markets, and can (in principle) seamlessly reach buyers from across the world.
In this piece, we’re going to look at how manufacturers can increase their revenue through ecommerce, pursuing it in addition to their regular sales. Let’s begin.
The low costs of ecommerce entry
How much does it cost to get an ecommerce business up and running? Whether it’s the main pursuit or a secondary project, it might well be less than you’d think. The digital world is all about automating awkward tasks and finding ways to reuse resources (just like the manufacturing world) sensibly, and that has produced the current generation of cheap and convenient ecommerce services.
However you want to approach ecommerce, you can find an option that suits you. You can build your stores from scratch, having your platform developed or using an existing one. You can find comprehensive sets of templates to make things easier. Alternatively, a quick fix is purchasing websites for sale that have all the features you require and need reworking. However you proceed, the result is going to be roughly the same.
At the lowest end, you can create a WordPress site for free and use the free WooCommerce extension to make it an ecommerce store, and it will only cost you the domain name, the hosting, and the SSL certificate (vital for security). It’s incredibly affordable, especially relative to getting a physical store.
Using fulfillment services
So it’s cheap and easy to get an ecommerce store — that’s acknowledged. But what about actually running it? The intensive part, after all, is packaging and shipping products. Without a strong distribution model, how will you make progress?
Well, as a manufacturer, you have the production process covered, and you don’t need to source any products because you’re selling your own. You’ll no doubt have storage space already, and likely the ability to ship products (at least locally), because there aren’t too many manufacturers around who create products light enough to be personally collected as standard.
That distribution model alone may be enough to handle local ecommerce business. If it isn’t, then you can either look to scale your existing setup or extend it for ecommerce by using fulfillment services. Fulfillment services such as Amazon’s FBA (Fulfilled by Amazon) system will store, package, distribute and deliver your products in accordance with your online orders.
If you don’t want to use a significant service, you can reach an arrangement with a local delivery company or a similar organization — it all depends on your level of business. Just remember that one of the central advantages of fulfillment services is the seamless scaling. What you give up in control and profit margins, you gain back in practical ease.
How online traffic can drive local visits
Particularly in the B2B world, ecommerce can feel like a comparatively weak option in the long term. Manufacturing companies often rely on long professional relationships based on loyalty, something that can feel lacking in the cutthroat online world. But ecommerce and traditional sales don’t need to be at odds — they can work together. In fact, the former can drive the latter.
How? Think about the different routes a prospective customer can take to reach you. They can receive a recommendation from a friend, read a product review, find you on Google Maps, see one of your commercials, etc. Ecommerce too can function as another route to local sales if you offer an excellent service but have sufficient incentives for customers to visit.
Think about it this way: if your customers only buy from you in person because they have no other choice, what does that say about your level of service? If you provide an excellent baseline manufacturing service online and set out a compelling reason for people to buy from you in person (discounts, convenience, personalized service, etc.), then you’ll stand a good chance of getting the best of both worlds.
Ecommerce may feel very different from your usual business model, but it isn’t. It’s just an extension of what you already do. If you set your manufacturing service free, allowing it to flourish both offline and online, then you’ll diversify your revenue sources, make your customers much happier, and achieve a new level of operational stability.
Patrick Foster is a writer and ecommerce expert from Ecommerce Tips who wishes he had an aptitude for making products but settles for buying them. Stop by the blog for some actionable online retail advice, and check out the latest news on Twitter @myecommercetips.