The more a manufacturer knows about their customers, the easier it will be to communicate with them. The level of information a manufacturer has available concerning its target market and existing customer base are the two most important criteria to evaluate when determining a manufacturer’s knowledge of its eCommerce audience. Segmenting these users into defined user types will help develop an OEM’s marketing and digital strategy as well.
Understand Who Your Customer Is
Having a good understanding of customer buying patterns and behaviors is paramount for an effective eCommerce experience, so it’s important for manufacturers to be capable of collecting general customer information before creating an eCommerce platform.
Information about end-users should be the primary goal, but when using a dealer network, dealer information is important as well. Manufacturers should have assets such as contact information that will aid future marketing campaigns via eCommerce, and add to the buying experience that customers have become accustomed to.
Types of Customer Information
Collecting information about product owners is important when entering eCommerce. Documented owner information consisting of names, emails, addresses, and phone numbers should all be collected and stored within a seller’s ERP system. A seller will benefit from collecting, updating, and storing installed base details for every sale made.
Information and details consisting of owners and locations can be obtained from manufacturer to dealer and from dealer to end-user. This information will provide valuable insights for sales teams, and allow them to take a proactive approach to capturing re-orders from past customers.
Recognizing Buying Patterns
Buying patterns and behaviors should be noted and consistently tracked across all divisions within a seller’s organization. For products that are considered seasonal, buying patterns are relatively predictable given their active use period. This information is again useful in developing marketing campaigns to allow manufacturers to maximize conversions throughout each quarter.
Having a clear plan that actively targets individual users and addresses them according to their industry-specific needs is a personalized approach that bodes well for eCommerce.
Managing the Dealer Dilemma
It’s important to address the “dealer dilemma” before implementing a digital sales strategy because of the implications it may have on downstream partners and their revenue. It’s normal to expect a level of dealer pushback throughout the transition to eCommerce, which can oftentimes be a major roadblock in the transition to an omnichannel approach.
It may appear to the dealer that they are less important to customers when they choose to make their purchases online—but they actually provide a complementary service. The dealer provides the service, maintenance, and repair for the manufacturer’s equipment, and their physical location provides a brand presence that is not possible through eCommerce alone. The dealer also provides local customer support and a place to try before they buy. With this in mind, it should be relatively obvious that the dealer’s continual interactions with customers allow them to gain valuable insights into customer buying behaviors.
Developing a mutually beneficial strategy to navigate the dealer dilemma will enable both manufacturers and dealers to share customer information.
Putting the Information to Work
Website personalization is a growing trend in advancing digital strategies. It’s important to analyze how well an OEM understands the customer journey and if they have a good feel for customer buying patterns and behaviors.
Visualizing the customer throughout the purchasing process is good practice because it allows the manufacturer to see what plays into a buyer’s purchasing decision. This applies to the entire eCommerce experience and translates into the development of a strong user experience (UX) as well. With the information gathered from existing customers, an organization will be capable of catering its eCommerce experience to a more specific target audience.
Knowledge is Power
Manufacturers need to determine how well they know their audience to understand how to sell to them more effectively. Keeping up-to-date records for historical sales and installed-base information should be considered a regular practice. Knowing the end-users full name, email, and product ownership information (e.g. year of purchase, brand, model, serial number/VIN, etc.) is highly beneficial to an organization. It can be an even greater benefit if you open your website from a distribution to a direct sales channel.
The primary goal of this evaluation is to determine how well a manufacturer understands its target audience. However, there are greater implications than just the buyer-seller relationship. A manufacturer must be able to communicate with their dealer networks to obtain local buyer information. These details will help the manufacturer develop an effective marketing strategy that is beneficial to their dealer networks as well.