Why Manufacturers Need to Take a Customer Approach to Digitalization

manufacturers customer approach digitalization

As we discussed in our last post, manufacturers tend to look in the wrong places when they’re starting their digitalization journey.

Here’s what they’re primarily focusing on, and why these areas aren’t the only things companies should be investing time, effort, and money in:

  1. How products are made: Simply manufacturing and producing great products isn’t enough in this digitally driven era.
  2. Digitizing production lines, processes, and the warehouse floor: Easy-configurable production lines and smart factories means the competition—a fiercer, more globalized competition—will also be able to produce best-in-class goods
  3. Better technologies: While investing in better technologies is important, these technologies are becoming more accessible, affordable, and easier to employ

So where should manufacturers be concentrating the majority of their efforts?

On the customer.

A Customer Approach to Digitalization

It’s time for manufacturing businesses to look beyond the factory gate and towards the customer, because customer experience is the new battleground.

We now live in a post-mass production era, an era in which customers are in the position of power, not goods’ manufacturers. This means that corporations must:

  • Re-orientate their entire business models
  • Put the customer at the center of their planning
  • Think more about what the customer wants, how they define value, and what will increase value for them

Ultimately, the buyer of your product will determine your success long-term.

Challenges

What complicates this customer focus for manufacturers is that there isn’t just a seller-buyer dynamic in the space, there’s often also B2B, B2C, and B2B2C relationships. “Customers” include partners/resellers, vendors/merchants, and end-users, meaning there are different journeys for each, and numerous touch points throughout the product life cycle.

This means that manufacturers must:

  • Become much more curious as to who they’re selling to
  • Be open to the fact that their “customer” demographic may change (may open up to directly connecting with buyers in addition to an existing reseller network)
  • Employ a customer-centric approach for each type of customer when taking the dive into digitalization and the4IR

How to Succeed

Many customers today are less brand loyal and more obsessed with services. This means that businesses need to re-evaluate how they can better interact with customers, provide more personalized offerings, and create better experiences. After all, manufacturers can now own the whole customer journey and experience.

When you put the customer at the center of your digital strategy, you start thinking about how your business ecosystems can collaborate and serve the client in new and interesting ways.

Think about it this way: Digitalization technologies allow mass customization, more personalized products, faster design, production, and delivery cycles, and enhanced services like the ability to plug-in seamlessly to sales, marketing, and ecommerce solutions. There is a lot these companies can gain from these new technologies beyond just the immediate ROI of selling faster or more efficiently. The data, and the proper management and use of that data, is the big payoff. For example, access to this plethora of data can help companies:

  • Create and assess customer-centric metrics
  • Better design and develop new products
  • Determine how to sell
  • Better price and package, etc.

Ultimately, the integration of customer information and data across the product life cycle can be extremely powerful. And if the right data is captured, shared, and exploited, it can empower your entire organization.

But how do you capture, manage, and analyze all of that data? Luckily, there’s an ecosystem of apps that help manufacturers improve the customer experience, increase efficiency, and stay competitive. These include Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Configure Price Quote (CPQ) for manufacturing, Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), and Finance apps.

Conclusion

Ultimately, your digitalization journey should be a catalyst for driving a better customer experience—an experience that delights customers with more customized, personalized, adaptive, and innovative products.

Customer-centricity shouldn’t just be a buzzword in your digital strategy proposal, it must be applied to all product lifecycle touchpoints and throughout the customer journey, from product design and customer service to production and the supply chain.

Matt Noyes
ABOUT:

Matt Noyes

Matt is the Director of Product Marketing at FPX. He focuses on the evolution of CPQ from a traditional sales tool to one that delivers value across the enterprise.


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