Change is happening in the manufacturing industry, and it’s happening fast. Much faster than anyone anticipated before 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic and other ongoing issues around the globe have accelerated the need for a digital transformation throughout organizations, and those who were already digitally advanced have thrived.
Throughout this article, we’ll summarize some of the main points we’ve gathered from major studies around the manufacturing industry that outline how companies are approaching digital transformation in the years ahead.
Transforming With Cloud-Based Solutions
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic can be felt differently across each segment of the manufacturing industry. However, some common challenges have emerged. The 2021 MHI Annual Industry Report broke down the top concerns from over 1,000 manufacturing and supply chain professionals.
Hiring and retaining qualified workers continues to be the top concern, but one of the newest additions to the list this year is the growing concern around forecasting challenges.
MHI believes the events of 2020 could serve as a warning for manufacturers to develop better systems for navigating the disruptions we’re experiencing. Visibility has become a critical capability for many companies, and the shift to cloud-based solutions appears to be the way forward.
Manufacturers have long relied on legacy systems that require inefficient updates and limit visibility to data across their entire organization.
Moving to the cloud offers leaders unique opportunities to innovate their processes, utilize new levels of automation, and gain greater visibility across all areas of their business.
Digital Innovation Across the Board
A digital transformation is happening throughout all manufacturing areas, and the philosophy of marketing and sales teams needs to evolve as well.
According to Industry Week’s 4 Keys to Staying Competitive Report, moving forward, manufacturers should strive to become a data-driven enterprise that can use analytics to gain insight into the customer experience and quickly identify issues or problems that need addressing.
The Future is in Automation
The research shows that companies who leverage connected systems are best suited for success in the future, and insights shared between marketing and sales teams help create more innovative and more data-driven strategies.
CRM and Marketing automation technology has helped create this connection. Tools such as HubSpot and SalesForce have created an avenue for manufacturers to track individual buyers online and segment leads based on their level of engagement and interest.
With this level of data, marketers can target prospects and customers with highly relevant content and messaging, while sales teams can manage their pipelines better and gain higher-quality leads.
As the demographic for B2B buyers shifts younger and younger, their expectations change as well. Today’s buyers have access to more information than they could ever imagine at their fingertips. If they’re researching your company, they’re likely researching others as well.
However, many manufacturers still have an incredible opportunity to become authoritative experts in their niche by producing content that educates consumers and builds confidence in their business.
When approaching content marketing, businesses should think about The Big 5 (coined by B2B marketing expert Marcus Sheridan) blog topics most effective at driving relevant traffic, leads, and ultimately sales.
- Cost and pricing
- Problems (theirs and yours)
- Best of lists (best in class, best practices)
This approach will guarantee that you’re not putting in effort just to drive traffic for the sake of driving traffic but providing value to those actually looking to do business with you.
Shifting to E-Commerce
The manufacturing industry as a whole has been late to e-commerce, but many businesses seem primed to begin exploring the possibility over the next few years. The COVID-19 pandemic and looming pressure from digital giants like Amazon have been the catalyst for this shift in thinking.
E-commerce channels could drastically change business models, including protecting sales in the event of another pandemic-like crisis, helping gather data into customer habits and needs and improving revenues, and lowering costs by decreasing the need for in-person marketing and selling.
The Years Ahead
Throughout 2020, companies around the world faced new challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Forecasting challenges, supply chain issues, and increased customer demands were some of the top concerns that have highlighted the importance of investments in digital technologies, and those who were already digitally advanced have thrived.
Moving forward, manufacturers that are proactive in adopting digital technology like cloud-based solutions, marketing, and sales automation, and content marketing will likely see the most success.