Throughout our entire history, humanity has followed a pattern of dealing with disasters in pretty much the same way - right up until 2019 where everything changed with the identification of Covid 19: Step one: panic, especially when trying to ascertain the level of threat and the damage it can cause. Step two: run for cover, dropping everything in the process without any thought for the future. Step three: recover, typically by introducing measures or limitations that help to stop the incident.
E-commerce for manufacturers | What changed with Covid-19?
Well, for a start, steps one and two were made worse due to the presence of technology, social media and fresh uncertainty.
In the past, word of mouth was the prevailing way of sharing news. These days, we can take to the web and learn about things while they are actually happening. As a result, a lot of false news was put out there that took its toll on businesses of all shapes and sizes – especially those that suddenly found themselves unable to let physical customers into their stores.
Worrying Challenges Faced by Manufacturers
Early on, an alarm was sounded and it just so happened to be one that stopped many producers and manufacturers in their tracks. All of a sudden employees couldn’t congregate, which put a halt on production, and this on-again-off-again relationship with Covid has been happening right through to 2021.
To make matters worse, shipping systems began to shut down as restrictions were made on an international level and as a result, consumers couldn’t get what they wanted and products sat in warehouses gathering dust. Many manufacturers began to struggle when attempting to reach retail businesses that had to reduce staff, slow productivity, lower their budget, or even shut down entirely. For entities that had the capability to continue their manufacture, they faced a new issue – the inability to find someone to sell their products to.
Countless manufacturers have found it increasingly difficult to shift their goods and without knowing about the potential of E-commerce, plenty have been forced into closure.
Did You Know…?
E-commerce DTC (Direct to consumer) brings consumers straight to the manufacturer, cutting out the middle man, negating the need for expensive overheads and allowing a producer to thrive online instead of relying on retail stores to buy their goods?
For a solid 6 months in 2020, activities slowed and as you might imagine, this cost a multitude of professional industries billions in losses, with this number still being calculated.
Perhaps the most terrifying notion is that even 18 months later, many countries still don’t know if they will suddenly be locked down, forcing physical stores to close, open and close again.
What Did This Mean for Businesses?
To put it simply, businesses wanting to continue making a profit had to evolve, usually with a dedicated digital transformation strategy to survive. They had to find a way to reach their existing market in a ‘new normal’. This led to many closures between mid-2020 and early 2021 (over 200,000 in the US alone according to data).
But as apocalyptic as this might sound, the reality is that where there is a will, there is a way. As more and more companies had to close their doors for months at a time, a certain percentage of new and existing organizations turned to the one source of provision that even a dreadful virus couldn’t stop – digital transformation via the internet.
According to a survey detailed on unctad.org, 2020 saw one of the biggest rises in the formation of online retail businesses. And this doesn’t appear to be a temporary rise either; in fact, experts have predicted that Covid-19 will change the way that people purchase their goods forever.
For producers and manufacturers of goods, this unsavory situation could go on to become somewhat of a blessing in disguise – especially where E-commerce is concerned.
E-commerce for manufacturers | What Does This Mean in 2021?
Due to the extreme nature of Covid-19 and the rapid way in which it has affected the entire world, a new precedent has been set for online shopping – one that could provide a way forward for internet retailers.
As people step away from their usual method of shopping, i.e. visiting a brick-and-mortar store, they are finding a newer solution. Google searches for online shopping and E-commerce stores are at an all-time high and this trend looks set to continue well beyond 2021.
This spells that E-commerce for manufacturers makes an incredible range of potential for the following types of enterprises:
Businesses that would like to take advantage of the growing popularity of online sales and develop a new digital branch in their organization
Existing manufacturers that found themselves struggling to sell their goods during the height of Covid and could benefit from new distribution channels
Previously active businesses that had physical stores affected by the virus and had to shut down temporarily or permanently
New companies looking to cash in on the increased interest in online-sales; these may be start-ups, or evolving physical stores fed up with being told when they can and can’t be open
Of the three types of company above, they all share one thing in common: they can be ideal for working within the B2B setting.
With E-commerce solutions also providing tools to help with managing and processing business data, there’s never been a better time for producers and manufacturers to consider dropping the previous need for a sales representative, in favor of opening new distribution channels. Additionally, businesses that sell goods (as well as online retailers), can offer direct-to-consumer solutions (D2C) with minimal fuss when doing so online.
How Can B2B E-commerce Help?
B2B E-commerce works by taking each of these possibilities and tying them together on a B2B E-commerce platform that works seamlessly.
As briefly mentioned above, the potential to take advantage of streamlined solutions and tools for processing business data becomes a possibility as well. This includes options to monitor sales data, overhead costs, expenses and even productivity – all at the click of a button when using an E-commerce solution. With these digital tools at their disposal, businesses at the start of the product chain (manufacturers) can enjoy access to dedicated distribution channels that negate the need for a sales rep, and take their products directly to the customer; minimizing their costs in the process.
This method takes full advantage of a situation that has been destroying businesses due to lack of engagement, by allowing them to co-exist within a digital setting to meet all levels of supply and demand.
E-commerce for manufacturers | Benefiting from E-commerce
According to NetComm Suisse, almost every single product category available online has seen an increase in their demand; including cosmetics, fashion, education and digital entertainment.
Although popular before COVID-19, this fresh drive of consumers is now the biggest market to have ever existed.
For those creating products and goods, establishing a presence online can allow a way to reach countless businesses in need of items to sell. There’s genuinely no better way to do so than via an E-commerce platform; all but eliminating the middle-man and enhancing profitability in the process of direct-to-consumer sales (DTC).
From personal care to clothing; suppliers can locate their ideal manufacturers, source products in bulk (typically at a reduced rate), and then distribute their goods via B2B sales.
E-commerce for manufacturers with options for E-commerce order management, a production company could offer an incredible variety of goods and materials via a website, blog, or even social media page, and then enjoy new distribution channels afforded by E-commerce platforms to take products straight to market (B2C / DTC).
If all of the above wasn’t appealing enough, there’s also the ability to save the cost of overheads by running an E-commerce site instead of a physical store.
E-commerce for manufacturers | Summary
E-commerce (especially DTC / direct to consumer) provides a way for manufacturers, producers and consumers to benefit from one another in a safe, comfortable environment with minimal risk and maximum profitability. Throw in the added benefits that come with E-commerce platforms, including the ability to process vital business data and track sales, eliminate sales representatives (plus their commissions), and more – and you have a very convincing way of conducting business in these uncertain times.