The global manufacturing industry is changing rapidly. Driven by the phenomenal pace of technology and ever-increasing customer expectations, modern manufacturing businesses – from producers through to wholesalers and distributors – have had to adapt to an entirely new set of rules. To say it’s been a game-changer is an understatement.
Change is important – more than that, it’s necessary. But at the same time, if your business isn’t equipped to take advantage of the changes that are transforming your industry, then you run the very real risk of being left behind.
Of course, some businesses adapt faster than others. Companies where there’s an established culture of innovation or newcomers with a more modern mindset are going to find it easier to adopt new ways of working than established businesses with a longstanding legacy to navigate. But the trends that are driving changes in the sector, not just globally but right here in Australia, offer very real opportunities that every manufacturer has the power to leverage.
Here’s our take on the four most important trends driving sales in the manufacturing sector right now.
Continued investment in IoT
In the last five to ten years, the adoption of IoT technology has grown rapidly – with manufacturing proving to be the clear leader in the space. It’s a trend that’s set to continue: according to a recent IDC Data report, manufacturing is expected to top the international leaderboard of industries investing in IoT solutions in 2019, to the tune of 197 billion USD.
When most people think of the Internet of Things, it’s typically consumer goods and devices like smart fridges and smartphones that spring to mind. But the application of IoT technology goes far beyond lifestyle-enhancing gadgets. For manufacturers, the ability to gather real-time data and then use that data to enhance a product’s performance, monitor its usage and even identify service needs is fast-tracking product innovation and opening up a whole new world of opportunities.
But while the big players are all investing heavily in the IoT space, it’s still possible to benefit from this tech without having to completely rethink your business strategy. The growing use of remote data sensors – or smart sensors – to enhance the capabilities of existing equipment is a great example of how smart companies are applying IoT technology at a minimal cost.
Expanding revenue through servitisation
The trend towards selling solutions instead of, or as well as, products are not necessarily new – it’s something that manufacturers (and many other industries) have been moving towards for a while. But thanks to the opportunities now created by the emergence of IoT solutions in the form of sensors, communication platforms, dashboards and more, servitisation is now at a point where it can be quickly and easily embedded into your business model.
Want to sell maintenance agreements with your office equipment? An online helpdesk function to give your users ongoing support? How about automatic notifications when parts need replacing or warranties expire? All of these potential new revenue streams have largely been made possible because of advances in technology which enable businesses to predict and preempt customer needs. Your business benefits from continued patronage, and your customer benefits from fast, seamless support. It’s a win-win.
More emphasis on the end customer
It’s not just tech that’s advancing the way the industry operates: customer expectations have similarly evolved over the last decade, forcing everyone in the supply chain to up their game.
Consumer loyalty is hard-won, and all too easily lost – so it’s little wonder that modern B2C businesses are increasingly focused on ways to improve their customer experience. Suppliers have a big role to play here too, which is why brands are placing greater demands on their suppliers to deliver more value and better-quality products and services to the end-user.
Changing trends around order fulfillment are also redefining what manufacturing businesses do – and for whom. With many retailers leveraging their logistics providers to pack and ship items to customers direct, these businesses are no longer just servicing their own B2B customers, they’re responsible for meeting the needs of their customers’ customers too.
There’s a lot riding on these interactions. End users expect to have access to the full suite of fulfillment options from ordering online to in-store pickup, not to mention access to real-time inventory and support, and they’re making judgments at every touchpoint. How easy was it to place an order? Was it trackable? How long did it take to arrive? Was the packaging appealing?
Manufacturers who get this right understand the importance of customer experience. They take the time to interrogate the needs of their end-users, which will prove invaluable to the brands they partner within the long run – and set themselves up for future success.
Cloud-based platforms are driving insights, efficiencies and collaboration
Across almost every sector and industry, the widespread adoption of cloud-based platforms is giving us greater visibility over what’s happening in our businesses and helping us collect and keep track of important data.
But without the right tools to analyse and leverage that data, it’s meaningless. That’s why many manufacturers are now turning to a range of machine learning, predictive analytics, and automation tools to make sense of the numbers and help them turn data into powerful, actionable insights that can be used to predict sales and support needs, manage customer relationships and improve collaboration across the business.
Cloud CRM software is also transforming the way sales teams operate in countless ways, providing a 360-degree view of customers that enable sales teams to better understand and predict customer needs. Pipeline management tools that track early indicators and changes affecting that pipeline ensure salespeople focus on the right deals at the right time, while sales managers, freed from their administrative burden, have more time available to coach their team and focus on strategic sales initiatives.
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