The 4 keys to digital transformation in industrial manufacturing

Industrial manufacturers are always looking to save costs, increase revenue, and differentiate themselves from competitors. Day to day, this means working on ways to improve old processes and systems, make the most of innovation and market changes, and manage customer data for maximum impact. So which path is the shortest and most efficient to improve your digital marketing and the customer experience? Digital transformation. And with the right map and guidance, it’s closer than you think. We know you have questions, and the answers to many of them are below.

Manufacturers are flooded with options to help them drive digital transformation and create better B2B buyer experiences. Choosing which ones to pursue is the challenge. We’ve looked at the industry from every angle and read what insiders and thought leaders really think. Know this: just four basic elements of your business can keep your brand in pace (or ahead of) the industry. They can also keep B2B buyers engaged, believing in you, and buzzing around your brand. To help your manufacturing firm digitally transform — and help boost the bottom line — focus on these four practices:

  1. Reduce customer churn and improve segmentation with real-time data
  2. Develop and manage content in one place — and deploy it across channels
  3. Sell more and retain more customers with self-service commerce
  4. Build brand and engagement by meeting buyers on the channels of their choice

1. Reduce customer churn and improve segmentation with real-time data

According to IBM’s Institute for Business Value report Manufacturing 4.0: From data to decisions, less than 3 in 10 organizations consistently use data from equipment, processes, and systems to draw insight for process improvement.

The survey of 2,360 manufacturing industry executives in 32 countries also states that 90% of all manufacturing data is unused, including 2,200 terabytes of data that can be generated each month for a single production line. And fewer than one in five manufacturing executives have real-time access to important manufacturing data across the enterprise.

Without customer data, orgs can’t make sound decisions. Untapped, underutilized data is the next frontier for manufacturers to help them make choices based on safety, efficiency, and customer satisfaction. Data unification and predictive analytics with artificial intelligence (AI) — AI being the IBM findings most important technology for the industry — are both ripe with potential to interpret customer behavior across channels and help predict their next steps.

What’s the best way to present the right product?

This is what data powered by artificial intelligence (AI) can do for manufacturing. Imagine anticipating your existing customer’s needs at the exact moment they arise. Know when an upgrade is available or when parts wear out — and get ahead of offering a replacement or an upgrade. Get products and services in front of customers exactly when they need them.

Is it possible to know your customers’ needs before they do?

Keep an eye on customer product usage, their engagement with complex machinery or repairs, and be mindful of their growth goals. All of this can help you target customers at risk of jumping to a competitor. Knowledge is power. And if your sales team is better informed it can look for opportunities to incentivize, upsell, or cross-sell to keep your customers on board (and help acquire new ones).

How can manufacturers define and target buyers and buyer groups?

With complete customer views, you can generate and act on real data insight to deliver connected, personalized experiences that build trust.

2. Develop and manage content in one place — and deploy it across channels

Timely content marketing is a driving force to improve sales. The challenge is creating and managing content across multiple digital channels. And manufacturing marketing teams are squeezed to do more with less. According to a 2022 report Manufacturing Content Marketing: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends from the Content Marketing Institute and partners, 75% of marketers strongly or somewhat agree that their team has been asked to do more with the same resources. And half of them feel that it has become increasingly difficult to capture their audience’s attention year-over-year. More than half — 55% — feel that they have well-informed insights but lack measurement data showing ROI.

“A scalable, successful, and differentiating content marketing strategy will help you more easily create, manage, activate, and measure digital content. You will define success by how well the content marketing strategy empowers everybody on the front line (sales, account reps, executives, and even accounting and legal) to tell your stories.”

- Robert Rose, Chief Strategy Advisor, Content Marketing Institute

To help them succeed, give your marketing teams a streamlined, all-inclusive platform that paints a full customer picture. Cumbersome creation and analytics tools slow content creation, tax human resources, and make analysis and impact measurement more difficult. Too many tools also incur duplicative costs along the way. Help your content creators to write, automate, monitor, and analyze for every channel in one place.

3. Sell more and retain more customers with self-service commerce

According to the Adobe 2023 B2B Commerce Growth Strategies Survey, self-service digital channels produce the most revenue. About a third of respondents (28%) report that self-service channels such as web, ecommerce, chatbots, internet search, and mobile apps make up more than half of their revenue.

These are some of our frequently asked questions to beef up your self-service digital commerce:

How can well-organized categories and products better target customers?

It shows your customers that you value their time.

Should manufacturers give buyers self-service access to their account?

Let customers know that you trust them and that you’re always available.

How can AI help increase average order value?

Let technology help boost units per order and conversion rates.

“Resistance to self-service ecommerce is futile,” writes Randy Higgins in a piece for Digital Commerce 360. “For manufacturers, the improved efficiency of a self-service portal means saving money while earning more.” He also reports that 75% of buyers prefer digital self-service, and that happy customers will stick with your brand and be more likely to buy.

“Buyers expect an ecommerce portal to deliver reliable information, appeal directly to them, offer what they want to buy, and look as though it was created just for them.”

- Randy Higgins, author of Why manufacturers must offer a self-service B2B ecommerce portal

4. Build brand and engagement by meeting buyers on the channels of their choice

Omnichannel is the standard, not the exception, in B2B as much as consumer sales. If you present the right information and the right products in the right place, your audience will be more likely to respond, engage, and trust.

“To succeed in the modern marketplace, manufacturers should apply the same logic and effort to in-person, remote, and digital buying,” said Industry Today in its piece, Why B2B Manufacturing Needs a Digital Transformation. B2B buyers are the ones who decide when and how to engage with sales reps, and industrial manufacturers need to be ready. Give equal attention — and data analysis — to interactions across human and digital channels, including in-person meetings, phone calls, text, email, online knowledge databases, and more.

Tracking, lead scoring, and applying predictive tools like AI are part of digital transformation for manufacturing — even if we include in-person dinners, golf games, or phone calls in the mix. Use every channel available to connect with customers, and let them take the lead.

“89% of senior executives believe customer expectations are constantly resetting to match their best omnichannel experiences.”

- Adobe Digital Trends 2023 Experience Index

Digital transformation is a process for any business, and that rings true for industrial manufacturers looking to reduce costs, increase revenue, and differentiate their brand. Taking action, trying a new practice, and investment in resources is how the journey towards better B2B experiences begin.

Take action now to help reduce customer churn, nurture loyal customers, target prospects with precision, point sales north, and build brand and engagement. Look for the right tools built for your org that can help you reach your goals.

Get to know Adobe Experience Cloud for Manufacturing and see why digitally transformed manufacturing companies have an advantage. Imagine what you can achieve with AI-powered tools to find and keep customers, unify data, and amplify sales online and off.