Staying in the “comfort zone” isn’t an option for manufacturers today. With digital transformation taking hold, the most successful companies welcome this change and continual innovation, seeing it as an opportunity to gain a competitive edge. Building the culture and mentality to bring about this change requires disruptive, pragmatic thinking across your entire organization.
Leading manufacturers have stepped outside their comfort zone in the past decade expanding their sales channels to include eCommerce. While this type of change brings many rewards, it can also become demanding for teams without the right tools in place. Employees find themselves spending hours a day searching, browsing, clicking, and providing administration for technology, leaving less time for innovative insight, customer interaction, and creating true growth.
That is where artificial intelligence (AI) comes in. It offers us the opportunity to essentially create smart assistants for our teams that perform tasks that we previously did manually. Not only that, AI can also allow manufacturers to optimize the customer experience and gain access to data required to make informed business decisions that can improve revenue, reduce costs, and increase customer satisfaction. In short, AI quickly becomes a valuable resource for company growth.
“Artificial intelligence is key to manufacturers expanding their digital commerce growth. It empowers eCommerce operations like no technology has been able to before by harnessing crucial data for decision making and talking to buyers based on their individual circumstances.” -Van Goodwin, Managing Director, Van Allen Strategies
AI and its subset of machine learning provide tools for eCommerce storefronts that can future-proof your company. Efforts that were previously done by humans can be swapped with AI to be done faster. Not only that, but the technology can analyze large groups of data, understand context, and pivot based on the results. Being able to understand human language, interpret digital images and make predictions allows manufacturers to better understand their customers to drive a more personalized, improved experience and with that increase ROI.
Letting AI take over once manual tasks allows manufacturers to leverage their teams for more complex engagements like unique customer interactions or strategizing on future growth. AI is able to steadily keep a pulse on buyers’ changing behaviors and expectations or be leveraged in other gap areas within current processes. By identifying the pain points in your current eCommerce strategy you will be able to use AI technology to its full value based on your unique requirements.
With a low barrier to entry, B2B eCommerce is in a great position to leverage AI to meet the needs of its buyers while also improving operational efficiency. Consider the following advantages and use cases of AI being used in eCommerce for manufacturers.
AI brings insight into how buyers are searching, purchasing, and even using your products. With this improved and organized data, your team is able to make better business decisions and improve its overall omnichannel strategy with fewer future gaps. Manufacturers can optimize, update, and tailor experiences to buyers in real time with an omnichannel strategy leveraging AI.
Recent supply chain issues hit manufacturers hard. AI can leverage data to identify the most critical supply chain pain points. Businesses can use this data not only to directly address supply chain issues but also set better customer expectations on any impact to them. This isn’t just getting parts where they are needed just-in-time, but getting information to the buyers when it’s needed.
A game changer when it comes to allocating resources efficiently and providing accurate updates, AI can streamline the entire process improving just about any friction point. By optimizing delivery routes, truck space, and allocation AI can help save time and money.
The advantages in personalized messaging to customers reaches beyond supply chain issues, however.
Meet your buyers where they’re at with more refined data from AI. Teams can analyze behaviors allowing for more refined messaging that speaks to their customers’ specific situations. This allows your digital storefront and marketing efforts to better recommend upsells based on behavior and known history as compared with similar profiles. In doing so, companies have reported increased conversions and reduced churn.
B2C eCommerce relies on AI heavily for predictive insights on stocking and inventory management, and we understand how those best practices can be applied to B2B manufacturers. Technology can be used to identify and learn patterns in the products across numerous disparate resources (past orders, purchasing patterns, browsing history, seasonal buying). AI enables manufacturers to adjust forecasting accordingly and better predict buyer expectations.
This type of optimized forecasting leads to increased efficiency, including inventory reductions, revenue forecasts, and pricing promotions.
One of the benefits of taking orders in person or by phone is that an employee can assist the buyer in the purchase. While eCommerce storefronts provide phone numbers for support, leaving the site to make that call pushes the customer out of the sales path. Manufacturers can now not only provide automated support but also customize the experience (leveraging aforementioned personalization) to what the buyer needs to see so that a problem never exists in the first place.
AI conversational interfaces are one of the most popular ways manufacturers are leveraging the technology. Providing swift and proactive answers to a wide variety of questions such as “What do you suggest for XYZ” to “Where is my last order?” can be easily made available for visitors to access 24/7. These smart agents are also continuously learning and improving, making them increasingly better equipped to address customer needs and even provide personalized offers. In many cases, the AI smart agency can provide answers to questions before customers even have to ask!
Integrating AI into eCommerce delivers ROI in a number of areas. At a time when buyers have access to more options and information than ever, providing a personalized, seamless experience is a requirement for manufacturers' eCommerce success. As use cases continue to expand showcasing manufacturers benefitting from the technology, including it in your eCommerce strategy is becoming more imperative to maintain a competitive edge every day.
If your company is looking for insight into building a strategy that includes AI and guidance on incorporating the technology into its eCommerce operations, contact the team at Van Allen Strategies. We can help your company look at how to incorporate AI into existing and planned digital strategies to drive growth, improve customer experience, and increase innovation.