Last year, many manufacturers had to completely cease operations and endure forced closures, driving production output to a decline of 6.6% between February and October 2020. Heavy and unforeseen disruptions to the supply chain, along with Brexit, added a further layer of disparagement and geopolitical bureaucracy to decipher.

Above all, manufacturers have been particularly affected by the sharp turn toward digital channels. Before the pandemic, fewer than 40% of manufacturers had implemented an e-commerce strategy. Long selling cycles, a heavy reliance on face-to-face interactions were obviously huge challenges for manufacturing CMOs and CDOs alike.

In this article, I’ll cover how is Covid-19 accelerating digital transformation in the manufacturing sector. I will also elaborate on the reasons the industry is facing such turbulent challenges and how manufacturers can overcome them using modern technology.

Staying relevant in the fast-paced market

According to the InRiver report, 9 out of 10 manufacturers are facing stronger competition compared to a year ago. Without a doubt, the pandemic was behind the acceleration of digital transformation, causing businesses to reconsider their strategies. It became crystal clear that providing customers with trust-building experiences is key to keep manufacturers ahead of the competition and ensure long term business growth. But why is this the case?

Firstly, the lack of customers’ trust in the product information is what puts business revenue at risk more than any other factor. In the above mentioned InRiver survey, two-thirds of manufacturers stated that product information problems often cause delays or withdrawals when bringing items to market. If manufacturers want to lead the race in getting their products properly to the market, they need to streamline their information management systems. In the next paragraph, I’ll explain what role digitalization has to play in it.

The urgency of optimising your digital shelf

Many manufacturers sell large and expensive equipment online – these are often accompanied by large volumes of product information describing them. Uploading a single product across thousands of different sites manually is painstaking, and the margin for inconsistency is high. If the information provided is detailed, interactive and attributed correctly, it is more likely to entice customers to the digital shelves of manufacturers. If the information is absent, wrong, or uninformative, customers will probably scroll past it.

An illustrated image showing how the pandemic is enforcing digitalization in the manufacturing industry.

When visiting a brick-and-mortar store, the owner focuses on the shop window to entice buyers to come inside. Things are no different in e-commerce. Manufacturers still have to engage buyers and ensure their digital shelf is always stocked. What’s the best way to go about this?

Digital commerce today is often built on complex infrastructure and different business applications. Technologies that can improve efficiency, scalability and limitless possibilities will be crucial as digital manufacturing businesses grow. A guaranteed way to build the infrastructure correctly is by choosing the right digital tools. Such technologies could include enriching your product information with meaningful marketing text, images, videos, specifications, 3D drawings, instruction manuals, and more. It could also mean going even further and using image recognition to automatically generate product attributes, like colours, descriptions, and tagging. This will increase the likelihood of customers coming to, and staying at, the digital shelf.

Now that we know how is Covid-19 accelerating digital transformation, we should act upon that knowledge. Manufacturers eager to respond with the right digital initiatives and technology investments are the ones that will be poised to deliver a high-quality B2B buying experience. This will be the only way to beat the competition in the ever-changing modern business world. If we put aside all the harm the pandemic caused last year, it is still the key factor endorsing long-awaited digital transformation in the manufacturing sector.

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