The majority of manufacturing businesses expect close to half of their revenue will be derived from eCommerce websites they own or operate by 2021.

This is a staggering figure when thousands of UK manufacturers have yet to even put pricing on their websites, let alone delve into the deep waters of eCommerce.

Our research has found that the biggest concern for UK manufacturers when it comes to selling online is how it will affect their relationship and margins with existing distribution partners – a fear of breaking what they have already got and losing credibility within the market.

However we are increasingly being approached by manufacturing businesses looking to explore the potential of eCommerce and have seen many examples of extremely successful ventures into online selling.

Key reasons that our clients make the jump is the realisation that if they don’t they are likely to be left behind. eCommerce in manufacturing is going to continue to grow – as research shows more than one in three businesses expects to invest in eCommerce within the next two years.

In some cases distributors are the ones pushing for change; in other cases it’s the customers within the sector that have changed and businesses need to adapt to cater for them.

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When presented with the facts and solutions, it’s easy to see why eCommerce does make business sense. In a recent Episerver report, the ability for businesses to self-serve online topped the list of ways B2B companies can make it easier to do business. Increased data and insight on customers that comes from digital commerce gives manufacturers unrivalled and hugely valuable information to help drive future strategies.

There is also a growing trend for 24/7 business operations, and an ability to search and buy products has become the norm in most markets. Many ‘trade-only’ products can also now already be found online anyway, through trade stores and diverse shopping portals such as Amazon. Giving customers the convenience and speed to buy online can even leverage a more premium price, while distributor pricing can be managed.  

eCommerce can also reduce a huge amount of office admin – by 60 per cent, according to some reports – while the market is also opening up with small businesses buying more as consumers to run their SMEs, which eCommerce can facilitate.

When helping businesses to transition into eCommerce it’s essential to look at digital technologies and solutions that cater for the business as a whole.

eCommerce cannot be viewed in isolation to the business’ overall strategy and operations. It’s not just a ‘sales strategy’ or ‘digital strategy’; there is little point just giving a manufacturing business ‘an online shop’.

Technology must be used which can work with current processes that are best suited for the markets in which the business operates.