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eCommerce Value for U.S. Manufacturers

03 February, 2023

These days, customers have constantly changing goals and needs. Manufacturers, distributors, suppliers, and others can meet those needs through stronger eCommerce strategies. B2Btail's Curt Anderson shares his tips during #USAMfgHour on Twitter.


Buying and selling on the internet are simple if someone knows what they want and where to get it. Yet, if you're a seller or service provider there is a craft in knowing how to improve the shopping experience for the target customer. Curt Anderson of B2Btail shares his eCommerce strategies that benefit U.S. manufacturers for this week's #USAMfgHour chat on Twitter.

Partially fueled by the stay-at-home advisory through the coronavirus pandemic, studies project that eCommerce of all types of goods and services will see a 265% growth rate in the future, from $1.3 trillion in 2014 to more than $4.9 trillion in 2021. In 2018, eCommerce accounted for 63 percent of total shipments in the machinery manufacturing sector, according to Statista.

eCommerce Strategies 

Are you currently using eCommerce as a sales tool on your website? Can custom manufacturers do this?

"I'm excited to take the info from this hour and take it back to my team. I'm here to learn from the experts," said SpaceGuard Products.

"We are not," said Chenango Valley Technologies. "We are a custom shop and everything we do is contract to the customer we are doing the work for. Our boxes and trays are not retail, but wholesale. We sell pallets or truckloads to our customers."

"We do not use e-commerce on our website," said DSI/Dynamatic. "We're a virtual manufacturer for the most part. We utilize third parties to do our in-house manufacturing, so we don't hold inventory, other than parts for repair."

"#COVID19 is a challenge but our manufacturers have access to every resource we can possibly offer to help them through these chaotic times," said NJMEP.org. "Thankful these businesses continue to push forward!"

"We are not. We are a custom manufacturer," said DuraTech. "We do not sell off the shelf products."

"No, but we see the value in it as a passive income stream and it's something that we'll be investigating further in 2021," said Foxmere.

eCommerce can work for all manufacturers. It is about more than selling products, said Anderson. It's about establishing a well-rounded digital presence. A company's website is its first line of defense and it should be an engaging and smooth experience. "eCommerce is an INCREDIBLY powerful - effective - efficient AND inexpensive tool to help you market your products & business," he said. "All you have to do is make a great first WEBPRESSION, dominate search, and get offensive. (Don't worry, it's not as hard as it seems!)"

"eCommerce is more than the 'Amazon' model," said NJMEP. "Opportunities are waiting for custom manufacturers. It's easy to overlook but eCommerce can play a large role in nearly any organization. We even have an eCommerce portion of our website!"

Any custom manufacturers out there? Do you feel left out of the eCommerce party? What is eCommerce really in manufacturing when it comes to B2B for services and custom work?

"I would think it is being as ?findable' as possible," said marketing professional Jennifer Wegman of Insight Information Solutions. "But I would love to hear @B2Btail's take on it."

"We do some custom work but we could easily sell our a lot of our spare parts and smaller items online but just haven't made that jump yet," said Obsidian Manufacturing.

"No, not really, but we might be able to set this up for one of our products, our Battery Boxes & Trays. If we keep expanding it we might look into this," said CVT.

"We are definitely a custom manufacturer," said Dynamatic. "Very few items we sell are "stock" items. We fit the project as needed. Not sure if we've really felt left out, per se. Not sure if eCommerce fits us."

"We offer stock machines, but most are specifically set up based on customer needs," said Cleveland Deburring. "We don't feel left out. Not every option is best for everyone."

Anderson said there is a tried and true 4-pronged attack for custom manufacturers with their eCommerce strategy:

  1. Targeted Landing Pages: Have a simple, clear, and concise call to action.
  2. Explore eCommerce Opportunities: Manufacturer direct that says "yes" to the end-user.
  3. Scale Your Proprietary Process: Convert your proprietary process into a proprietary product line.
  4. Customize Your Manufacturing Process: Allow customers to customize your products with eCommerce.

Avoid Being the Best Kept Secret

Many Manufacturers launch a brand new website - yet, still find themselves as the Best Kept Secret. What marketing strategies do you find work best for marketing your company? 

"Yes, it's a huge mistake to build these big sites and not follow it up with marketing to drive the traffic," said Paul Kiesche of Aviate Creative. "We do and recommend PPC advertising, SEO, content marketing, collateral, social media, email campaigns, networking, and more."

"Very true. The ?build it and they will come' theory doesn't work," said Cleveland Deburring. "SEO, AdWords, and social media seem to work best for us."

"We just launched a new site and it is still a work in progress," said CVT. "We are going to be adding to and updating it again soon. We use all our social to drive traffic there. Other marketing methods include massive networking and direct contact."

"The usual- Blogs Social Media Emails Some Print Ads," said Obsidian.

"Surprisingly, good ol' fashioned print marketing works very well for us (aside from our website)," said Dynamatic. "We still use snail mail and email PDFs often!"

"We are working on 1. Positioning ourselves to serve small machine shops with a UVP. 2. Our product lines match exactly our marketing persona and the UVP. 3. Avoid red seas," said SCTools.

With marketing, Anderson said, you can pick your weapon and give it everything you've got ? once you pick a specific target. "With marketing for manufactures ? the Persona Exercise is critical ? identify a specific target ? that ideal, dream customer ? I like to call them ?soulmates,'" he said. "Let's go out there and find your soulmate."

There are incredible benefits for #manufacturers that tip their toe in the #eCommerce water - do you feel your company would benefit from an eCommerce strategy?

"We are not tiptoeing. We are full speed ahead. We are doing anything and everything to get our name out there and it is working," said CVT. "Always looking for new ways to do this and build on what we have done thus far."

"I'm sure any company would benefit from it if it's done correctly for their products and industry," said Obsidian.

According to Anderson, eCommerce benefits for manufacturers include:

  1. Diversifying businesses
  2. Exploit competitive advantage
  3. Reduce request for quotation processes
  4. Make money while you sleep
  5. No major capital expenditures

What do you feel are the biggest hang-ups, headaches, or reservations with manufacturers jumping into eCommerce? 

"In our case, it's staffing," said Dynamatic. "We don't have anyone who could manage it full time."

"The biggest thing holding us back would be the returns," Obsidian. "The customer purchasing what they thought they needed when they really needed something else. If we were to do eCommerce, it would have to be only for our best-selling spare parts."

"The things I hear most from reluctant manufacturers is that they don't have time or funds to invest in it," said Kiesche.

"YES! It's all some can do to just stay in business during this pandemic," said Obsidian. "Some of our customers have gone out of business. Implementing something new right now might not be the best thing. Use this time to learn, explore, and plan."Manufacturers meet on Twitter.

"I think most see it as a headache or they don't know where to start. They focus on the product and not the customer. Customer is always #1," said CVT.

"Lack of knowledge, and the assumption that their products do not belong to eCommerce. Until the competition does it," said SCTools.

"That. Is. An. AWESOME. Response @sctools!" said Anderson. "Competition is a great motivator!!! B2B eCommerce is a TRILLION market - we need to keep up for sure. Thanks for the great response."

"No knowledge of the pitfalls, Payments, Lead times, Out of Stock, How do you know when it fails? Questions & Answers, the Wrong item sold, Hackers, Customer Satisfaction, Traceability, Feedback, and no personal touch. Just trying to get out of my box here," said Nick Rivers of Obsidian.

Taking on new technology can be challenging, daunting, and overwhelming, Anderson said. But the orders are worth the learning curve. 

About #USAMfgHour

Anyone who champions U.S. manufacturing can join in on a new conversation each week on Twitter using the hashtag #USAMfgHour. The chat starts at 11 a.m. Pacific Standard Time/2 p.m. Eastern. Share positive blog posts, helpful articles, news, important information, accomplishments, events, and more with other manufacturers and supporters from throughout the country.

Are you interested in hosting a #USAMfgHour chat? Contact organizers @CVTPlastics, @DCSCinc, and @SocialSMktg.