Technology evolves faster and faster every year. We’ve all seen the effects of technological change on our daily lives. This week, I couldn’t find my trusted shaving cream brand at a retail store. A few clicks and two days later, it was at my door for less than I used to pay. Amazon offers voice activated and pre-scheduled reordering of supplies, and the variety of products and services available to us online has improved our lives in little and big ways. The way we research and buy products and services has evolved, and it’s important for our digital brands to evolve along with it.
In the manufacturing and industrial sector, this evolution toward digital has been slower. For over a decade, I’ve worked with many leading manufacturing and industrial companies to improve their online presence. Many times I’ve seen companies in the sector assume that what applies to our individual online buying and research habits is somehow different from the way their customers and prospects research and purchase items for work. As consumers we’ve become accustomed to the convenience and efficiency of seeking product or service information online and comparing and contrasting options and costs. That behavior, coupled with the growing millennial workforce that have grown up as “digital natives,” is causing a dramatic shift in the sector. It’s now time to evolve our thinking, begin to implement changes and plan for the future.
Most B2B buyers are now 70% or more of the way through the sales process before they begin to interact with a B2B company directly. Those that neglect to provide a positive and modern experience online will simply fail and lose market share.
For manufacturing and industrial sector websites for complex, highly-engineered products or services, the website isn’t going to be doing the final selling: your salespeople or service representatives are. An excellent website – one with an engaging and interactive online experience that is optimized for SEO and social media connections while providing valuable content that generates and captures leads – will only improve your sales figures over time. A sub-par website will instantly discourage users to interact with your company, and you’ve lost trust – and business – from customers and prospects. Take a look at these trends:
- Generation Z will inherit the workplace. By 2025, Millennials will make up 75% of the workforce, and by then, we’ll also have a fresh wave of Gen Z workers (those born from 2000-today) starting their careers. Not only do both groups have an affinity for mobile over PCs, but a recent study from ComScore found that 18% of millennials are “mobile-only” users (as in, they don’t even own a laptop or desktop computer to access the web). Likewise, when asked what channels millennials prefer to use to connect with businesses, email and search engines (the mainstays of current B2B marketing) ranked dead last.
- Mobile exceeds PC internet usage. Two years ago, mobile internet usage exceeded PC usage for the first time. While that has a more immediate impact on consumer marketing, manufacturing and industrial sector marketers would be wrong to think they’re unaffected. When’s the last time you ran to your local Best Buy or Radio Shack to purchase a computer game, DVD or CD? Do you use mobile gaming apps, stream YouTube or Netflix and download music from iTunes instead?
- The line between business and personal is blurring. Do you have your work email on your personal phone? Ever read a blog post (maybe this one) during your morning commute on your mobile device? While today we still talk about this notion of “work/life balance,” in reality, it’s a myth. People no longer separate their hours into working hours and leisure hours, and the blending of the two means that whatever device you happen to have at a certain time of day is the one you’re going to use to do business. That might be a PC, but as evidenced by the trends above, it’s going to be a phone or tablet.
- Manufacturing and industrial sector buyers are already using their mobile devices to research and make purchasing decisions. If you don’t believe business software decisions are going to be made on mobile devices in the future, then you’ll be even more surprised to hear it’s already happening. According to data from Google, 14% of executives have made a direct business purchase from a mobile site, and 90% used smartphones to research business purchases. 34% said that they actually didn’t purchase because of a non-mobile friendly interface. When you segment those executives by age, the data for executives under 40 skew even more wildly in favor of mobile.
In my next blog post, I’ll give you five key considerations in developing a B2B manufacturing website so that you can attract and engage the right audience and turn visits into leads.