Advice and Opinion

Digital platforms: empowering manufacturers to become retailers


Manufacturers have had an incredibly challenging past year. Not only did the initial national lockdowns cause local output to drop by nearly 50%, they also faced a squeeze from retailers looking to provide the best possible value to their customers.

Greg Gatherer, Account Manager at Liferay Africa says that under the current circumstances, standing out on price and product is incredibly difficult. The best option would be to compete in customer experience.

That may seem foreign to many manufacturers, who are used to operating on a traditional B2B model but by operating more like retailers, they can reap serious benefits” he says. “Outside of the more streamlined operations and logistics, the overall experience can be improved to levels akin to the best ones that customers get as consumers and this, is something undoubtedly worth investing in”.

Research has shown that consumers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience and in a world where almost everyone carries at least one connected device all the time, this experience is predominantly digital.

This makes a digital experience platform (DXP) particularly important.

To understand why a DXP can be so useful to manufacturers, it is worth taking a closer look at what it is and what it is supposed to do.

A DXP is a digital integration platform, designed to simplify the digital transformation process for organisations and to improve the overall customer experience. Ultimately, the goal of a DXP is to help companies provide the best possible digital experience to its customers, employees, partners, and other stakeholders.

DXPs can incentivise the shift to online. South Africa’s ecommerce space, long lagging behind more developed markets in Europe and America, experienced massive growth in 2020 as people preferred to do all their shopping from home but a shopper will very quickly abandon their cart if they find the online experience frustrating, especially in comparison to the in-store experience.

Anticipating these difficulties, many manufacturers have relied on third-party ecommerce sites to sell their goods, but the royalties and other fees taken by these sites can take a serious bite out of a manufacturer’s revenue.

Fortunately, there is an array of low-code options that allow manufacturers to easily integrate an ecommerce offering into their existing site. By combining a good ecommerce with a DXP, retailers can ensure that they provide a consistently good experience to their customers by gathering insights to address any pain points and to build on what is currently working.

DXPs can enhance onsite operations but ecommerce is not the only way. DXPs allow manufacturers to act more like retailers. Even as more and more people make the move to online buying, there are still customers who will come directly to the manufacturer for the goods they want.

Utilised properly, a DXP can help manufacturers to improve this experience. It can, for example, help equip workers with mobile portals that allow them to see the purchase history and interests of customers they are helping, allow online purchases to be immediately available in person and, give customers info via smartphones on the items they see.

DXPs encourage customer loyalty. Today’s customers are more likely to abandon brands for competitors after only a few poor experiences. While the process may be slower for a manufacturer, especially in the B2B space, organisations are just as willing to change suppliers if they feel their needs are not being met. As such, loyalty is difficult to achieve but it can occur by providing consistent, helpful experiences that reward customers for continued purchases and make them feel known by the company.

Omnichannel support and numerous out-of-the-box features on a good DXP for social, collaboration, and business process automation can help to increase operational efficiency and to deliver the right solutions to the end customer.

The data and insights accessible via a DXP can be vital to encouraging that loyalty by helping to provide the kind of hyper-personal experiences that customers have come to expect.

DXPs streamline operations. Manufacturers are under pressure to decrease the cost of running businesses to meet shifts in profits and many see closing sites and cutting jobs as the way forward. But this is not necessarily the case.

Manufacturers must also look at day-to-day operations such as how headquarters-to-store communications and inventory management. Digitising more processes, something which a DXP simplifies, can eliminate waste, redundancy, and lost time which will save money in both the short and long-term. Many retailers have already led the way on this front and by following their lead, manufacturers can accrue almost all the same benefits.

The manufacturing scenario in South Africa and around the world is changing rapidly. Manufacturers need to adapt to those changes and provide their customers with great experiences both digitally and in the physical world if they are to survive in the long term. Doing so means bringing digital efficiencies to every aspect of their operations and a DXP can be essential to that.