Manufacturing & Distribution CX Insights

Jeff Pratt, Commerce Practice Director

Earlier in the year Verndale surveyed hundreds of customer experience decision makers for our first-annual Solving for CX report. Within that survey data are key insights for specific industry verticals that shed light on how organizations view CX as a catalyst for growth, and what challenges they need to overcome to connect every dot of the customer journey back to their bottom line.

For Manufacturing & Distribution organizations, survey data revealed two major disconnects with regard to personalization and its connection to the customer experience broadly, and commerce specifically. Below you will find summaries of these challenges, along with an overview of why companies in these industries should prioritize an investment in CX to drive growth.

Disconnect #1: Personalization & CX

Our survey results suggest there is an imperfect understanding within Manufacturing & Distribution organizations of the intimate connection between personalization and the customer experience. While 94% of respondents in these industries believe they will fall behind the competition if they don’t improve their customer experience, and also report that they often fail to deliver the personalization their customers crave, less than 20% report that CX is crucially important to their organizations’ strategic objectives. In addition, 47% report that they believe their organization feels like the customer experience is not very, or not at all important in meeting those objectives. This rather stunning dichotomy is further emphasized by the fact that while 97% report that their organization needs to improve its personalization capabilities, and 74% feel like they are not delivering a seamless experience across channels, only 60% report that optimizing that experience would definitely or probably provide tangible business results.

Disconnect #2: Personalization & Commerce

From a commerce perspective, the survey findings report that over 90% of respondents believe that personalization is crucial to deliver a good customer experience, and that almost 90% believe improvements in the customer journey will lead to increased revenue for their business. But, over 70% believe their organization’s B2B commerce leaders are somewhat or highly reactive when it comes to adopting new trends – even though 60% believe B2B customers are increasingly demanding B2C experience in a B2B context. In addition, 97% believe AI or machine learning will be a huge help in optimizing complex commerce challenges (including, importantly, personalization) - yet only 21% report that these technologies are currently enabling better customer experiences for their organization.

Collectively, these findings point to important challenges for Manufacturing & Distribution organizations, but also, as I’ll get to later, a massive opportunity. With such a clear emphasis on the opportunity to drive business through personalization, why do less than 1 in 5 organizations claim that customer experience is crucial to their strategic objectives? Why are Manufacturing & Distribution organizations reactive and slow to adopt advanced technology, even when it can help separate them from the pack?

The answer is complex, and underscores the digital divide that is inhibiting growth for organizations in these industries. In large part, Manufacturing & Distribution companies are at a critical inflection point – rethinking their business and their customers relationships in a digital context. For large businesses with complicated multi-channel customers pathways and extensive inventories, this is a daunting task. Bridging this digital chasm is not as simple as building a new website, or updating a CRM. It requires change at every level of the organization, and an investment in the technology and processes to make it work.

In addition, there is also likely some confusion regarding the semantics of customer experience and personalization at play here. While these terms are not synonymous, they are intrinsically connected. Personalization, in a modern digital context, is the cornerstone of the customer experience. The survey data reflects this lack of clarity, with a vast majority of respondents acknowledging the importance of personalization in driving engagement and revenue, while simultaneously downplaying the critical importance of the customer experience itself.

Finally, there can be biases toward marketing technologies with regard to how they disrupt established sales strategies, and customer relationship management. In years-past it was hard to envision digital solutions that replicated the personal and consultative experience customers were looking for. Thankfully, there are several excellent customer experience platforms commercially available today that enable personalization at scale in ways that were never possible before.

The opportunity to leverage customer experience technology and personalization to gain a competitive advantage over the competition and increase the lifetime value of existing customers should be enticing. This sweet spot of opportunity and low adoption leaves open a massive whitespace that can be claimed by first-movers.

Why invest in personalization and customer experience optimization?

  • Increase Engagement of Current Customers: In an industry that is largely relationship driven, and historically built around offline connections, many Manufacturing & Distribution companies struggle with digital transformation with respect to relationship management. But by leveraging modern marketing technologies with robust personalization capabilities grounded in customer data, order history, and key industry information - these companies can now drive more relevant, efficient, and targeted interactions and recommendations with their customers.
  • Increase Acquisition of New Customers: In the same way an organization's best sales people understand how to personalize a one-to-one customer relationship - knowing what questions to ask, and what products to recommend - a modern customer experience platform can personalize every interaction with new prospects (web, mobile, search, content, etc.) to ensure each step of the customer journey is relevant, valuable, and frictionless.
  • Drive Operation Efficiency: Syncing online and offline operations and processes through modern customer experience platforms, enables efficiencies across every team and department of the organization. For example, customer data is captured and shared across each stage of the sales funnel, and machine learning enables automation that helps qualify prospects as sales-ready.

Need help with understanding how personalization of the customer experience can help drive growth for your business? Contact us to learn more.