How Do You Have A Successful Manufacturing Business That Sells Directly To The Consumer Online?
Manufacturers need a functional eCommerce Strategy. First, evaluate where you want to be versus where you are right now. Next, plan a route to get there. eCommerce strategy can be like a maze. Plan backward and move forward once you know the route or desired outcome.
Manufacturing businesses are behind in the online world. It’s not their fault. In the past, retail stores have done all the selling. Look at what the manufacturing world looked like before everyone started shopping online:
- Retail stores sell the products.
- Trade shows connected manufacturing to retail stores and distributors.
- Big box stores were the end goal for manufacturing.
However, that was it about 8 years ago. The whole goal was to get in as many stores as you could so everyone could enjoy your product. However, times have changed.
So what has changed today?
- Everyone has a mobile phone
- Information is easily accessible
- Online shopping is becoming more popular
- Coupons are everywhere
- Shipping is quick
- Stores like Amazon and eBay
- Having an online store is a real option with an easy way to get to customers.
- Customers can find and buy from manufacturers directly
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1. The Best eCommerce Strategies Are Always Planned Backward
What is the desired outcome that you want to achieve? Do you want to have a brand everyone uses? A multi-million dollar company? The most common goal is to sell as many products as possible. However, this goal is not specific, nor strategic, but it is the most desired outcome I hear in my line of work.
If this is your goal, how are you going to sell more when only a few, if any, have sold?
Now you’ve focused on manufacturing the product and handling the production of the business.
After that, is marketing. Marketing is a whole different story.
Using a hard number will work a ton better, and it needs to be something that you can obtain. If we start with selling 1,000,000 units when you haven’t sold anything, you’ll become overburdened. Start small and obtainable like 100 units in a month.
How will you sell 100 units in a month, and what do you need to do to make that happen?
2. Manufacturers Need a Website
You need to have a place where customers can come and shop. Additionaly, websites need to be user-friendly in a language users will understand.
I’m not talking about English or Spanish.
I’m talking about wording everything for the customer who knows nothing about your product and needs to be educated. It also needs to be so easily explained that a child would understand what your product does.
Confused people lose interest or switch to the analytic mode, which is rarely useful for selling a product.
3. Identify Your Target Market
You already manufacture a product that does something awesome, and it’s designed for specific people. Next, we need to dig down into what that product offers and put it in layman’s terms for others to understand.
Let’s use running shoes as an example.
You’ve designed a shoe that is ultra-lightweight and will help people run faster.
Whom is that running show going to be for? (this needs to be someone that wouldn’t even consider if the product was for them. It needs to be someone that screams “I NEED THAT”)
In this case, it’s track and field or people who run competitively. Not people who run for fun. Leisure runners aren’t going to want to run faster because it’s not a need. Eventually, you will sell your products to those people, but not at first. First, you need to get those who need the product onboard before selling it to the mass population.
Think of Nike
Originally, this is the approach the founders of Nike took. Now everyone wears Nike shoes. It’s also the method of every other successful brand. Before you sell to everyone, sell to people who would say “this is for me”. The more detailed your target market gets, the more they will say, “yes, I need this!” By doing this step first it will help tremendously with advertising. I can’t stress this enough. You are not selling to everyone, yet!
4 Understand issues associated with online shopping
To have a functional eCommerce store, you need to understand the drawbacks customers have shopping online.
Over half of the consumers said the biggest drawback of online shopping is not able to touch, feel, and try a product (51%),
followed by lack of physical shopping experience (24%)
the possibility of damage for a fragile item (11%)
lack of interactivity (5%)
scam & fraud issue (5%)
and delay in delivery (4%)
Now how are you going to solve that problem for the customer? It’s a pretty big concern, and it’s one of the reasons why there is an 80% cart abandonment online.
Customers need to imagine themselves using and feeling the product. The right images, videos, text, reviews, and customer pictures can achieve this. Once they make it up in their mind, this will work for me, and the shopping is a comfortable experience, the sales will start flooding in.
One specific way to bring comfort to the online consumer is through free shipping and returns.
Most manufacturers give free shipping, but not returns. There is a cost associated with returns. Put yourself in the customer shoes, still on the fence, but willing to try your items. They don’t want to pay for the return either. Not having hassle-free returns will make a shopper go somewhere else. Compare your return numbers with orders. Chances are your returns will be low. My store has had three returns in the past two years, and I offer free returns within a certain amount of days.
You have one chance to capture a sale, don’t let something simple get in the way of losing that revenue.
Now let’s take a look at why people do shop online.
58% shop because of the 24/7 ability
54% ability to compare prices
46% Online sales/ better sales
40% Save time
39% convenience of not going to shops
29% Great variety/selection
29% free shipping offers
27% everything in one place
20% to locate hard to find items
15% to avoid crowds
15% products not sold in city/country
11% avoid checkout lines
Everything from that list is convenient for the shopper. Make sure your website—> product —> checkout process is convenient for the shopper. It needs to be straightforward, easy, simple, or KISS, Keep it simple stupid.
5. How To Get Sales
Next is how to get sales. We need to grab people’s attention, so they are captured by the product you manufacture. So, how do we do that?
First, we’ll start with your ideal customer and find where they hang out. So let’s go back to the runner example. Then how would we find runners online?
Tools you can use to find these people.
SEO – Search engine optimization – runners looking for shoes online
Social Media / Ads. / Groups – Social media is to engage with the customer. Join groups and running pages and engage with them. Run detailed ads for a specific group of like-minded people.
Email Marketing – build an email list that talks about running and how to be a better runner.
Blogging– same as an email list but with SEO in mind. example-how to run faster
Online Groups – engage with the group and show off your shoes.
Search Engine Marketing – ( Pay Per Click ) Pay for a spot on the top of Google when anyone searches for running shoes.
Ads – run ads everywhere.
These are just some of the tools that you can use to reach your target audience. Not all tools are right for certain types of business. Right off the bat, everyone needs SEO and Social Media. Everyone is searching on google and is on some kind of media platform. Remember when you are advertising to keep your offer in mind. Your IDEAL customer is the one you are after.
With the right marketing and customer, the sales will come. If you aren’t getting sales, your message is off, or you are giving that message to the wrong customer. That’s why understanding what you are offering and to who is so essential. 9 out of 10 times if you are not getting sell, it’s those 2 things.
Side Note ( Plan backward if you aren’t getting sales. Start with the checkout and go back to see what needs fixing)
6. The customer buying process
Finally, this is for the rest of the customers that will be hesitant.
There are six steps for the consumer to make a purchase and here they are.
- Problem Recognition –I need to run faster
- Information Search -finds out lighter shoes will make you run faster
- Evaluation of Alternatives – comparing different type of shoes
- Purchase Decision – Goes with a pair of shoes
- Purchase– bought shoes
- Post-Purchase Evaluation– did those shoes work for me or live up to what they claimed?
Take your offer, ideal customer, and combine it with the marketing tools. Keep in mind the customer buying process to achieve the ultimate goal of getting them to buy your product.
Using our running example again, marketing with the customer buying process looks like this:
The customer has a problem.
Goes to google to search how to run faster (blog and SEO) ( Reads blog and decided to gets on the email list)
Looks up a different type of shoes to compare (online groups, social media, blogs, Youtube, and others)
The customer has not purchased yet (run ads to retarget people who are interested in running shoes) (email marketing)
Finds the shoes they want and buys (better be your shoes)
Loves the shoes (reviews reminders to show everyone else those shoes work) (emails to keep them up to date because running shoes need to be replaced yearly).
That is just one example to get you to consider where to insert your marketing into the customer’s buying process.
The phase that seems best for marketing is the information search and evaluation of alternatives.
Have you ever searched for the best (product name) or (product name) reviews?
“Top running shoes for beginners.”
After the customer reads the article, they will either make up their mind or continue to look for other products to compare with other reviews.
You want to influence their decision because you do have a superior product. You do that in the first 3 steps. With understanding your offer, you can successfully sell more products to the right customers while influencing the rest of your customers that you are the superior product.
Just to recap everything.
- Make sure the goal is obtainable. Once you obtain the goal, you can set a new goal.
- Have a website that is simple and easy to use.
- Have enough detail about the product that the consumer feels like they are holding it.
- Know your Ideal customer and offer.
- Sell to those people.
- Market your product to those people.
- Understand why people do like shopping online and solve those issues.
- Influence people’s decisions with marketing tools.
Leave a comment and let us know what you think!
I am a marketer that helps manufacturers sell their products directly to their customers. These are the necessary steps that I use when building a strategy for the eCommerce store.
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About the Author
Caleb Grant is the founder of Blanc Ideas, a digital marketing firm founded in 2015. For the past 5 years, he has been deeply involved with the business owners and is shifting the way his clients think about their online presence as not only a cost-effective platform to reach their audience but also a system engineered to drive measurable business-oriented results.