The importance of digital customer experience in the manufacturing industry
Customer and experience are two words that you don’t often encounter in the manufacturing industry. On the whole, manufacturing is an industry focused on the product – rather than how it is presented to the customer – and to some extent, rightly so. Much of the insight usually found within the boardroom walls of a manufacturing giant are typically applied to product design or R&D. The next step in the chain (the B2C offering) is usually handled by the supplier/distributor who sells the end product onto the various customer groups.
But recent research by Gallup reveals 71 percent of B2B companies are at risk of losing customers by not being fully engaged with the companies they do business with, and tend to live from one RFP to the next. These companies will find it hard to compete as the retention of existing clients becomes as important as the acquisition of new ones. Which means relying on the strength of product design and a competitive pricing strategy is no longer enough, they need to view the world through the lens of their customers and priorities the customer experience.
There is good reason why customer experience has become such a modern buzzword, and it is one which is increasingly pertinent for manufacturers. It is all about growing the business from existing clients and improving optimized efficiency to bring in new ones; understanding the relationship your organisation has with customers; and working to improve it through all engagements with the brand. But when faced with this seemingly monolithic task, where should already stretched decision makers start?
A logical place to begin is often the company’s online presence and digital customer experience offered. Business-focused web platforms are developing quickly and are often a manufacturer’s shopfront in an increasingly digital world. It needs to convey a lot more about the business and how it works than acting as a simple online version of a product catalogue. When customers are looking on an organisaiton’s website, whether it’s for something specific or just to find out more about the company and its products, they are looking to be inspired, influenced, engaged and reassured that it is the right supplier or partner for them. The right digital presence can say a lot. Even if those customers are other businesses, they’re still people interacting and they need to be connected with.
The process of evaluating your digital user experience can also be a transformational one for a company. We recently worked with lighting manufacturer iGuzzini to create an online customer experience and digital platform for the company. As a global business, iGuzzini therefore needed to show a unified face to the world across all territories. As part of the process, we spent months working with the business’ customers in different locations around the world, collecting detailed feedback about they used the brand’s website, and what they would want from a new site.
As part of the entire digital experience redesign, we overhauled the structure away from a purely specific product-focused structure, which required a deep knowledge of the products types and models. Instead, the new site is much more intuitive, structured by product type: indoor; outdoor; or style of lighting. There is also a dedicated ‘projects’ section for inspiration, showing how different iGuzzini lighting types are being installed and showcased around the world. Ultimately the platform is catering for two core audience needs - those looking to be inspired about what’s in development and what’s possible with iGuzzini lighting, and those who are intent on finding the specifics and details as quickly as possible.
The process of transforming the entire global digital presence for the brand put the website at the heart of the company’s marketing and customer engagement processes, providing tangible feedback from their diverse international customers front and centre and providing iGuzzini as a whole with valuable insights into what their buyers and end users want from them. It is this kind of improvement in approach, towards a greater understanding of customer needs and building a strategic framework to activate that understanding, where customer experience can pay the greatest dividends for a business-to-business organisation. It provides a fresh perspective on the company from without, and inspires positive change from within.
For many manufacturing businesses, all of this would have them reaching first for the latest technological online presence to make them appear cutting edge and modern. That’s not always the best approach, however. In understanding your customers, and attempting to answer their needs, to put them at the forefront of any transformation of your online presence. Otherwise you could be overcomplicating their experience of you – essentially making it much harder to sell.
It can a be a complicated process – especially if you have a wide range of potential customers engaging with you online – but the right approach can make their journey from finding your business to closing an order much more streamlined. Really, that’s what every commercially focused company exists to do – sell more product. By getting closer to your customers and responding to how they interact with your business, taking a fresh look at your customer experience can not only help you with new business but retain it thereafter.
Tom Dougherty is User Experience Director at Delete
Follow @ManufacturingGL and @NellWalkerMG
Lion Electric to Construct US EV Manufacturing Facility
Who is Lion Electric?
Founded in 2008, is an innovative manufacturer of all-electric, zero-emissions, medium and heavy-duty urban vehicles. Lion Electric designs, manufactures, and assembles all components for its vehicles that have unique features specifically adapted to the users and their needs. “We believe that transitioning to all-electric vehicles will lead to major improvements in our society, environment and overall quality of life,” believes Lion Electric.
Lion Electric’s new Illinois Manufacturing Facility
Just two months after announcing plans to construct a battery manufacturing plant and innovation centre in Quebec, Lion Electric is expanding its locations further, selecting Joliet, Illinois for its new manufacturing facility in the US.
The new facility is said to “represent the largest dedicated production site for zero-emission medium and heavy-duty vehicles in the US,” as well as being the company’s biggest footprint in the market. The new facility will give Lion Electric the capacity to meet increasing demand for ‘Made in America’ zero-emission vehicles and bring production closer to customers.
It is expected that the first vehicles off the production line will be in the second half of 2022.
“Lion’s historic investment to bring its largest production facility to Illinois represents not only a win for our communities, but a strong step forward in our work to expand clean energy alternatives and the jobs they bring to our communities,” said Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
“The new Joliet facility will put Illinois at the forefront of a national movement to transition to zero-emission vehicle use, advancing our own goals of putting one million of these cars on the road by 2030. In Illinois, we know that a clean energy economy is about more than just vehicles – it’s about healthier communities and jobs for those who live there. We are excited to welcome Lion to the Land of Lincoln and look forward to their future success here.”
Lion Electric’s Agreement with the Government of Illinois
Over the next three years, Lion Electric will invest a minimum of US$70mn into Illinois. The new facility - totalling 900,000 square feet - is expected to create a minimum of 745 clean energy direct jobs in the next three years, and have an annual production capacity of up to 20,000 all electric buses and trucks.
Scaling electric bus production and decarbonising freight and transportation
As the US moves to electrifying its school buses, the additional production capacity at the facility will help Lion Electric to scale its electric bus production, as well as produce an increased volume of heavy-duty zero-emission trucks to help governments and operators in the US further the decarbonisation of freight and transportation fleets.
“Lion is the leader in electric school buses and has always been dedicated to the U.S. market, and our commitment to be close to our customers is one of the core values we have as a company. This significant expansion into the U.S. market will not only allow us to drastically increase our overall manufacturing capacity of electric trucks and buses but to also better serve our customers, while adding critical clean manufacturing jobs that will form the backbone of the green economy,” said Marc Bedard, CEO and Founder of Lion.
“I also want to acknowledge the crucial role that P33 and Intersect Illinois, civic groups committed to developing developing a long-term roadmap for the local tech industry, played in connecting Lion with the Chicago area’s business and civic community to help further commercial traction, as well as engagement with key workforce and supplier partners.”