InRiver: B2B digital commerce in manufacturing
A year of disruption…
For the manufacturing sector, the market is ever changing. And while changing customer needs, changing process standards, and changing product demands is nothing more than familiar territory for the industry, “the scale and speed of the change has skyrocketed in recent months and looks to become business as usual going forward,” says in its ‘’ report.
Coupled with external pressures such as political and economic factors, as well as the significant technological shifts that are happening internally within manufacturing, InRiver states that it should be expected that manufacturers will “play a big role in building a better future via sustainability and eco-practices,” and develop “innovative ways of going to market and raises expectations for the customer experience.”
Responding to the industry’s challenges
To better understand the pressures affecting B2B manufacturers, as well as the progress being made in digital commerce and what the most promising routes for future improvements are, InRiver surveyed - in partnership with Vanson Bourne - 200 marketing decision makers in manufacturing in the US, UK, and Germany.
“In what they told us, we found clear areas where manufacturers across the board are unanimous in their outlook. 96% of those surveyed, for example, reported that their organisation now must get products to market faster than it did last year due to the current market situation. Regardless of what they produce, the reality of the pandemic and political upheaval has meant tighter margins and more urgency for manufacturers.”
Digital growth and global challenges
When it comes to international and digital marketing success, InRiver discovered a universal degree of confidence, with 90% agreed that their sales and marketing efforts are successful beyond local markets, and 92% agreed they can quickly update their product information in reaction to changing needs.
In addition, when it comes to more complex digital processes 82% agreed that they can easily identify which product information is affecting sales, with 90% increasingly automating the product information process.
Why is this?
InRiver believes that this enthusiasm could be coming from the industry as a whole becoming more international and digitalised (59% of respondents said they have introduced new product information technology in the last year.)
Other incentives could be the increased pressure to stay competitive, “22% said they are facing ‘significantly more’ competition than they were a year ago. 88% agreed that they have changed their business model, and 96% said that they need to go to market faster due to current market conditions.”
New channels and greater flexibility
“Businesses are moving fast on using innovative technology, rich media, and new channels to bring products to market. None of our respondents said that they are currently working with the same stack of tools for managing product information they were three years ago,” says InRiver.
As production information grows in complexity, so has the use of technology such as automation and artificial intelligence (AI). 90% of respondents agreed that the automation of product information tasks has increased, as well as 94% reportedly using automation and AI to tailor product information for different channels.
Unsurprisingly, those that are leading the way for such technology adoption are the larger organisations, with 98% of organisations with over US$250mn in revenue are using AI and automation, compared to 70% of organisations with less than US$250mn in revenue.
Accurate information and rapid delivery
“The manufacturing industry underpins the world economy: without it, nothing else works. It is hardly surprising, then, that as the world at large accelerates, manufacturers are feeling the pressure to keep pace,” reflects InRiver.
When respondents were asked the three biggest challenges when launching a new product, gathering product information was a popular choice, however at the top of the list 65% stated ‘beating a competitor to market’ was the biggest challenge.
Other significant challenges included:
- The time it takes to create and update product information (51%), with 47% identify that they spend between one and six months on product information when entering a new market or channel
- Product information problems cause delays or product withdrawals (63%
- Customer dissatisfaction because they can’t self-service (51% and 64% in machinery manufacturing)
Customer insights and clearer communication
“While many of the organisations in this survey are finding real success in improving conversion rates with rich product information like videos, these are not one-size-fits-all solutions,” states InRiver.
When asked what would improve their conversion rates the most, respondents identified “knowing what customers expect and how the business stacks up against competitors in this regard” was identified as a top-three priority for 57% and number-one for 21%.
A clear competitive differentiator identified by respondents is trust. , “49% of our respondents agreed that customers are often dissatisfied by products not being as expected. 52% agreed that they lose repeat customers for the same reason.”
Improving trust in products was identified as one of the biggest drivers for maximising conversion rates (28%), which was just ahead of helping people to better see and experience the product.
First Solar to Invest US$684mn in Indian Energy Sector
First Solar is about to set up a new photovoltaic (PV) thin-film solar manufacturing facility in Tamil Nadu, India. The 3.3GW factory will create 1,000 skilled jobs and is expected to launch its operations in Q3 of 2023. According to the company, India needs 25+ gigawatts of solar energy to be deployed each year for the next nine years. This means that many of First Solar’s Indian clients will jump at the chance to have access to the company’s advanced PV.
Said Mark Widmar, First Solar’s CEO: ‘India is an attractive market for First Solar not simply because our module technology is advantageous in its hot, humid climate. It’s an inherently sustainable market, underpinned by a growing economy and appetite for energy’.
A Bit of Background
First Solar is a leading global provider of photovoltaic systems. It uses advanced technology to generate clear, reliable energy around the world. And even though it’s headquartered in the US, the company has invested in storage facilities around the world. It displaced energy requirements for a desalination plant in Australia, launched a source of reliable energy in the Middle East (Dubai, UAE), and deployed over 4.5GW of energy across Europe with its First Solar modules.
The company is also known for its solar innovation, reporting that it sees gains in efficiency three times faster than multi-crystalline silicon technology. First Solar holds world records in thin-film cell conversion efficiency (22.1%) and module conversion efficiency (18.2%). Finally, it helps its partners develop, finance, design, construct, and operate PV power plants—which is exactly what we’re talking about.
How Will The Tamil Nadu Plant Work?
Tamil Nadu will use the same manufacturing template as First Solar’s new Ohio factory. According to the Times of India, the factory will combine skilled workers, artificial intelligence, machine-to-machine communication, and IoT connectivity. In addition, its operations will adhere to First Solar’s Responsible Sourcing Solar Principles, produce modules with a 2.5x lower carbon footprint, and help India become energy-independent. Said Widmar: ‘Our advanced PV module will be made in India, for India’.
After all, we must mention that part of First Solar’s motivation in Tamil Nadu is to ensure that India doesn’t rely on Chinese solar. ‘India stands apart in the decisiveness of its response to China’s strategy of state-subsidised global dominance of the crystalline silicon supply chain’, Widmar explained. ‘That’s precisely the kind of level playing field needed for non-Chinese solar manufacturers to compete on their own merits’.
According to First Solar, India’s model should be a template for like-minded nations. Widmar added: ‘We’re pleased to support the sustainable energy ambitions of a major US ally in the Asia-Pacific region—with American-designed solar technology’. To sum up: Indian solar power is yet the next development in the China-US trade war. Let the PV manufacturing begin.