The approach that industrial manufacturers take to market digital products and services is becoming increasingly critical to their success in the era of digital disruption. Today, business customers are acting more like consumers, expecting a more personalized, immersive experience instead of the traditional sale. This shift requires that companies adopt an entirely different sales and marketing approach to drive growth.
Accenture research shows that growing numbers of industrial customers are transforming into what we call industrial consumers faster than the organizations they buy from are embracing the trend. More than 80 percent of companies surveyed are becoming more knowledgeable, self-directed and informed buyers, seeking relevant products, tailored expertise and innovative experiences that can be reinvented to meet their changing needs. For example, a leading tire manufacturer provides tires as a service as well as a product, while a major Chinese e-commerce company now offers online sourcing for industrial companies.
At the same time, 84 percent of industrial executives surveyed—roughly the same amount—already believe delivering the differentiated experience that customers now expect can boost their competitive advantage. But some might not be fully prepared to make the transition. Moreover, Accenture’s experience with clients suggests that, by doing so, high-performing industrial companies could achieve an improvement in EBIT of up to 4 percent. Adopting such an approach will become increasingly crucial to competing in the rapidly evolving market.
Accenture recently opened a new Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) Innovation Center in the Detroit market to help industrial manufacturers keep pace with the growing demand for customized products and services. The center is part of Accenture’s $1.4 billion investment in Industry X.0 to help industrial companies reimagine their business in the digital economy.
The pace of digital advances is likely to accelerate in the coming years. By 2020, high-performing industrial companies with a laser focus on satisfying the industrial consumer are expected to eclipse the competition by a significant margin. So, how should industrial manufacturers reorient their marketing focus to compete in this new era?
Stay ahead of expectations
To create compelling customer engagement by 2020, there needs to be a deeper understanding of customer interaction at all touchpoints—from pre-sales to delivery and service. Developing a 360-degree view of the customer will help companies fine-tune customer interactions, organization structures and processes to adapt to and anticipate the changing purchasing behaviors and needs of today’s industrial customer.
Organizations should consider taking the following actions to aid the process:
- Involve all stakeholders in customer interactions—including those along the value chain that have a high impact on customer satisfaction—to align customer perspectives and touchpoints with the organization. This should include touchpoints such as social listening and online contacts, and involve the deployment of supporting technologies, such as artificial intelligence, or learning-based success factors to automatically trigger next steps or offers.
- Engage customers continuously in the company’s product, sales and service experience. In addition, provide capabilities that enable them to configure the products and services they want online, and leverage crowd-source input to drive innovation.
- Transition from product-centricity to customer-centricity by connecting product divisions with sales and service operations to provide seamless customer interaction with a focus on quality management, delivery and commissioning, or usage-based technology requirements.
- Align all information across all online and offline channels. Customers seek multiple channels during their buying and operating lifecycle. Ensure that all information is up-to-date and available in real time. Moreover, consider offering an online augmented reality product and service platform for customers and intermediaries, or interactive digital product presentations and configurators.
- Identify and deploy digital technologies that provide more efficient, effective customer interaction. Eighty-five percent of the surveyed executives believe engaging customers through digital channels and technologies will improve interactions with them, and 79 percent feel that digital technologies will provide major opportunities to reduce cost.
Customer expectations are transforming at speed, upending traditional ways of marketing industrial products. Companies that can provide digitally enabled, value-added products and services with immersive experiences will be in a much better position to grow in the changing industrial market.
>>Brian Irwin, firstname.lastname@example.org, is managing director, automotive and industrials, North America, and products Industry X.0 consulting for Accenture. Bernd Hirschle, email@example.com, is industrial consumerism lead for Accenture.