Today everybody talks and thinks about keeping up and surviving in a dynamically changing world. Changes have caught us on the hop, and social isolation is a new normal. But we can’t isolate ourselves from each other at all and forever. Humans are social and tribal beings.
We want to help businesses grasp the challenge and provide a more stable future for all consumer chain participants: sellers, customers, and servicing staff. Given this, we picked up insights from market representatives, sales, marketers, and manufacturers who shared their opinions and tips on dealing in a changing world. And also, we will take a word to add our opinion on digital solutions.
Activity in many sectors tends to drop during the pandemic recession in 2020. The most exposed to the corona impact turned out to be highly human-dependent industries such as consumer services, leisure and hospitality, transportation, education, manufacturing, and others. In the US, unemployment climbed to an unprecedented 14,7% rate. Wholesale and retail are in the zone sensitive to economic shakes with 17% of down.
Despite the decline in investment expenditure in many sectors, we saw a leap forward in particular areas where software spendings tend to grow since early April. An increase of demand is in video conference apps, team collaboration, task and time management tools, online talent hubs, e-learning platforms, healthcare automation, and management solutions, electronic document management, intelligent supply chain, online delivery apps, online lending platforms, and others.
Consumer-retailer interactions have altered shifting to more contactless with a surge of going online of many brick-and-mortar businesses. Even manufacturers settled at home. The remote work frequency in the US went up from 2 to 61% since the pandemic (McKinsey). As communication and socialization went online, remote collaboration tools like Zoom, Slack, and TeamViewer are blooming along with messengers and social platforms.
Mariann Marinberg, Director of Marketing and Events at Prestige Imports, says about retention and special care of their international clients trying to provide far more luxurious cars:
“Retention is incredibly important. To invest in acquiring clients is a primary focus for us and every business. We never shut down. We ensured conveniences for our clients, feeding up communities to continue keep in touch, arranging the education of new clients on our products and services, because Miami is the second home for most of our clients.”
Beliefs of John Lund, Vice President, Sales and Marketing at Thern, Inc., are around a quick recovery of the manufacturing sector due to the precautions taken by the leadership.
“The number one priority for the post-pandemic period is the ability to respond to a rebound in orders and revenue-generating activity. Many manufacturers have laid off or furloughed employees. As the economy comes back, it will likely come back very quickly, rather than little by little as seen in past economic downturns. Manufacturers must have a solid “return to work” program in place, weeks before seeing the shift in order patterns.”
It entails digitization. Digitization in the most vulnerable sites in the business where overmanual operations are unjustified. The global industry reality is as above. I want to take the floor on the issue. Let’s talk more closely about the shift from human interaction to interactive interface and how you can execute it well.
It seems it’s too late to do anything because everything falls to pieces. However, believe us, we have been working with B2B e-commerce for over 10 years. The 2008 crisis unsettled many and made pulling their belts in a notch real hard.
Many years later, we see that withstood those who had implemented automated conveniences beforehand and achieved positive results. Our clients bet on an electronic document workflow, business process automation, logistics and inventory management, mobile apps for communication with staff and customers, and software solutions to serve customers.
Retail and communication tools for dealers
In the USA, the indicator that a crisis occurs is that people stop buying cars. We have been working with the automotive industry for over ten years. Despite car sales in the US, dropping 38% since the crisis, the auto market is expected to recover among the first. People eager to return to their previous life will prefer road travel for vacations as a safer way to avoid crowds and get away still. But only wishing doesn't make it so. To ensure industry recovery can help automated retail and communication tools for dealers. It will work for any industry.
Choose the right e-commerce platform
What we have now is the unreadiness of the entire world to inaction. To correct previous mistakes is senseless. You have to do now what will work tomorrow. Implement an e-commerce system even if you sell bulks of paintings from the Louvre. Even if your goods are atypical to be sold online now, it's the new normal. It is a safe, contactless, and popular sales channel. To highlight the point, online sales in the US jumped up to 50% in the pandemic April.
Eric Fescenmeyer, Marketing Manager, ADDere Additive Manufacturing, says that a useful tool to assist business and get to profitability as quickly as possible now is an e-commerce system. Businesses should move forward to the modernization and don't get attached to legacy tools:
"Many industries, even in the B2B space, operate on thin margins built on large volumes. It's important to be ready to accept orders as quickly as possible. That means bringing back the workforce in a safe and economical manner and getting production systems up to speed without issues. The other side of that coin is there's also a lot of businesses sitting on a lot of inventory that wasn't able to be moved during the pandemic, so it's just as important to clear that before going forward."
Small business is closer than others to be endangered. If you are small and need to take urgent measures, consider software as a service (SaaS) as a quick start because of its rapid deployment. Fast-deployed e-commerce solutions like Shopify, Wix, and Weebly have been gaining in spring 2020 due to the global contactless isolation with continuing demand on particular groups of goods. Be ready to welcome your customers streamed across digital borders.
Transform to the contemporary commerce
Companies were pushed to rethink business-as-usual priorities. An online grocery ordering and delivery is a common thing now. If you are a pharmacy, you probably have a website with a catalog of items. It makes sense to add a shopping and delivery option to transform it into an e-store in areas if it is legal. To implement it, you need to partner with a delivery service looking to expand its market.
Locally those survived who converted to delivery. People isolated themselves in small neighbor communities and switched to the local services. For example, UberEats scaled back their foreign expansion in 8 countries ceding to local delivery services that became more adaptive to the market.
Localization will work for manufacturers with suffering supply chains as well. Since some companies kept producing materials while quarantine, overproduction appeared. To overcome weaknesses in sourcing parts and services, Eric suggests focusing on marketing to the local consumers: “Supply bases will need to be broadened with alternate, more local sources will need to be found.”
Expand business models
The post-pandemic market expects players to be more flexible. If earlier B2C sales differed by its high-tech component, it would penetrate a B2B sales process where a personal relationship between C-Levels was dominant.
Going from a B2B to the B2B2C commerce model allows you to keep it afloat and probably even grow a market share selling directly to your end users. There are ready-to-use e-commerce solutions that can help on the way of expansion. For example, SAP Commerce Cloud with a suit for B2B2C market representation can be fairly named as a recession-proof platform, Salesforce scales with self-service ordering, BOPIS (buy online, pick up in-store) and curbside capabilities, and Magento completes the offer with a merged B2C/B2B commerce functionality.
Also, a healthy choice for wholesale is adding mobile apps to pick decision-makers' pockets. It will ultimately straighten their offer and allow leverage the potential of both B2B and B2C sales with direct customer reach. (You can read more about SAP for wholesale distribution in our article about it.)
Integrate with delivery operators
It is often that online purchases are on the rise now. For example, it is problematic to study and touch offline a heavy precision lathe of 1,550 lbs that costs over $20 000. The client can discover specs, have a talk with a sales consultant but don’t buy it in person. Such a special-purpose B2B company can arrange a seamless, safe purchase through an e-commerce+delivery pair. You can sell a precision lathe under payment on delivery terms. The goods will be dispatched to the delivery operator for warehousing. The client can come to the warehouse, touch it, pay off, and take it away.
You say, where is automation? I say, ERP. You manage partnerships with multiple shipping carriers, control complex settlements with them eliminating steps on the customer journey, extend the market geography, scale, and get more chances to survive during a recession doing it automatically. You say, hmm, continue. I say, CRM. You record all customer data and can apply different target methods to increase loyalty and reach your target customer.
Partner with vendors that solve similar issues
There are a lot of turnkey solutions, but not all of them can fit your business out-of-the-box. Thus, you may need it to be tailored to your requirements. In this case, software vendors' help is highly welcomed to adapt your business rapidly to dynamic market conditions.
When it is unaffordable for you to implement new or customize current software, address the companies with similar profile experience. Indeed, you have a business partner or competitor at a pinch (in this war, we all are on the same anti-COVID ship) to advise a couple of reliable vendors.
Small business should adapt quickly
If you are in serious trouble with your paper CRMs and ERPs, any way you have a chance to go digital and come to the surface. Being a particularly vulnerable small business is struggling to survive. It needs some ready-to-use and straightforward online solutions to cope with a new sales channel and quickly reach the customer. They must be lean. It’s time when you shift digitization improvements from a nice-to-do to a have-to-do priority.
For example, a small business with no staff highly needs a management toolset to record clients’ orders. A little staffed business needs an already task assignment tool with a priority assignment feature to manage and control an implementation status following a fact-based report. I talk about ERP and CRM.
Also, there are many factors at play to use third-party services like Trello, Telegram, Slack, and others to control time and task tracking automatically. In e-commerce, the must-have tools are those that automate order processing, pickup, and delivery of goods. A staffed call center is invalid both for small and large businesses.
Manufacturers, don’t save on solutions
Any routine should be automated. Factory-centric apps, AI-equipped, IoT robotics, automated supply chains with inventory sensors to facilitate and reduce the price of operation will come in handy for plants and retailers of any size. Sure it costs you money, but it is worth the expense in outpacing niche competitors stuck in the past with legacy thinking. Even though technological novelties are expensive, they will be cheaper than employees under rising labor costs and are more reliable in the long term. Scanners won't leave, fall sick, but will operate for a long time.
"Industries that have relied on manual processes and have postponed, dodged, or completely avoided the prior threat of relying on one or two revenue streams to generate their profits will find themselves combating more nimble companies with people and processes already in place," says Vicky Herron.
It will give manufacturers a portion of relief to spread revenue channels across many distribution channels, among which online B2B stores could be. Automatization of relationships with customers and resource management are therefore urgently needed. If there is ERP in disorder, then expect credit-debit disbalance. If CRM is out of order, it can turn into discounts to a client who has never bought anything. It is hard to swindle a computer; in contrast, people tend to steal and lie, particularly during heavy times.
If you produce and distribute, let's say bears, why not try to sell them with a 3D product viewer through your B2B e-commerce system? Chatbots will come in handy for manufacturers to drive rapid efficiencies via intelligent conversation with equipment. Employees can inquire about supplies, capacity, delivery, and equipment metrics faster, avoiding to use multiple apps.
Large business should rely on partners
Large businesses shouldn’t put all eggs into one basket. The large will get an opportunity to try their partners going leaner thoroughly. Choosing technological partners, cooperate with different vendors implementing digital solutions that reduce superfluous manual labor and human errors. First things first, implement automated workflow systems, omnichannel e-commerce platforms, return options for B2B companies, and digital assistants as the core website functionality with those experienced in the topic.
When the human element turns digital, gaining the client becomes harder. You are deprived of personal contact as a key factor in deals. The only thing left is a well-thought qualitative digital contact. “The information clients will be using to validate the information and establish credibility will be online. Companies that have anticipated the needs and questions of their customers and have created content that establishes their credibility will be perceived as leaders in their market,” affirms Vicky Herron. On top of the above mentioned, add the right digital face. It related to any business or industry.
The world will revive. We will become a hardy race after a corona stress-test. Many understood how important it is to be ready for “suddens.” Business and society had to be shifted to accepting innovations as a tool to enhance the economic efficiency of companies and enterprises. The messaging around automatization is pretty clear. Indeed, it helps to have someone to lean on now more than ever. We wish you to find a reliable strategic partner with whom it would be easier to jump through hoops whenever you move.
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