Back before the world was dominated by screens, industrial manufacturers were able to stay ahead of the competition by having the latest technology or the most advanced products.
Now, in our increasingly connected world, customers have a wealth of information at their fingertips via the internet. They are in control of the research process and expect easy and frictionless sales experiences.
Industrial manufacturers are discovering that digital tools and platforms used throughout a customer’s purchase journey have become just as important as the machines on the factory floor.
At August, we have had the good fortune to partner with several forward-thinking industrial manufacturers over the years. In this article, we share some of our learnings from our work together – things for you, as an industrial manufacturer, to consider in improving the purchase journey for your customers.
Physical vs. digital journeys.
Imagine, for one moment, you are preparing to embark on a physical journey to somewhere you have never been before. You need to be prepared to ensure you get there safely and on time. But, while your own preparation is important, a successful journey is not solely dependent on you. There are other, external factors that have the potential to make your journey more, or less, pleasurable.
What if a road is closed? Or you get stuck in traffic? Or a road sign is missing and you go the wrong way? Or your phone decides to stop working so you can’t use it to navigate?
As you’ll see, other people are responsible for the success of your journey.
When it comes to a customer’s digital journey – to find a manufacturer to help them solve their problem, or achieve their vision – you as an industrial manufacturer are one of those ‘other’ people.
A customer wants to get to their destination. You are responsible for ensuring that they get there. That they don’t get stuck, get confused, or go the wrong way. Such as, to your competitor.
Let’s look at some ways to make that digital customer journey as stress-free as possible.
On the map: Ensuring customers know about you.
Once a person has decided what they want to do (e.g. go on a hike) the first step of their journey is to research the options available to them. In a digital customer journey, you need to ensure you are one of those options.
For example, when a potential customer searches in Google for services that you offer, you should appear as high as possible. Or when they are flicking through YouTube for content relating to your industry, there you are.
There are many considerations needed to create a successful off-site presence. While this list is by no means exhaustive, here are a couple of things to consider:
- Ensure search engines can understand your site: Simple site structure and clear navigation and language are essential to ensure your site is easy for search engines to understand. Here, your prime objective is to help search engines access, crawl, interpret and index your website without any problems. For example, when updating the navigation for Clover, we ensured the new navigation provided direct links to third-tier product pages, increasing traffic growth to these pages. We removed accordions (which hide content), and correctly tagged pages and content with schema markup and alt tags.
- Use off-site factors to make you site appear credible, relevant and trustworthy. Everything that links to your site adds to your business’s credibility and provides further avenues for customers to find you. Ensuring that all signs, from all directions, lead back to you. With Bermad this included optimising their YouTube channel (through which we regularly published fresh video content), Google Business listings, and LinkedIn company page.
The right information: Providing content that meets expectations.
Being on the map is one thing, but there’s more you can do to help customers get to their destination with a smile on their face. In a physical journey, people expect certain information to be available to them. Like how their Sat Nav gives them the time/distance remaining in their journey, or when it provides them with an alternative route to miss some traffic which has formed up ahead.
In a digital customer journey, you want your website visitors to move through your site with ease, understanding exactly what’s in front of them, and providing signposts to help them keep moving forward. That’s where content comes in.
A&L Windows is one of Australia’s largest window and door manufacturers. To reflect their commitment to industry, homeowners, volume builders, and architects, they recognised the need to create content to support the unique needs and motivations of many different audience groups. This was done in a couple of different ways:
Leveraging internal insight, to make complicated information easy to understand or access. A&L’s products and services—whether manufacturing and logistics, product design, or in-field implementation—are defined by highly technical and sophisticated subject matter. To capitalise on this, we tapped into the expertise of the people in the business, so that we could better serve the people interacting with the business. Some examples include:
- Insights into regulatory practice to ensure builders are aware of crucial industry developments
- Technical information to support the people through project planning
- How-to content and after-sales support materials, to ensure builders have they insight they need while installing on site
Tell stories that inspire confidence in service and capability. In the manufacturing sector, the proof of your offering is largely in the product, or the processes that support the delivery of your product. What are your DIFOT metrics? How robust is your supply chain? What infrastructure or measures do you have in place to support your clients and deliver the highest quality products in the manner they expect? If you’re good at what you do, have the confidence to show it off and tell those stories for potential and existing customers.
- Show off the robustness of your processes and team cohesion
- Highlight awards and recognition, like product quality or high praise from industry bodies
- Celebrate the improvements you’ve made in system and process implementation
- Highlight your expertise and experience
All the right signposts: Completing the journey with effective CRO.
While content ensures people get the information they need on their journey, CRO, or conversion rate optimisation, focuses on providing the signposts and encouragement to get them there.
Simple design and language changes can be the difference between being a visitor of a site and becoming a customer. Recognising that a call-to-action is the bridge between content and conversion to sale, A&L Windows and Clover Pipelines both made seemingly small changes to their sites to create a huge impact.
- Making call to action (CTA) buttons work harder for A&L windows. Simple changes such as increasing placement and adding them to the global website header, as well as combining this with a ‘sticky’ navigation (a fixed, visible navigation menu) on the product pages, have significantly increased their number of quote requests across the site.
- Allowing Clover to increase their conversion rates. Clover provide the perfect example of how simply changing the styling of the button can increase conversions and improve sales.
So, now we have attracted our audience, directed them through the site and converted them into a customer.
What else could we possibly do to improve sales?
Ensuring repeat visits: Turning new customers into loyal customers.
Customer service is critical – even in the digital process. Bermad Water Technologies (BWT) products set the industry standard for quality, consistency, and flexibility. It makes sense that their educational content and support resources do the same.
- Providing customer value through a range of compelling practical resources. By considering the audience, we were able to work to provide a series of practical resources —including innovative training videos. Compelling and easy to find and understand, they are designed to provide real value to their customers. Plus, they’re free. They always will be. All this works to consolidate relationships. The result is that, within three years, these training resources have become invaluable, by facilitating repeat sales.
- Going the extra mile to support customers – with an in-field live video service. A telephone support service is good, but how could BWT provide truly impactful support to their customers when working on instalments? By offering real-time after sales support for water professionals, the live field support means you can call a service line in business hours and access a private video call with a BWT service technician. The video is crucial, so the call participants can showcase the issue with the implementation and see BWT interact with the technical products to guide clients through their issues.
In both cases, BWT have proven that when you consistently provide value, you eventually become invaluable.
So where could you invest to benefit from maximum improvement?
It’s no secret that digital marketing has, historically, had a low priority in the manufacturing industry. Now a sector playing catch-up, manufacturers are allocating a larger portion of their budget to digital marketing and expecting to see results throughout the sales cycle.
There may be one area worthy of investment – but chances are there are many. Only through taking stock and considering your priorities, can you assess investment of time and money in the most effective areas.
The truth is, the customer journey is a never ending one. There will always be improvements to be made. Just as machine upgrades improve quality and efficiency, real digital value only comes by continually re-evaluating and improving the process. There’s always something that can be improved and, if you are testing correctly, no project in your industrial digital strategy should ever really be final.
A journey with no end.