The world of material supply and demand is shifting fast into the digital sphere. This is making sales and purchases easier for a more productive system than ever. This is the digital revolution.
Most consumers have already made the shift to eCommerce with the likes of Amazon, which in 2016 had been visited by 82 percent of the UK’s internet users in one month. B2B eCommerce is also making the shift with a value of $780 billion in 2015 and a projected growth to $1.2 trillion by 2020. That places it at four times the current B2C spending.
Manufacturers need an Online Presence
According to a study by United Parcel Service Inc. 63 percent of industrial supplies, buyers say they are now purchasing online. In the same study, buyers were asked what is most important to them when making a purchase and 74 percent said that it was the online purchasing supplier’s website.
Thanks to consumer buying sites like Amazon, a similar level of ease, access to product information, pricing and shipping transparency are expected on business to business buying websites. The problem for businesses occurs when trying to create this buying platform alone where the integration of financial, inventory management, sales and communications systems becomes challenging. As a result, businesses are moving online to third-party platforms which allow manufacturers and suppliers to find each other with ease.
In 2015 a study by UPS Industrial Buying Dynamics found that distributor websites were the top channel used by 66 percent of industrial product buyers making industrial purchases.
How Can the Materials Industry Benefit?
Material buyers have a very specific requirement when making purchases. For this reason, the way online search tools work make them ideal for finding a particular material. For example, buyers on the platform Matmatch are able to search for exactly what they’re looking for and have results paired to them so that they find the best seller for the job. On the flip side, this also means that sellers are finding new buyers more easily.
Since this connection can be made at the speed that online information sharing allows, companies, designers, engineers plus research and development teams can be working with the material supplier right from the inception of a project. Thanks to specific search term narrowing it’s now possible for buyers to find exactly what they want. Filtering options on Matmatch include the application of the material, properties like melting points, categories such as metals or ceramics, material shapes such as bars or sheets, and supplier locations.
An additional benefit of moving to online platforms is the ability to promote products. Suppliers are able to share examples of how their materials are used and demonstrate their expertise to a large global audience. This can help them both cement their leadership position in existing industries and show how their materials could be applied in new areas.
What do Buyers Want from the Online Experience?
According to a UPS study, buyers that use online platforms expect to have full product descriptions backed up by detailed specification sheets and instruction manuals. There is also often the option to read reviews left by other buyers as well as how-to videos. For the materials industry, a platform that allows sellers to explain their product and show off its use cases is an ideal way to fulfill that online need of buyers.
The rise of mobile also has to be considered. More and more people are using their mobile devices to do research and even find products. Mobile allows buyers to source items at any time, from any location, and even be notified of new materials that become available. Therefore, having a website that is optimized for mobile browsing is key. What’s more, in 2015 Google’s search engine algorithm was updated to negatively mark sites that weren’t mobile-friendly, so businesses that don’t keep up to speed will lose out. The good news is that most new online platforms are already mobile-optimized, so suppliers have a shortcut to reaching customers on mobile simply by listing their products on these platforms.
Inventory lists need to be up-to-date. A massive 93 percent of buyers in industry rate product availability as highly important. This is one of the benefits of using online platforms to buy materials as they can be live, giving an up to date inventory feature which allows buyers to access what they need immediately. This applies both to deliveries but also to collections, depending on locality.
The buying process is different for businesses and so too are the digital platforms that facilitate them. There may be an expectation from buyers to have negotiated prices, volume discounts, credit terms and use of corporate procurement systems to work with invoicing and receivables management. Supply chain control, shipping mode and delivery speed are all also areas where businesses may want online data or control.
Don’t Let Digital Leave You Behind
Using online platforms like Matmatch, buyers and sellers are able to find each other and make sure materials can be efficiently and effectively sourced.
The savings for suppliers and increased ability to source resources for researchers and manufacturers are so significant that this digital shift, alongside IoT advances in the field of manufacturing, is being called the fourth industrial revolution.
As the shift from offline to online business continues to accelerate it is becoming increasingly important for manufacturers to ensure that they can be found online to make sure that they remain part of the revolution and don’t get left behind.
This article was produced in partnership with AZO Materials.