COVID-19 has turned business and manufacturing worlds upside-down. Although, at first, the question of survival was placed on brick-and-mortar B2C businesses, it’s only becoming clearer that B2B operations were also seriously affected.
Adaptation has always been the manufacturer’s motto, and in unprecedented times such as these, it has never been more relevant. But what exactly does adaptation look like for manufacturing businesses in the modern world? The answer to that question lies within the concept of ‘digital transformation’.
What is ‘Digital Transformation’?
Digital transformation can be defined loosely as the digitalisation of the process of manufacturing, the process of buying and the process of selling to businesses and consumers. This may seem like a complicated, scary idea (especially when trying to sell it to upper management), but the actual process can be surprisingly easy, with huge benefits to your business and, ultimately, to consumers themselves.
With the invention of the internet and the increasing popularity of online shopping, the move towards digital transformation is becoming more vital than ever for businesses to survive. Digital transformation has also provided the perfect opportunity for some manufacturers to move from B2B or B2C operations to more streamlined and customer-friendly ‘Direct to Consumer’ methods (D2C).
Although some businesses have had digital transformation in the pipeline for many years, the pandemic has forced these companies to accelerate the process in order to be able to adapt quickly to a fluctuating climate. The innate adaptability of digitisation is seen by many as not just essential within the COVID-19 climate, but essential to thrive within a post COVID world.
What are the Benefits of Digital Transformation?
The pandemic has shown that digital transformation is the proven future for manufacturing, providing stability and adaptability to businesses all over the world. Even in an alternate reality outside of our current COVID induced instability, digital manufacturing comes with huge positives that just can’t be ignored.
Cost Reduction and Increased Productivity
Research and Development (R&D), although a critical aspect of every business, has always been a cumbersome process. It also tends to incur a huge amount of time and monetary cost, with some companies spending in excess of ¬£10 bn per year in this area. With digital transformation, computer algorithms and machine learning can almost fully automate this process of information gathering with the additional benefit of being able to autonomously make decisions based on the information gathered.
Customer Satisfaction and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software
This same AI is not only a key player behind the scenes of manufacturing, but also on the consumer level. AI can track exact product data including the purchasing habits of current customers, as well as intent and emotional analysis of product feedback. The AI uses machine learning to identify emotional responses and overall intent to the unstructured, written feedback provided by consumers.
CRM also enables rich profiles to be developed for every consumer a business interacts with, housing lots of useful information to give Sales and Marketing a 360-degree view of the customer journey. This includes data such as previous purchases and past communications, which can be leveraged as part of a customer loyalty strategy.
This ability to collect and adapt to any customer feedback quickly and precisely hugely increases overall customer satisfaction and, in turn, causes an increase in sales.
eCommerce and D2C Operations
Technology is all around us, on our desks, in our pockets and even on our wrists. People are currently more connected to each other than ever before. Products and services can now be found at the end of a simple Google search or via the opening of an app. So, how could this new-found connectivity be utilised by businesses and manufacturers to increase sales and reduce costs? This is where eCommerce comes in.
Digital transformation and digital manufacturing go beyond the reorganisation of the production process, it can also be used to streamline customer experience. eCommerce enables a totally new retail avenue where the connected nature of today’s society can be used to advertise and sell products and services directly to the consumer. This process allows your business to not only have a closer relationship to your customers, but to reduce costs by selling directly to the consumer.
How Exactly Do I Go About Pivoting My Business Through Digital Transformation?
Digital transformation can, at times, seem like a disruptive and somewhat chaotic process. There are of course initial costs to be fronted regarding the purchasing of new technologies, as well as having an IT desk competent and staffed enough to handle such a task. There may even be some employee reluctance to change as well as some scepticism from higher up, but all of this can be reduced by having a clear and precise digital transformation roadmap.
A digital transformation roadmap can be a key tool in the success of transitioning to digital manufacturing. The best thing about such a roadmap is that it can flex and morph depending on the needs of the individual business. To get started, look at where you want to the company to go and work backwards from there, factoring in things like current market status and performance. From there, it’s much easier to personalise your own unique business strategy to get to where you want to be.
Digital transformation isn’t just about adapting to the new technological world, it’s about giving your business the agility to respond to even the most radical of changes. Digitalisation enables businesses to quickly adapt to changes in customer demand, consumer buying behaviour, and shifts within specific sectors that affect your business. The pandemic is only the most recent example of the importance of this; there are bound to be many more that we should be preparing for in the years to come.