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Digital transformation trends in the manufacturing sector

woman typing on computer in factory setting

Digital transformation is becoming a requirement for all businesses, including business to business (B2B) manufacturers.

A survey of 200 manufacturers found that many have multiple projects underway to upgrade digital supply chains, improve integration, and to increase online sales. Many have plans to go from virtually no online sales to 60% of all sales in the next several years.

Ecommerce for manufacturing businesses

If you’re planning to enter the world of ecommerce as a manufacturer, there are some challenges that you will need to tackle, including:

  • the quality and depth of your product data
  • the accuracy of your inventory information
  • how to create a near-frictionless checkout process
  • handling complex and lengthy order-to-cash (O2C) processes
  • moving traditional buyers to online channels

You will want to be sure that ecommerce will improve rather than diminish relationships with your customers. For manufacturers already on an ecommerce journey many have found they needed to handle more customer service enquiries while increased sales reduced their margins and customer loyalty fell as they were tempted by other online offers.

Why are so many manufacturing businesses moving ahead as quickly as possible with ecommerce plans?

Firstly, they need to diversify their sales channels and strategies to address increasing competition and ever-tighter margins. There’s also increased online competition from sector-specific marketplaces and own-brand ecommerce platforms, which are challenging more traditional models of field sales teams and electronic data interchange (EDI) transactions.

The pandemic has significantly increased manufacturers’ ecommerce activities, but an even more powerful reason for growth in ecommerce adoption is the change in online B2B buying behavior.

No turning back

Manufacturers who have already adopted ecommerce have seen that they can generate up to half of their revenue online. Nearly two thirds of manufacturers now sell online, an increase of 17% from 2017 with more than 36% growth in the use of online marketplaces.

While industry sectors differ, there are some common benefits for manufacturers who have adopted a robust digital strategy, including increased sales and improved customer relationships.

With a review of business processes underpinning the development of an effective digital strategy, manufacturers have also reported increased revenue due to improved efficiency and better customer experiences.

Half of manufacturers across all industries believe that third-party and in-house ecommerce solutions are the main drivers for revenue growth and that they will continue to be in the next three to five years.

Some sectors are likely to see an even greater impact in that time, including automotive and machinery manufacturers who are anticipating the largest proportion of revenue to come from ecommerce.

B2B ecommerce trends for manufacturers

Customer experience – advances in digital technologies have made the move to online sales a practical option while evolving customer preferences mean that expectations are high for online discovery and frictionless sales processes. The key to success will be in delivering smooth and effective customer experiences.

There is evidence that B2B buyers want to use online channels and would prefer to  buy up to 90% of products online, although less than 20% are currently able to do so. Ease and speed are the buyers’ top priorities, with a fast and easy checkout, easy repeat ordering, quicker deliveries and improved tracking.

New technologies – for those manufacturers that have already moved ahead with their ecommerce plans, the next steps are likely to include headless commerce, voice commerce, configure, price, quote (CPQ), product information management (PIM), artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. In addition, real-time integration and automation are reliable and scalable solutions to reduce order errors and speed up the complex O2C processes.

Direct to consumer sales – two thirds of manufacturers say that they already sell directly to consumers. For many this involves changing to a more customer-centric business model to support direct to consumer (D2C) and business to business to consumer (B2B2C) approaches. 

Digital marketing – a range of tools can expand the potential of digital marketing for manufacturers, including hybrid online and offline events and the use of AI to create actionable insights from large data sets alongside a carefully planned content strategy.

Choose a B2B solution

Cloudfy has been designed from the beginning as an ecommerce solution for B2B organizations. The team has worked with leading manufacturers to understand the unique needs of their sector and the complexity of their products. That’s why we can deliver powerful, seamless B2B ecommerce solutions for manufacturers.

Optimizing ecommerce functionality for your end users and distribution partners will differentiate your brand and support your plans for future growth.

Book a free demonstration today to see how Cloudfy can meet the ecommerce needs of your manufacturing business.



Heineken needed to quickly deploy a B2B ecommerce solution to allow their wholesale customers to order online 24/7. From their P.V. Union Brewery in Slovenia, the new client ordering portal would serve nearby bars, restaurants, and distributors with their daily, weekly and monthly orders… Full Case Study

"Great work by the Cloudfy team launching our B2B portal in record time."

Tilen K., Ecommerce Manager, Heineken