Mark Casidsid
Mark Casidsid (Senior Research Analyst, IDC Manufacturing Insights)

In recent years, B2B digital commerce has seen significant growth in the manufacturing sector. Manufacturers are increasingly turning to digital channels for both purchasing and sales, driven by several factors. According to our 2023 Global Manufacturing Survey, 47% of manufacturers globally consider B2B digital commerce as a strategic initiative to drive customer experience.

We talk about digital commerce as it encompasses buying and selling in digital channels and covers the different processes that also improve engagement in the customer journey, whereas eCommerce has a narrower focus on buying and selling online.

The COVID-19 pandemic acted as a catalyst for the adoption of digital commerce in manufacturing industry as digital channels provided a safe and convenient alternative, ensuring continuity in sales and procurement processes. The competitive landscape in manufacturing also requires companies to optimize costs and increase their time to market.

In an era of rapidly changing customer demands and technological advancements, manufacturers need to be agile and responsive. Furthermore, digital channels open up opportunities for manufacturers to reach new customer segments and markets.

By embracing digital commerce, manufacturers can overcome these barriers and tap into previously untapped potential.

Customer Experience is Key to Digital Commerce

In addition to the growing importance of B2B digital commerce, customer experience (CX) has become a key competitive differentiator for manufacturers globally. In the past, manufacturers focused on efficiency and product quality, but in today’s highly competitive environment, improving the customer experience has become crucial for success.

Many decision-makers involved in B2B transactions are millennials, who have grown accustomed to seamless online experiences in their B2C interactions and therefore, expect the same level of convenience and personalization in their B2B transactions. To meet these expectations, manufacturers need to provide self-service platforms that allow customers to navigate and make purchases independently.

Slow workflows and manual processes are no longer acceptable, with customers demanding on demand access to information and assistance. In response, manufacturers have embedded chat functionalities (chatbots) to provide real-time support and address any queries or concerns.

Manufacturers should also invest in designing intuitive platforms that are easy to navigate and provide a seamless buying experience. Detailed product information, along with complementary product suggestions and immersive product visualization tools, can significantly enhance CX.

How Manufacturers Can Prioritize the Customer

Delivering Personalized and Immersive Customer Experiences Through Cutting-edge Technologies

Personalization is key in B2B digital commerce. Customers expect tailored recommendations, targeted promotions, and real-time updates on order and delivery statuses. They also desire the ability to configure products and witness dynamic price changes during the buying process.

Additionally, customers increasingly prefer digital-first experiences, allowing them to make purchases anytime, anywhere, from their mobile devices.

To execute these CX initiatives successfully, manufacturers are relying on advanced analytics and artificial intelligence (AI). These technologies provide valuable insights into customer behaviors and preferences, enabling manufacturers to deliver personalized experiences at scale.

AI-powered recommendation engines, for example, can suggest relevant products based on customer browsing and purchasing history.  Manufacturers are also delivering immersive experiences enabled by 3d visualization, AR/VR and other digital technologies in different phases of the buyer journey.

The customer experience does not end with the purchase. Manufacturers must have efficient processes in place to handle product returns and resolve disputes promptly. There is also an opportunity to provide additional services such as maintenance and upgrades, further enhancing the overall customer experience.

Staying Ahead of the Game Requires Continuous Innovation

In this rapidly evolving segment, manufacturers should keep an eye on emerging models and technologies. Industrial B2B marketplaces are emerging as a viable option for manufacturers to reach a broader customer base. Direct-to-customer models, which aim to establish closer relationships with customers can provide manufacturers with valuable insights on product usage and promote loyalty.

New architectures, such as headless commerce, can enable manufacturers to quickly deploy features that improve the user experience without significant infrastructure investments. This flexibility allows manufacturers to adapt and innovate at a rapid pace, staying ahead of evolving customer needs and preferences.

Connected Value Chains, Sales Empowerment, and Customer-centricity Are Key to a Successful B2B Digital Commerce Strategy

Despite the promise of B2B digital commerce, there are areas that manufacturers need to address to fully leverage their potential.

Breaking down data silos and ensuring seamless integration of digital commerce with different value chain processes is crucial. This means aligning sales and marketing efforts and integrating ERP, CRM, and other business applications with e-commerce platforms.

Manufacturers must also determine their optimal omnichannel strategy and cultivate mutually beneficial relationships with distributors to jointly create value.

The role of humans should not be overlooked in this digital transformation. Salespeople still play an important role in the B2B buying process, and their capabilities need to be augmented to align with the digital commerce landscape.

Thanks to digital commerce, sales reps are no longer burdened by time consuming tasks and can focus on other activities such as guiding customers through the buying process for more complex orders. Empowering salespeople with readily available information and insights can enhance their interactions with customers and drive sales.

Finally, building an organization-wide culture based on customer centricity is vital for manufacturers. Putting the customer at the center of decision-making across all organizational functions ensures that CX remains a top priority and drives continuous improvement.


The IDC Manufacturing Insights: Worldwide Manufacturing B2B Commerce and Customer Experience Technology Strategies subscription service analyses the key trends in B2B digital commerce and how manufacturers are creating value and delivering innovative customer experiences by leveraging digital technologies. Reach out to me at to learn more about this new program.

Spread the love