Top 5 Manufacturing Trends to Consider for 2021

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There is no doubt that restrictions and precautions necessitated by the COVID pandemic drastically altered the way many businesses operated in 2020. But what about 2021 and beyond? What manufacturing trends should you keep in mind when considering your ongoing strategy?

2020 saw more manufacturers forced to consider online selling for the first time, but that's not all bad. The technology and skills that got them through the last year will set them up for success in the future.

At Sana Commerce, we commissioned Sapio Research, an independent research company, to determine what challenges manufacturers are facing and what solutions they are considering. Here are some of the research highlights:

Based on Sapio Research's survey results, to help manufacturers looking for direction in their digitization, we've singled out the top 5 manufacturing trends to keep an eye on in 2021.

The top 5 manufacturing trends to keep an eye on in 2021 are:

  1. Manufacturers adjusting to evolve their businesses
  2. Increased D2C sales adoption
  3. Using technology to eliminate order errors
  4. A focus on improved customer experience
  5. A prioritization of streamlined order-to-cash (O2C) processes

Why and how are manufacturers adjusting to evolve?

In 2021, manufacturers will continue to shift their business to an online presence to capture their share of the market.  Sapio's research shows that 51% of manufacturers have already invested in e-commerce solutions, but they still need to continue to entice buyers to purchase online.  Their efforts have resulted in 70% of buyers willing to shop online, but that still leaves room for improvement.

With the growing demand for online purchasing channels,  94% of manufacturers say that they will change their marketing strategy in 2021. Continual evolution is the key to staying ahead of the competition, so it's no surprise that 49% of manufacturers reveal that in 2021, they will be investing in online sales channels. Manufacturers who have already invested in an e-commerce platform will invest in additional technology such as headless commercevoice commerceCPQPIM system, AI, and machine learning.

The rise of D2C sales

We've already seen the rise of D2C (Direct to Customer) sales, and now it is a trend that more manufacturers are adopting.  67% of manufacturers are already selling directly to consumers, and this trend will continue to grow in the 2021 economy.

If this is the direction you want to take your company but are unsure of the logistics, be sure to read our step-by-step guide on how to implement a successful D2C or B2B2C strategy.

Leveraging technology to eliminate order errors

25% of manufacturers surveyed by Sapio Research said that order errors is one of the biggest challenges they've faced in their company's digital transformation.  Asked how they would meet this challenge,  49% of manufacturers indicated that they would invest in more personnel. But personnel is not the problem. Human error can occur no matter how many employees you hire. The right technology with real-time data integration is the safest and easiest way to reduce order errors.  What makes real-time data integration such a reliable and scalable solution is that there is no personnel training needed, nor is there any room for human error.

Improved customer experience is key

Customers are the new market makers, and they know the power they have. To survive and thrive in 2021, manufacturers will need to focus their digital efforts to keep pace with customers' ever-changing preferences. We're already seeing evidence that not doing so comes with major risks.

Among manufacturers seeing customer experience challenges in their e-commerce, about half of them also see diminished customer relationships as a result:

To combat this phenomenon, 38% of manufacturers say that their current e-commerce investments are part of their new market strategy aimed at improving customer experience. In 2021 we will see more companies investing in their e-commerce platforms to enhance their customer experience. Some of the improvements they hope to attain are improved e-commerce checkout and making real-time product data available online. These features are vital for manufacturers wanting to deliver the kind of service that keeps customers coming back.

Streamlined order-to-cash (O2C) processes are vital

The successful movement from billing to payment processing is vital to the health of your business. But there are so many steps that can make the order-to-cash ( O2C) process complex. Automating your O2C process will meet the challenges usually associated with this slow and error-prone process.

Eliminate the headaches caused by inaccurate inventory data, delivery errors due to incorrect invoices, mismatched shipping and order placement dates,  and double or incorrect order entry.

Because automation handles so many  O2C challenges, 36% of manufacturers have already started investing in payment service providers (PSP). This is one of the manufacturing trends we will see grow in 2021 as manufacturers continue to optimize processes.

What does this mean for the future of manufacturing?

The underlying theme among these manufacturing trends is e-commerce digitization. Driven by technological advances, digitization, and customer demands, B2B e-commerce has evolved drastically over the years. Now it's time for the D2C revolution.

If you would like more information on the top e-commerce challenges that put manufacturers' relationships at risk, download The Manufacturing & E-Commerce Benchmark Report.

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