Winning Manufacturing Strategies

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June 20, 2014

Game of Conversions: 10 Quick Wins to Spruce up your B2B eCommerce Offering!


In my previous post we talked about the latest trends in the B2B eCommerce space. Let us now quickly have a look at the Ten quick remedies to boost your existing ecommerce offerings and boost your conversions. These are a few Quick wins which we have shortlisted from our vast experience.


1) Creative login options: Too many sites loose customers due to tedious login procedures. Make it as seamless as possible. Nowadays even B2B organizations are flirting with the idea of LinkedIn & Facebook logins i.e. allowing users to login using their Facebook/ linked in credentials. Handling separate credentials for each site is a hassle and social login makes life easy for the users. Think about it.

2) Attract deal hunters with offers similar to B2C: Use flash sales and concepts like discounted shipping to drive the sales. B2B marketers can borrow a leaf from the B2C and use these tactics. With the advent of Amazon supply we predict that such tactics will gain wide prevalence.

3) Guided Search: This is basic hygiene and if your site does not have this you are missing on valuable sales dollars. Guided search helps your users reach the product of their interest quickly and aids in pushing the customer towards closing the deal. Many customers abandon the websites frustrated by the level of difficulty to reach the desired product.

4) Guided Selling: While guided search is for the users who are well aware about the product features and know what they want, guided selling is employed for the users who are not well acquainted with the product landscape. In guided selling users are presented with a series of questions and various options as answers. Based on the options chosen by the user, products are filtered after each question.

5) Consistent Structure: Construct your catalog and site structure in such a way that customers can intuitively traverse through your site making it easier for new products to be discovered by the client. Look at some of the biggies in this space and how they have categorized their offerings. Bring in the user experience experts and domain specialists to go intuitive!

6) Better Images & Product Content: Our experience tells us that better product images, visualization and content always succeeds in attracting more and more customers. Provide images from various angles, zoom options, images of various variants (color, size etc.). Go creative! Also self-help content (product related documentation) saves huge support costs and brings down the cost of servicing small clients. This in turn lets the representatives focus on bigger accounts.

7) Intelligent Personalization (Cross sell/ Upsell): Use all the customer information you have and create segments which could be catered with customized offers and content. If a customer is looking for a particular solution/ product, go ahead and suggest related products (cross sell) which will complement customer's selection or suggest alternatives (upsells) which you believe can better serve the customer. A win-win situation!

8) Explicit Call to action (Add to cart): Make it easy for the customer to add a particular product to the cart. It should be an effortless move and not something for which customers have to look around. Have 'add to cart' buttons on category pages, product details page, quick view, search results, comparison page etc. wherever we have some details related to a product there should be an option to add the product to the cart.

9) Transparent Shipping charges: This has been one of the most cited grievance by the customers and is credited as a major reason which leads to cart abandonment. Try and provide as much details about the shipping charges/ conditions as early in the process as possible. This should not come as a surprise to your customers which will lead to cart abandonment and also an unfavorable impression leading to loss of sales. Provide as many shipping options as possible to customers, our experience has shown that a good number of shipping options is always a positive factor increasing the customer stickiness. So try in store pickup, expedited deliveries etc. Your local store is the biggest weapon in your armory which can enable to fulfill your orders quickly by shipping products from the store which is closest to the customer!

10) Quick & streamlined Checkout process: This has been one of the greatest nemesis of the various shopping experiences offered by B2B sellers. Clients have expressed this as one of the major reason for cart abandonment. The issues can range from asking too much information to complete checkout, surprising shipping charges, no idea how long it will take to complete the process to being asked same information again and again (billing address & shipping address to be filed separately even if they are the same.) Quick fixes that we recommend- introduce shipping charges as early in the process as possible so that it does not come as a surprise, use the profile information of the client to pre populate information, always specifically call out how many steps need to be completed before the checkout completes and where exactly the customer is currently in the process. One of the other major boost could be many options for payment!

So now that you have discovered the quick wins, go ahead and start enhancing your Digital customer experiences!

June 18, 2014

The future of enterprise applications transformed with Cloud and mobility

With the proliferation of 'Digital', industries worldwide have seen a paradigm shift in the technological space. The growing need to stay connected on social and business networks on the go have led to the rise of the Internet of Things coupled with cloud, mobility and big data solutions. With smart mobile devices and virtual apps, powered by cloud solutions, taking the hot seat in enterprises, it has become imperative for manufacturers to tap the collaborative capabilities of these devices to improve business processes and to enable seamless integration between the resultant cloud ecosystem and the enterprise. IT would need to manage virtual applications that will now be accessible by mobile devices. BYOD could mean increased dependence of employees on a single device where personal and work related data will need to be accessed at the same time. This transformation of the enterprise mobility infrastructure is seen as a good monetization solution by CIOs. With BYOD getting to be the next norm, there seems to be a growing demand for business apps targeted at employees as compared to yesteryear's consumer apps. This will require the intervention and support of the enterprise, while keeping a keen eye on adherence to security stipulations.  

This year's Sapphire focused on modernized industries that are powered digitally to reap the true benefits of collaboration. The keynote session by SAP CEO Bill McDermott served as a pronounced launchpad for the new version of SAP Fiori into the market. This will provide SAP users with an outstanding user experience at no additional license costs. What's most interesting is its simple and cost-effective sales order mobile app suite that sales executives can leverage for easy access to their accounts and prospects on the move. 



It's all in the cloud

Unnerving focus on supply chain optimization, distribution, real-time data for analytics and forecasts, have led manufacturers to shift their applications to cloud based infrastructure solutions. The manufacturing industry, in response to addressing this pronounced consumer need, has carved steep inroads towards collaboration and creation of connected networks by leveraging the power of the cloud and the advancements in mobility solutions. While keeping the organization on the same page with respect to updates and collaborative efforts, the cloud aids in the efficient streamlining of processes, improving agility and enables better response times. Since these apps can be accessed from mobile devices on the move, it has triggered a renewed demand for data security solutions, to check for information vulnerabilities, and supply chain risk management solutions.


Mobility and telematics for M2M Communication

The automotive industry, in recognition to the growing need for consumer connectivity and access to insights derived from the huge volumes of data generated, has been developing cutting edge connected car technologies to stay at the forefront of innovation. Telematics have opened exciting prospects for car manufacturers and seems to be very promising in terms of innovative solutions that aid driver awareness, access to a lot more information on the move with minimal intervention and highly reliable safety features. Mobile apps, that help control access and fasten security, are being developed to communicate with smart dashboards. These help add convenience to the whole driving experience and promises the future of a fuel efficient, safer and intelligent drive. The data generated from the continuous usage of these apps is further analyzed and utilized by the car manufacturer to crowd source ideas that can help them embed newer features and technologies into the automobile.  

The Internet of Things will be adding scores of devices to an interconnected cloud which will need to be constantly updated with real-time information. Next generation technologies, such as big data, mobility, and cloud will be paramount for enterprises that are vying to go digital. Machine to machine communication will enable predictive analytics leading to smarter maintenance of assets. By integrating mobility with M2MC, we will see a sea of technological developments in the years to come.


Digitization: What lies ahead?

The future of digitization lies in the hands of a decentralized decision maker community that would want the business and technological factors of consideration to be amalgamated for strategic reasoning that leads to IT transformation.

But with the increasing complexity in requirements and in order to keep in sync with the changing technology landscape, organizations would collaborate extensively with a wide range of partners, both inside and outside their industries. They will need to invest in resources and partnerships that will take them ahead of their competition.

June 10, 2014

Additive manufacturing: The key to smarter maintenance?

3D printing technology, otherwise known as additive manufacturing, is evolving to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of the manufacturing industry. There seems to be a sea of opportunities for this technology in the Aerospace and Automotive sectors due to their need for high-value complex part replacements, the periodicity of maintenance and the need to reduce inventories. While most of us believe that this technology might still be at a nascent stage, we ought to take a closer look at its adoption in the high-tech and industrial manufacturing sectors. The US Department of Defense, supported by a consortium of private companies, has recognized this as a key growth area and announced plans to fund 2 new world class manufacturing innovation centers in the region this year. With the technology to print living tissues today, it makes us think that 'Dolly' could have just been printed out without much ado.  

The IT industry sees a gamut of opportunities in the 3D printing arena, particularly in the areas of digitization, engineering and supply chain management reconfiguration. The Infosys whitepaper titled The Future of Maintenance discusses 3D printing as a solution for optimization of maintenance costs which will help flatten supply chain and procurement expenditure on industrial machinery and capital goods.  The entire blueprint of the component procurement space will have to be redrafted by substituting these revenues with the sale of custom specifications for each part 3D printed at the end customer location. Gone will be the days when a customer places an order for a part and waits patiently for door delivery with an additional day's wait for a service mechanic to assemble the part. If you perceived Amazon's superfast drone or the Rolls Royce Cargo Drone ships to be your solution, wouldn't 3D printing make the process much simpler - or not. That's quite a debate. 

If you thought that the demand for customization and shorter delivery timelines have brought our production hubs closer to home turf from low cost centers like China, you are at a greater advantage having a 3D printer installed at your production house. Companies are now embracing backward integration strategies by turning into part manufacturers, replacing their OEM suppliers fractionally to start with. The cost of purchasing a 3D printer along with the raw materials and IP will be offset by added energy efficiency, less to no wastage of materials used in the process, the elimination of shipping costs and the ability to create prototypes that would have otherwise consumed expensive resources and larger timelines.

Are we moving to an era where construction, manufacturing, design, engineering and medical care are all going to be a DIY affair? It's too soon to assume, but we sure are inching closer.    

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June 5, 2014

Energizer Microforum at Sapphire 2014

Energizer, a leading manufacturer of batteries and personal care products, conducted an SAP microforum at Sapphire today here in Orlando. The session provided an outline on the approach they followed to implement their SAP program. They also shared the lessons that they had learnt, while implementing the solution, to the other SAP partner firms attending Sapphire. 

It was a very interesting hour as it helped us understand how the SAP program, that helped Energizer streamline its IT landscape, was instrumental in improving their business processes. The roll-outs in North America, Europe, and Asia helped harmonize global processes by instance consolidation and migration. They were also able to consolidate multiple applications into fewer instances by closely examining their business processes. 

Inclusion of localization features based on language, currency and time zones helped improve processes in the emerging regions. The session was testimony to how Energizer was able to reduce the total cost of ownership by successfully consolidating and streamlining its SAP systems. 

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June 3, 2014

Sapphire 2014 - SAP 'Run Simple'

The keynote session at 'Sapphire Now' by SAP CEO Bill McDermott was on how we can simplify processes with technology. He talked about changing complex business processes to make business simple by removing 'complexity'. Refreshing as it sounds, it can be likened to a conference being attended by 25,000 in-situ attendees with over 250,000 online! 

The word 'Simple', said with ease, is clearly not an easy task to achieve. But in order to do things simply, it takes sophistication. In order to reinstate that, Bill announced the inclusion of the SAP Fiori line of apps and SAP Screen Personas software along with the underlying licenses of SAP software. Thus, instead of making employees work around processes, Fiori from SAP makes processes simple by changing processes that required 10 clicks to 2 click processes. 

A leading FMCG company, with over 800 factories spread across the globe, has used Fiori to reduce the number of clicks it required from 10 to 2. This has, indeed, helped simplify the process aspect from an operational point of view. 

SAP has decided not to charge the customer for Fiori and has included it as part of the Suite. SAP is simple from now on.. because the customer expects simple! 


Infosys at Sapphire 2014: 'Enterprise now' for the smart manufacturer

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Rapid Urbanization and information empowered customers are driving modernization and innovation in the manufacturing space. Increased customization, shorter product lifecycles have led to the evolution of high performance supply chains, though this raises challenges exposing them to diverse risks and disruptions at various stages of the value chain. Besides, increased regulatory pressures and cut throat competition in a globalized economy means supply chains also need be to cost efficient and transparent for manufacturers to survive. Technology today is playing a key role in enabling supply chain modernization to meet above challenges. But, Modernization is not just about responding to change but also leading change and technology is also playing that part to a "T". The rise of the digital consumer with proliferation of web and ability to process Big Data has ensured that manufacturers can ignore technology trends like advanced analytics, real time data processing, social media, cloud, mobility and machine to machine communication (Internet of Things) at their own peril. Having said that companies need to evaluate and manage technology by striking a fine balance between business value and disruption.  This is where you would need a smart integrator like Infosys with a proven track record in enterprise solutions and disruptive technologies, who can help you transition and transform your business processes to get on that path.

 SAP is the leader in Enterprise Business application software and this year's Sapphire is all about the manufacturers' journey from Industrialization, followed with Modernization and finally powered with Digitization. While we all are eager to actively contribute and listen from market leaders in the event, we briefly elaborate below some of the advanced solutions areas in SAP where we have invested and made rapid strides to enable manufacturers in their "smart" journey.



• Smarter supply chain: The manufacturer's supply chain should have the agility to react to market demands and risks from across the globe  through real time information visibility and analytics. The information rendering should be intuitive through use of advanced UI to help managers take informed decisions. 
• Connected vehicles technology: Automobiles, in a matter of time, would evolve as an extension of the owner's lifestyle. Digitization and cloud are the forces that make connected vehicle technology a reality. Cloud would be the platform in which vehicles get connected while digitization will help enhance user experience and leverage the information derived from the connected vehicle.
• Asset utilization and optimization: This is a critical success factor for industrial equipment manufacturers in particular. To reduce the cost of servicing their equipment they would use predictive analytics for proactive maintenance. This will, in turn, help reduce downtime of equipment, which could otherwise impact the entire production process.
• Social integrated business planning: Capabilities of integrated business planning can be further enhanced through independent demand sensing from social data. This would lead to better forecast accuracy, quicker understanding of changing market trends and reduced inventory.
•  BI on the go: Technology trends such as big data, analytics, and M2M communication utilize the vast amounts of data available in the organization to render meaningful insights that help CIOs and business leaders in better decision making.

All the above will help address manufacturing risks involved in supply chain, forecasting, and just-in-time production apart from being revenue drivers. These technologies, trends and concepts, coupled with social media, can be leveraged to provide outstanding services to the customer, making it a USP for the manufacturer.


What's ahead?

New buzz words are flooding the market each day; do manufacturers jump the bandwagon for all to stay ahead of competition? Do they focus more on their core competencies or new technologies?  While the future looks exciting, these key questions worry manufacturers as the decisions can be "make" or "break" considering the quantum change needed to adopt these new technologies. One of the key decisions which companies need to make is to identify a "strategic" technology partner who can help defining a phased roadmap for adoption which would minimize risk of disruption and maximize competiveness. Low hanging fruits which are stable yet value adding like Analytics, Mobility could be adopted in near future,  while companies could go for  a " Co - creation" model to test the waters on technologies which are yet to mature but have great potential . This way manufacturers can share the disruption risk and cost with their technology partner, focus on core competencies and still be ahead of competition.

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