Manufacturing has been around for a very long time; since 1760 in fact. In the early days, products being manufactured were far simpler, the buying process was compressed, and competition was not nearly as abundant as it is today. Through the industrial age and now through the digital age, the products are becoming more complex, the buying cycle has been elongated, user’s needs are more sophisticated, and they have more options on where to buy than ever before.
Manufacturers need to be more focused than ever on creating end-to-end journeys with moments that truly differentiate them from their competitors, whether it’s during the actual buying transaction, ownership phase or during the repurchase cycle. In a recent digital trends report, insights stated that B2B companies committed to improving the customer experience as well as the content required to facilitate those experiences are outperforming their peers across the board. Investments in technology are paying dividends with integrated platforms and associated experiences fast-becoming a prerequisite for success.
We have been so spoiled by great B2C product search experiences from companies like Zappos, Home Depot, Amazon, Apple and others that we are no longer willing to give B2B companies a “pass” on great product selection experiences.
Having a website just isn’t enough anymore. Manufacturing customers want digital experiences that engage, move the needle and add value…NOW.
Understanding the Challenge
While Manufacturers’ business operations and digital infrastructures are changing at rates never-before-seen, manufacturing customers’ needs are getting more complex than ever. Customers often need numerous variations that are specific to their needs in vastly-reduced timeframes. Most manufacturers now offer a full complement of generic products, along with custom products with multiple variations to meet customer needs and to ensure they are seen as a differentiator within their space. It is more important than ever to note that manufacturers can have many different stakeholders/audiences that needs to be catered to in very different ways. These audiences may include end-customers, external agents, distributors, internal sales agents, partners, and others, each of whom may have very different product needs.
Framing the Opportunity
Users at different stages of the buying cycle need different types of information. During the Needs Assessment phase, the user may be looking to find all products that fit a general specification. During the Architecture Design or Component selection phase, the user may need to conduct detailed product comparisons across competitive product sets to find the one that works best for their specific needs. During the Product Design or Prototyping phase, the user may need to sample products and conduct either online or physical simulations of the product before placing their order.
In an effort to find the right product, these users need a way to filter and sort through the maze of product specifications to find the product that meets their specific needs. Often times, customers call customer service/agents rather than sift through a bulky paper catalog. An online product finder/parametric search can help minimize the labor (reducing operating costs), increase efficiency and accelerate the process of finding the right product.
Building an efficient parametric search enabled product catalog that can move the needle for your organization does not have to be difficult. When incorporating parametric search into your existing digital experience there are four primary areas to consider:
1. USER EXPERIENCE:
-Understanding your customer’s/partner’s/audience’s needs, goals and behaviors across all digital channels and understanding how they want to interact with your brand and creating an experience that allows them to “shop” on their terms. Defining the features in the search experience such as personalization, tools/components, layout and structure, specific combinations of search functions available, and the filters available in basic and advanced search.
2. PRODUCT DATABASE:
-Creation/optimization of a database of all products and their variations which includes defining the levels of product parameters, specific parameters at each level, parameter values, and associating the corresponding product variations by their parameters.
3. SEARCH/VISUALIZATION ENGINE:
-Defining the specific business rules to achieve the necessary visualizations and specifying the combinations of parameters and their values.
4. FACETED SEARCH AND SEARCH RESULTS:
-Buildout of search experience visualization and conducting usability tests to validate the overall search experience complete with performance tuning and search engine optimization of all product descriptions.
Thinking Beyond Parametric Search
Building the ideal product finder experience is just the beginning! Beyond parametric search, the finder can be expanded to optimize your brand’s entire digital estate with the buildout of the following features/functionality:
PRODUCT COMPARISON TOOL:
Providing the ability to go beyond finding products to offering the ability to show product comparisons and can even include competitive products.
Offering parametric search through a responsive website experience and/or a specialized mobile app can make it easier for users to find the right products on-the-go.
Customers often need to blueprint their design architecture as they attempt to figure out which products to use. Offering tools that help customer’s blueprint their designs, can help design-in your products much earlier in the process, eliminating your competitors from even entering the buying process.
Once customers have determined the right products that fit their needs, provide an easy to use experience that allows them to order product samples through the website, that is integrated with your CRM and/or marketing automation software.
Ayantek will produce a Product Finder roadmap for your organization FREE of charge. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about this offer.