Wow, is it that time of year again already? That time when we reflect upon another busy business year and wonder what the next one holds? It is something I get asked quite a lot. So, here are my five most important predictions for 2017:
1.) Services will play a key role in the manufacturing industry
Services are increasingly of central strategic importance in the manufacturing industry, not least because they can be revenue and margin drivers. Volatile markets offer fewer opportunities for price differentiation, and organisations face fluctuating economic conditions that make winning new business difficult. For many companies, moving away from being a classical production company and developing into a ‘solution provider for industrial investment goods’ is a key prerequisite for securing cashflow – in the short term – as well as for revenue and growth in the long term. With an intelligent offering of digital services, manufacturing companies can achieve that crucial differentiation from their competition and generate substantial profits.
2.) Digital marketing as the quintessence of Industry 4.0
Some manufacturing companies diminish Industry 4.0 to mean just a way of increasing their manufacturing and resource efficiency in development, procurement and production. No question, these are important components of business success. However, it is important to remember the efficient marketing of products and services. Marketing, sales and customer or after-sales service are key elements of a solid and resilient value chain. Companies that neglect single elements of this chain risk damaging their economic performance. The central challenge – and also opportunity – is the tailored and predominantly digital marketing of products and services.
3.) E-commerce platforms enable the digitalisation of sales
Only a few years ago, the online shop was in direct competition with traditional sales channels. This often problematic relationship is now fundamentally changing. Today, an intelligent e-commerce platform enables organisations to not only build an additional digital sales channel, but it is also a powerful tool for the digitalisation of their sales units. The successful combination of commerce platform and CRM can be an excellent sales enabler, as it allows sales reps in the field to present to the customer in real time, configure and invoice products and services. Without a powerful technological platform, it is impossible to achieve the strategic digitalisation of the sales operation.
4.) Wholesalers become e-commerce providers
The progressive digitalisation of goods flows and value chains means wholesalers see an enormous potential for market consolidation and to displace competitors. Thanks to established logistics and fulfillment processes, broad product ranges and detailed product descriptions, wholesalers are in a perfect position to succeed as commerce providers. What’s more, since their market position is threatened by suppliers, DIY and specialist dealers, they often have no choice but to focus on the digitalisation of their distribution channels.
5.) E-commerce platforms at the core of digitalisation in medium-sized businesses
In 2017, e-commerce platforms will form an ideal starting point and a stable backbone for the flexible and scalable digitalisation in medium-sized businesses. With the platform at the heart of their digitalisation strategy, organisations can approach the digitalisation of their entire customer lifecycle management pragmatically and in an agile way. The strategic vision behind this is the digitalisation and seamless integration of all market cultivating activities – from triggering the purchasing process to the purchasing transaction to aftersales – with the aim of completely integrating e-commerce, CRM, marketing automation and business intelligence.