Navigating digital transformation in B2B manufacturing 2/4

David van der Hoop
Technical Director B2B, Valtech
Daryna Kruty
B2B Digital Transformation Consultant, Valtech

21 mayo, 2024

The landscape of B2B manufacturing is swiftly being reshaped by digitalization. What was once considered a trend has now become an undeniable reality.

In the first blog of our ongoing series, “Customer portals: The next big thing in B2B manufacturing,” we’ve so far dissected the contemporary challenges facing manufacturers, from disjointed IT infrastructures to organizational inertia toward digital adaptation. This second article dives into the driving forces behind digitalization efforts and how customer portals are the catalyst to embracing opportunities in this digital future.

The forces behind digitalization

Digitalization is propelled by two primary forces: external pressures stemming from escalating customer expectations and internal imperatives focused on bolstering top-line growth and fortifying the bottom line.

    1. External forces: Heightened customer expectations

B2B customers now demand the same level of user-centric experiences they enjoy in their personal lives as consumers. Mere product quality is no longer enough for manufacturers to thrive, they must also provide comprehensive digital services, seamless connectivity and 24/7 accessibility.

    2. Internal forces: Strategic growth and operational optimization

Amid macroeconomic uncertainties, manufacturers are compelled to prioritize short-term value creation and operational efficiency. Digital commerce emerges as a crucial avenue for generating revenue, alongside investments in internal integration to enhance data quality and operational agility.

The imperative of digital transformation

For modern manufacturers, digital transformation is not a luxury but a necessity for survival and growth. As mentioned in Valtech’s The Voice of Digital Leaders in Manufacturing 2024 report, enhancing revenue growth, particularly in the aftermarket, is a pivotal objective of digital transformation. Yet, many traditional manufacturers grapple with fragmented systems and subpar data quality, hampering their ability to keep up and compete with market leaders.

Our digital transformation will ensure our survival in the future as a leaner company, while still meeting increasing demands of our customers.

– Quote from The Voice of Digital Leaders in Manufacturing 2024

Unlocking the potential of customer portals

Customer portals represent a linchpin in the digitalization journey, offering multifaceted benefits that extend beyond mere transactional convenience.

When beginning digital transformation with few or no customer-facing digital products, setting up a customer support portal or ecommerce platform might seem like the obvious first step. However, without a clear long-term strategy, this can lead to stalled progress, focusing solely on a separate portal and perpetuating siloed digital tool development.

Considerations for starting or continuing digital transformation:

  • Customer-centric perspective

Customers view your organization as a single entity, not a collection of departments with separate portals. B2B manufacturers deliver multi-faceted value. It’s crucial to approach digital services holistically, considering the customer’s viewpoint and collaborating across departments and features.

  • Unified experience

A customer portal integrates multiple benefits into one cohesive experience. Designing a customer portal that fulfills promises and adds value for both customers and the organization is a complex journey, but the rewards of successful execution are substantial.

  • Enhancing revenue streams

Customer portals facilitate upselling opportunities and personalized offerings, thereby extending the lifetime value of assets while fostering sustainability.

  • Streamlining operations

By automating manual processes and offering self-service functionalities, customer portals significantly reduce operational costs for manufacturers.

  • Cultivating customer satisfaction and loyalty

Accessible data and streamlined communication channels lead to quicker issue resolution and enhanced customer experiences, bolstering long-term trust and loyalty.

It is all about improving our service and cooperation with our customers. And creating efficiency and win-win by using digital solutions.

– Quote from The Voice of Digital Leaders in Manufacturing 2024

Key objectives for digital transformation

According to the Voice of Digital Leaders in Manufacturing 2024 report, the top three objectives for digital transformation are:

  • Increasing revenue through expanded services and upselling
  • Enhancing cost efficiency via process optimization
  • Securing customer loyalty through superior service delivery

Navigating service domains within customer portals

Customer portals cater to diverse service domains, each aimed at fulfilling specific customer needs and fostering deeper relationships. These domains typically include:

  • Asset management: Providing comprehensive insights into asset performance and maintenance history, empowering customers to manage their assets autonomously. This can include product documentation, drawings and/or exploded views of the assets, maintenance and service history, real-time tracking of asset performance, etc.
  • Configuration and transaction: Simplifying procurement processes through intuitive catalog browsing and streamlined ordering mechanisms. This allows customers to browse parts and equipment catalogs effortlessly, with compatibility checks and detailed information, and supports the procurement process through ordering and quoting.
  • Collaboration and communication: Fostering seamless interaction between customers and manufacturers, enhancing trust and reliability. Features such as service request tracking, maintenance scheduling, and personalized updates are the main ways to deliver in this domain.
  • Knowledge and education: Empowering customers with technical knowledge and troubleshooting resources to maximize equipment value and longevity. With features like operator FAQs, troubleshooting guides, e-learning modules, and custom training, this domain helps customers maximize the lifetime and the value of the equipment.

Embracing the challenge

These four service domains span across various departments and processes within an organization. Combining them seamlessly into a unified customer experience might initially appear as a daunting task. In truth, it poses a significant challenge involving change management, establishing robust data foundations, optimizing enterprise architecture and developing new digital capabilities. However, the resulting benefits make this effort truly worthwhile.

Creating a cohesive customer portal experience requires overcoming many challenges, from organizational silos to technological complexities. In the next installment of this series, we’ll dive into the composable approach as a strategy for effectively managing this complexity.

Stay tuned for insights into navigating the digital transformation journey in B2B manufacturing.


Interested? Contact us today to talk to one of our experts about the possibilities for customer portals in industrial manufacturing


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