Manufacturing is often bogged down with suppliers, distributors, wholesalers, and complicated multi-year contracts with all of the above. But what more and more manufacturers are finding they need to stay relevant and truly succeed is a closer connection with their end customers. And a true customer engagement strategy starts with establishing true value, not just mere features and added benefits, according to Forbes contributor Jim Berryhill.
For customers today, true value comes from companies that provide a complete, seamless experience with the brand and not just one-and-done sales. Across all industries, we’ve already seen the emphasis on customer experience expand into social media, AI-enhanced self-service portals, chatbots, mobile apps, robust loyalty programs, and even the metaverse. But what can industrial manufacturers do to reach their customer base with a relevant, valuable experience?
To guide manufacturers toward greater customer engagement and a compelling customer experience to support such engagement, we’ve looked at three proven strategies picking up traction in the industry: the digital experience layer, total experience considerations, and strategic partnerships.
Add a digital experience layer on top of the base product
Customer engagement in manufacturing includes making sure your base product offerings have a digital component that works hand-in-hand with the actual physical products. For many, this has meant turning to apps. But it isn’t limited to app development alone. Any digital experience coupled with the product can create the experience customers are looking for, whether it’s embedded tech and AI in the product itself, digital marketing assets like video tutorials, or direct integration with your R&D team so customers know they’re providing feedback directly back to the source. If you manufacture beauty and hair care appliances, adding digital video tutorials or an app for users to save their favorite styles done with the appliances can be a great way to engage with customers. Another example? Food safety equipment can be embedded with AI to streamline customer preferences and speed up use. Whatever is most applicable to your product, creating a digital layer on top of it is essential to keep customers engaged and coming back for more.
Consider the total experience from all angles
Another key engagement strategy for manufacturers is making sure to take into account the total experience—the user experience of their products from all angles. To explain this, let’s take a look at the example of Coca-Cola’s Freestyle machines. Already a thrilling touchscreen experience for users when first introduced, Coca-cola has taken measures to continually adapt and expand upon the experience to keep customers engaged, including contactless interaction with QR codes. Better yet, these codes do not insist the user download an app to utilize the benefits. Instead, customers are quickly redirected to pick out their drink selection on their own phones. These machines have considered customer, user, employee, and multi-experience factors:
— Customers have greater control over their drink selection and enjoy a sleek UI.
— Users have intuitive navigation of the platform and a feeling of choice while still using constraints to steer the user toward the best drink selections.
— Employees can utilize data from the machines to determine popular drink selections for other production lines or future R&D.
— The multi-experience includes options for voice, gestures, and no-touch applications, and the machine firmly draws a connection between the kiosk experience, app (ie users choose), and the drink itself.
This careful consideration for the total experience has and can be done with countless manufacturer products, from laundry machines and refrigerators to automobiles and security systems. When you open the door to the total experience, the possibilities for expanded business become plentiful.
Augment your experience delivery with strategic partnerships
A final but crucial strategy for amplifying customer engagement in manufacturing is strategic partnerships that add more depth to your overall brand experience. Manufacturers who align with two or more cross-industry brands to add to their digital experience reap incredible benefits, such as increased customer loyalty and fuel for ongoing, innovative R&D. Manufacturers need to ensure they look for partnerships that meet security, privacy rights, back-end integration, and data monetization requirements with their own company to encourage the highest odds of success. Ultimately, the biggest source of wealth your partnership will share is in customer data insights, so it’s crucial that all the processes and regulations surrounding data management are understood clearly before embarking on such a strategy.
A popular strategy, for manufacturing especially, is partnerships that highlight sustainability as a core value. Just take a look at Johnson Controls’ partnership with Dubai Electricity, Microsoft, and others to build the smartest net-zero-energy government building.
Engaging customers in manufacturing is the new way forward to remain on the cutting edge. By adding a digital experience on top of your base product offering, considering the total experience from all sides, and enhancing the overall experience with strategic partnerships, manufacturers can be primed to excel in customer engagement. Simplus can help set you on this path—reach out today.