How manufacturers can connect with consumers – and why they should want to
What manufacturers do best: designing great products. What retailers do best: selling those products to consumers. This three-way relationship has become an accepted norm, deemed to benefit each party.
While all appears well and good on the surface, the lack of contact between manufacturers and customers is a huge, often under-recognised problem.
With products assigned to retailers, manufacturers cede control, and are usually out of the loop sales-wise. They don’t hear the in-store purchasing questions or post-purchase niggles. Instead of being connected to their market, manufacturers are dependent on the quality of the retailers’ sales skills, knowledge, and feedback. If they’re not getting the full picture, they may not even know it.
We have forgotten that understanding customer needs is vital for sales, stock decisions, and product development. Without this understanding, manufacturers tend to build ever-higher specs in an effort to sell more units or, even worse, get sucked into price wars.
But more features or cutthroat prices don’t necessarily equate to more sales. Research on smartphones, for example, place simple things like durability and long battery life at the top of shoppers’ wish lists.
Manufacturers’ websites, their version of a shop floor, are often far from simple, with screeds of products and technical lingo. While modern consumers are happy to do online research, most do not understand industry-specific specifications and lack the experience to select the products that best fit their unique needs.
What’s needed? Connective Retailing, which brings manufacturers, retailers and customers closer to each other.
Manufacturers that weave the human touch of Connective Retailing into their websites find themselves able to ask questions and make recommendations, like a great salesperson would. Customers are better informed towards a buying decision. Manufacturers get feedback on responses via their website, and can use those to better align their products. The manufacturer may sell products at this point, or more commonly, simply assist with a buyer’s research leading up to a retail sale. Both manufacturers and retailers benefit.
But most importantly, Connective Retailing allows manufacturers to rediscover their most precious resource – their customers.
Photo by Saranya Ghosh.