Business Automation and Software Blog

From Production Line to Online: E-Commerce for Manufacturers

Posted by Robert Baran on Wed, Jul 03, 2024 @ 11:00 AM

businessman hand using tablet computer and server room background, e-commerce for manufacturers

Moving to e-commerce from traditional sales channels isn’t a new idea for manufacturers. This strategy has likely been considered and planned over the table at multiple meetings and budget reviews.

If your company hasn’t made this move, it’s normal to wonder whether it’s too late to adopt e-commerce for manufacturers.

Not Too Late to Move to E-Commerce 

By 2022, manufacturing companies were the number one purchasers of ERP software, with 47 percent of companies in this category interested in buying it. Compelling motivators include contending with a complicated supply chain, aligning with growing customer expectations for self-service, and the omnipresent need to squeeze dollars from tightening channel margins.

Transitioning to a digital commerce platform that integrates with your ERP can enable you to meet customers’ self-service requirements, unlock new revenue sources, and deepen customer engagement and loyalty.

E-Commerce Challenges for Manufacturers 

Several apprehensions and anxieties probably surface as you contemplate the transition to e-commerce.

  • Offering several product configurations: Manufacturers typically offer products in various configurations and options.
  • Customization: Translating these complexities into an online product catalog where everything must be clear and selectable can seem daunting.
  • Tracking company inventory and managing its orders: Keeping track of inventory and managing orders across multiple channels are major challenges, particularly when existing systems are not equipped for real-time updates or integrated operations.
  • Meeting (and exceeding) customer fulfillment expectations: Providing prompt and accurate service and fulfillment online demands a much faster operational pace than traditional B2B sales channels, meaning most manufacturers need to find another gear.
  • Eliminating company information silos: Often, critical business information resides in separate, siloed databases, complicating the task of unifying data for online sales. The lack of integration between these systems can hinder the accuracy and availability of data needed to support online orders effectively.
  • Combining new and legacy technologies: Integrating new e-commerce technology with existing ERP systems and infrastructure can feel overwhelming, especially considering compatibility and data consistency issues.
These challenges are very real, but they are not insurmountable. An e-commerce solution integrated within an ERP system can provide the framework to address these issues.

How an ERP can Help you Reach Customers Online

 ERP systems with integrated e-commerce capabilities can address the end-to-end needs of manufacturers:

  • Manage the product catalog easily: ERP systems integrate various aspects of business operations, including product catalog management. This centralization ensures that product information is consistent across all channels, reducing the risk of customer errors and confusion. In addition, with a well-structured product catalog, e-commerce platforms can offer customers enhanced search and navigation functionalities. This means customers can easily find the products they seek, leading to a better shopping experience.
  • Coordinate orders and inventory: Automatic synchronization between the e-commerce platform and ERP ensures that sales data and inventory are always current, reducing the likelihood of order inaccuracies. Improving your rate of successful transactions bolsters margins and preserves customer goodwill.
  • Handle payments efficiently while remaining compliant: Tight integration between your ERP and e-commerce platform allows you to securely handle transactions and stay compliant with regional tax regulations, reducing administrative burdens and enhancing customer trust.
  • Maximize Shipping Processes and Logistics Management: When your online sales are directly linked with an ERP system, you can more completely automate the shipping process. By integrating directly with carriers, calculating shipping costs, and tracking shipments within a holistic system, you can reduce operational costs and improve delivery timelines.
  • Include Visibility in Data for Forecasting: Analyzing e-commerce information can yield a host of critical insights. For example, you can easily identify and predict market changes, changing your product mix and developing new offerings faster than competitors.

Advantages of Adopting E-Commerce for Manufacturers

 Integrating e-commerce with your ERP system offers you multiple strategic advantages:

  • Increased operational efficiency: Centralizing e-commerce and ERP functionality can reduce redundancy and errors, significantly improving efficiency and productivity.
  • Excellent customer experience: Real-time updates and integrated customer service functions ensure customers receive accurate information and prompt service, boosting satisfaction and loyalty. Customers can now view shipping status, track account information, query inventory, check pricing, or access important documents on their own at their convenience.
  • Enlightened decision-making: Shared and harmonized data offers access to detailed analytics that help you understand market patterns, optimize operations, and anticipate customer needs, which is crucial for maintaining a competitive edge.
  • Smooth and continuous scalability: As business needs evolve, an integrated system can scale to handle increased transaction volumes and complex business operations without compromising performance. ERP and e-commerce capabilities grow in lockstep, unhindered by multiple systems.

Partner with PositiveVision to Take the Next Step Forward

Moving into the digital realm may seem like taking a giant leap of faith. With an integrated ERP and an e-commerce solution, it’s more of a manageable step forward. Your team will take what the company always does well - manufacturing great-quality products - and expand the markets where you can sell them.

The digital jump can seem like a giant leap. The step forward is manageable if your company has an integrated ERP and e-commerce solution. You will focus on what your team already does well: manufacturing great products and expanding how and where you can sell them. It’s about enhancing what you already do well—manufacturing great products—and expanding how and where you can sell them. Align your production prowess with integrated e-commerce for manufacturers and ERP capabilities, and your company can pull ahead of the competition.

PositiveVision has been serving the needs of manufacturing customers in Chicago for over three decades. Our experts will gladly guide you through your ERP decision-making to help you make an informed choice. Contact us today to speak to one of our product experts about a custom solution for your business. When you reach out, ask about our software training services for your team.

To learn more about how you can modernize and improve your warehouse operations, check out this webinar.


Robert Baran

Robert Baran is the founder and President of PositiveVision. He has worked in a variety of positions including system analyst, computer consultant and programmer, project manager, and division manager.

Topics: e-commerce for manufacturers