What is digital transformation – and how can it be applied to marketing in the manufacturing sector?
Article by Samantha Vassallo, managing director and Richard Holmes, account director of B2B marketing agency and AMF strategic partner Horizon Works.
Digital Transformation is the adoption of digital technology to transform services or businesses, through replacing non-digital or manual processes with digital processes – or replacing older digital technology with newer digital technology.
In marketing, digital transformation is about embracing new technologies to enhance the customer journey and build relationships.
Many companies had already embraced the possibilities offered by digital transformation as the 2010s drew to a close.
But the Coronavirus pandemic has accelerated digital transformation, with many organisations having to completely re-think how they market and sell their products, and how they build their brands.
Over the last 12 months, face to face meetings have been severely restricted, conferences, events and expos have been cancelled or moved into virtual environments, and traditional sales approaches have been nullified.
Sales teams have needed to employ different methods when engaging with customers and prospects – and they’ve required new tools to help them do this.
And digital technology, in many cases, has been the primary way for any business to connect and engage with its customers.
Websites and digital marketing activities have never been more important. It’s vital that websites resonate with target audiences and engage users.
With premises and conferences off limits and face to face meetings restricted, a website has been in many cases, a company’s only shop window. Businesses may need to consider revamping their websites from both a design and content perspective, ensuring they are on brand and on message. Indeed, it’s vital that a website reflects where a company is now, not where it was five or ten years ago.
A search engine optimisation strategy must also be put into place to ensure that the website ranks highly for the right keywords on Google.
Social media has been more readily adopted since the pandemic hit, with LinkedIn especially being used as a way of maintaining connections, nurturing relationships and staying front of mind for prospective customers.
However, other digital tools and techniques are also being embraced. And they are changing many companies’ horizons…
Here are some of the key tools and solutions which are pushing forward digital transformation in marketing…
Animated product demonstrations
Animated product demonstrations can help customers understand the features and benefits of a product and get to grips with its technical aspects.
Unable to visit a client’s premises to demo a product, or show it off in front on an audience at an expo? An animated product demonstration can be the answer.
Animations can break down language barriers and be used as training aids for customers, distributors or sales agents.
Our client Martel Instruments recently launched an animated video of its VIDA product, a revolutionary data collection solution used in laboratories. This is helping Martel Instruments demonstrate the product’s features and benefits to prospective customers, who the team would normally meet face to face at exhibitions or on visits to their labs. View the animation here.
Virtual reality product experiences
Experiencing a product via virtual reality can help to bring it to life and create an enhanced sensory experience for the customer.
A virtual reality test drive, for instance, can give a user a ‘feel’ for the features of a vehicle, and help engineers gain feedback on the driving experience before anyone actually gets behind the wheel for real.
Abarth, for instance, is sending prospective buyers headphones and a VR headset loaded with a test drive of its 595 Scorpioneoro model. Users are taken on a spin around the Welsh countryside via an immersive experience.
Car showrooms unable to open? No problem…
3D virtual tours
3D virtual tours can be especially useful in promoting large scale manufacturing sites where access is limited or where travel to and from the facility is difficult. Customers and prospects can see the scale of an operation, without having to visit it directly.
For companies with a global target audience, 3D virtual site tours can be particularly useful.
Gamification is the application of game-design elements and mechanics to a non-game context. It is used increasingly across education and training to increase engagement and understanding (think leaderboards, digital prizes, levels and badges). And given that millennials have been brought up in a digital world, it’s easy to understand why game-like experiences might resonate with them.
Likewise, gamification can also be used to promote products in a way that is exciting and absorbing, creating a memorable customer experience… and really making a lasting impact.
Augmented reality is the combination of ‘real’ materials – such as brochures, flyers, packaging and signage – with virtual elements. An augmented reality experience can be accessed via a smart phone and allows businesses to market their products in a highly creative way.
There are ‘gimmicky’ elements to augmented reality of course (the character on a 19 Crimes wine label can chat to you via an app screen, for instance). But manufacturers can use augmented reality to show customers how a product or service might work, or how it might fit within a working environment.
Marketing automation is the use of technology to manage and implement marketing activities. It can streamline the marketing implementation process and make it more efficient.
Examples of this include automating e-mail marketing campaigns via software such as Mailchimp and scheduling and managing social media activity through Hootsuite, through which social media channels can be integrated. And by using marketing automation software, you can measure performance and collate data efficiently too.
Artificial intelligence (AI) can help businesses to predict or anticipate a customer’s buying habits – and help companies to build up a better picture of customers’ needs.
Through AI, customer data can be used more productively.
Examples of AI solutions include Google Analytics Intelligence, which can provide actionable data on website landing page engagement and conversions, or Chatbots, which engage with a customer based on data on their website interactions.
Virtual events and conferences
Many conferences and networking events moved online during the Coronavirus pandemic. Virtual events give participants a genuinely global reach, put less pressure on travel and accommodation budgets, and help businesses cut down on carbon emissions.
And while there is no substitute for grabbing a coffee and having a sit-down chat with a lead you have been nurturing, the numerous benefits of virtual events may mean that they remain popular in a post-pandemic world.
Software has evolved alongside demand, with many platforms offering excellent networking functions and opportunities to present and demonstrate products virtually.
3D rendering can bring a product to life, show its qualities from different angles or through lighting effects, and portray components and surfaces in great detail.
For a company with hundreds of products, 3D visualisation can offer a more cost effective and practical solution than photography when building up an online product directory, for example.
And a 3D product render can add more visual dimensions to material such as data sheets and presentations.
In summary, digital transformation in marketing has a vast number of advantages for manufacturers:
- It allows products and services to be demonstrated on a global scale, and breaks down language barriers.
- It can deliver a better customer experience and drives customer engagement.
- It improves data collection and analysis – allowing businesses to make informed decisions.
- A digital culture leads to innovation and increases productivity.
- Improving customer experiences and engagement through digitisation leads to increased customer loyalty – and more revenues.
- Digital transformation opens the door for new sales channels and markets, globally.
For more information on how digital transformation can boost your marketing, get in touch with Horizon Works here.