Bridging the innovation gap between retail PLM and consumer experience

Modern manufacturers in Asia understand that retailers need to constantly build their brand loyalty to meet the expectations of the highly demanding millennial consumer. Today’s consumer is a new breed. Researching features and pricing options online, they are more informed, more discerning and quick to leap from one brand to the next. This places added pressures on retailers and in turn manufacturers.

Already operating on lean staff and thin margins, more manufacturers today are facing the challenge of helping their retail customers answer consumer expectations for faster delivery, more product choices and more value. Some tech savvy manufacturers are embracing the consumer-centric era in manufacturing and turning to IT solutions to help them interact directly with consumers in meaningful ways. These forward-thinking manufacturers are actually building customer engagement opportunities into the product lifecycle.

This not only meets consumer expectations for highly configured products, it also allows retailers to foster direct consumer relationships, leading to greater consumer loyalty. In today’s highly competitive market, these two benefits provide important opportunities to move purchase decisions from being based purely on price. 

Improving the customer experience

Not only do today’s consumers insist on speed of delivery, quality and value—they also prefer products that are highly customized. This is especially the case as online shopping becomes more prevalent. The millennial generation in particular, is accustomed to “on demand” access to information, products and services, creating a highly self-focused generation with expectations for instant gratification and personalized attention.

This generation has grown up with continuous internet access, online shopping and companies like Amazon and Pandora, which anticipate their preferences and make suggestions based on past searches and purchase trends. Such experiences train consumers to expect personalized attention in all of their purchasing decisions. This heightened level of customer demand, however, creates many logistical challenges for manufacturers.

Client collaboration on new product design is especially important in industries with mission critical or capital intensive products, like Aerospace &Defence, industrial equipment or material handling.  Manufacturers of these highly specialized products with critical specifications benefit from the involvement of their customers, as the end user always provides valuable insights about real-life needs and field conditions.

Modern Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions with built in collaborative and social tools support real-time conversations, sharing of schematics and the ability to create and share renderings, all within the confines of the project, budget goals and compliance mandates. Because the collaboration happens within the scope of the ERP system, intellectual property is protected, decisions are documented, and insights are captured for future tracking and contribution to the knowledge base.

Understanding the role of software development

Modern IT solutions help manufacturers manage customer engagement strategies, whether they involve order processing, collaboration on design, product configuration tools or analytics to predict buying trends and maintain appropriate inventory levels.  Software solutions also help manage aftermarket service, warranty and maintenance contracts. Without careful management of the many variables and fast-changing conditions, manufactures risk having a customer engagement program backfire. Especially in today’s highly connected environment, no manufacturer can afford to have customers voice complaints through social channels.

On the other hand, a well-managed, efficient system offers just the brand reinforcement that manufacturers and retailers are seeking. Multi-touch programs that engage consumers before, during and after their purchases help give the manufacturer an identity that is distinctive and memorable. This is critical as manufacturers face global competition and must use every possible tool to stand out among the proliferation of products and messages vying for consumer attention.