10 trends for a customer-centric industry 4.0

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9 min read

To become more efficient and effective, manufacturing companies have no choice but to focus on innovation and technology. But it's not just about manufacturing technology but also about the digitalization of customer processes and journeys.

Fast travel to any chapter: 

  1. Customer Experience gains importance in manufacturing
  2. Trend 1: Gain a 360° CRM view of the customer 
  3. Trend 2: Connect sales and operations 
  4. Trend 3: Bring management closer to sales 
  5. Trend 4: Modernize your customer service  
  6. Trend 5: Optimize your field service
  7. Trend 6: Acquire new customers with digital journeys 
  8. Trend 7: Make use of Digital B2B commerce  
  9. Trend 8: Offer subscription services 
  10. Trend 9: Attract and retain more customers with loyalty programs
  11. Trend 10: Orchestrate the value chain through system integration

Companies must develop strategies that build their reputation be competitive at a time when the digitization of production has become a necessity. Industry 4.0 is a major argument for the importance of digital transformation.

Customer Experience gains importance in manufacturing

Back in 2018, PWC surveyed more than 1100 executives at global manufacturing companies (PDF), and found that only 10% back then were Digital Champions. Especially European companies were far behind their Asia-Pacific (19%) and American (11%) competition.

According to another recent PWC survey among manufacturers and automotive companies, every second participant has been successful with digitalization projects that concern the "front office transformation" or rather the digitalization of business processes and transformation to optimize the overall customer experience.

Customer-centric companies will succeed in the fourth industrial revolution because they will benefit from their customers' hyper-connectivity. For the manufacturing industry, new opportunities are opening up: the cloud enables manufacturers to coordinate their global programs, gain speed of execution and better collaborate internally. The most innovative companies are going even further by embedding the entire ecosystem of partners with direct access to their manufacturing, production or supply chain.

In the following, we will present 10 trends for more customer-centricity, optimized customer experiences as well as digitalized and connected business operations to turn your manufacturing company into a digital champion across all business units. 

Gain a 360° Customer View

Sales, marketing and customer service are essential, not only to generate new customers, but to keep your existing customers satisfied. A customer relationship management tool for manufacturing companies can help ensure that you are effective and useful in managing your complex relationships. This way you acquire new customers, keep accurate customer information and provide the best service offering.

CRM allows you to increase the productivity, provide quality service, and increase sales while creating new experiences based on the 360° knowledge of your customers.

A good hierarchization of contacts, an intelligent distribution of accounts and an understanding of the sales funnel helps to optimize the conversion. Artificial intelligence and predictive models additionally make it possible to suggest the best next actions to take in order to act on opportunities or risks without delay.

Find out how ContiTech not only standardized its global sales processes but also gained a 360° customer view with the help of the Salesforce Sales Cloud. 

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Connect sales and operations for better forecasts

Even in well-managed companies, inventory is dying. In addition, revenue leakage - when contracts are signed but the customer does not take the product on time - adds to the difficulties manufacturers face.

However, sales teams and operations working in tandem can help reduce inventory traps.

The two main benefits that a CRM platform can bring are sales agreement management and account-based forecasting that will keep the different parts of your operations on the same wavelength.

Account-based forecasting provides manufacturers with a comprehensive view of their current business and future opportunities. This enables sales, finance, and operations teams to develop more accurate forecasts while breaking down internal silos.

Bring management closer to sales to act swiftly

In the manufacturing sector, margins are paramount. Margins are so tight that a minor change in the price list can have a huge impact on the revenue.

Most companies face a number of common challenges that limit sales potential and create difficult situations. All of these challenges result from a disconnect between the sales team and the enterprise management system.

Sales teams must have modern CRM and CPQ tools connected to the company's ERP to have the latest information on products, prices and contracts to avoid inaccuracies in offers.

  • Processes must be controlled by an approval chain and workflows.
  • Documents such as quotations must be automated and standardized to the maximum extent possible, even if their composition is complex.
  • Electronic signatures and online method of payment also help to optimize the sales cycle.

Modernize your customer service for loyalty and increases sales

Customer service is rarely considered important in manufacturing industries, but it is crucial, for the health of a company, because a loss of customers can translate into a considerable loss of revenue and lack of service or bad service is one of the leading causes for customer churn across all markets, industries, and target groups.

Manufacturing companies that do not pay attention to the growth potential that exists on the service side of their business jeopardize their entire business model.

According to B2B eCommerce statistics (via magenest.com), 80% of B2B purchase decisions are influenced by a buyer's direct or indirect customer experience many of which are service-related.

Managing customer service in real time from a single digital console linked to a 360° view of customers not only helps to facilitate problem resolution but also increases loyalty and adoption. Additionally, service is a lever for accelerating business. A well trained and informed service agent can also increase up- and cross-sells.

Huber + Suhner created a completely new, modern, and digital service experience for its customers. Find out, how they did it. 

Read the use case

Optimize your field service and enable your customer support

Field service management for manufacturing organizations is a booming business, and that's no surprise. Thanks to the economics of experience, all customers - regardless of type - expect exceptional service and quick responses.

This applies to the machines in a company's own production line, as well as to the equipment that runs the customers' production lines.

To reduce machine downtime, manufacturers are now turning to Industry 4.0 technologies that offer advances such as intelligent predictive maintenance and the internet of things to detect machine anomalies and send real-time alert notifications. As a result, service teams can intervene according to the right level of service. They are equipped with modern, connected applications that enable them to offer the best optimized service while simplifying information research and administrative tasks.

Acquire new customers with digital journeys

Customers and buyers in the manufacturing sector are more connected than ever, requiring new ways of interacting. To remain competitive in the face of changing customer expectations, manufacturers must change the way they sell.

Acquiring more customers and satisfying distributors through personalized and digital paths keeps you ahead of the curve and automates opportunity capture and event tracking.

Omni-channel, direct and automated marketing solutions help market and sell smarter by leveraging data to deliver the right message, to the right prospect, at the right time. Even more so, the data generated during those activities can again be used for the same and similar customer profiles for a more targeted experience.

Make use of digital B2B commerce for a wider audience

Re-imagining commerce is the new business imperative for manufacturers. Customers know what it's like to shop on B2C platforms. They expect a similar experience for business-to-business purchasing and it is not uncommon for B2B customers to be frustrated with their buying experience.

eCommerce coupled with a 360° view of the customer allows to create a personalized experience necessary for an optimized business-to-business commercial relationship and it enables customers with 24/7 access to self-service options.

It helps to create personalized accounts with credits and purchase volumes as well as a catalog of selected products and a list of negotiated prices. Well-organized navigation, intelligent recommendations and AI-optimized promotions help maximize sales. One-click ordering or requesting a quote, re-order options and flexible payment methods create easier purchasing experiences.

Finally, a good follow-up of deliveries optimizes the operational management of both parties. All of these benefits translate into a fast, easy and seamless shopping experience for the customer.

Offer subscription services for closer relationships and recurring revenues

Subscription models present a unique opportunity to deploy new business models within the manufacturing sector. Subscriptions offer flexible services, follow-up access and products by collecting multiple and recurring payments from customers while building customer loyalty. They are typically offered for services such as regular maintenance, warranty extensions, security analysis or monitoring of connected and disconnected machines and equipment. However, they can also help long-term contracts by offering product subscriptions or renting options for especially expensive equipment.

But developing a subscription product or service requires the introduction of new business models. Today's digital platforms make it possible to manage the complexity of these new models by providing full transparency, flexibility and control over complex pricing models, payment options and payment processes. Together with personalized marketing and sales journeys, manufacturers can open their business to completely new customer groups and markets.

Attract and retain more customers with loyalty programs

Offering a loyalty program is a great way to attract and retain more customers. This is especially true for manufacturing companies, whose target audience is made up of suppliers, wholesalers, retailers or distributors.

It is imperative to offer better services and at the same time to build customer loyalty. And, when you get loyal customers, you'll make them the best ambassadors for your brand.

Offering a loyalty program allows manufacturers to reward their customers with special discounts, workshops, products and experiences. Even though many loyalty programs are aimed at B2C customers, it is worth it to identify what your B2B customers would cherish (special training, discounts, or even networking events) and turn it into a loyalty program tailored for your business model and customer base.

Furthermore, you might be able to increase share of wallet by offering point collecting opportunities for each purchase / unit, thus decreasing churn. A digital loyalty solution coupled with CRM makes it possible to simplify your reward programs and add value to them. Your customers will feel appreciated and your sales will be stimulated.

Orchestrate the value chain through system integration

Manufacturers have significantly improved value chain performance over the past 20 years. However, traditional methods are now producing diminishing returns. To address digital transformation initiatives and connect data to every point in the digital supply chain (and commerce), leading manufacturers have developed integration points or micro-services (API/endpoints).

Digital connectivity and data orchestration between designers, managers, workers, consumers and manufacturers will unleash enormous value and change the manufacturing landscape forever.

To respond to this evolution, manufacturers must fundamentally change the way they operate. Integration platforms (ETL/ESB) are can be deployed to deliver and execute more projects within tighter timeframes and budgets. Integration will also support the development of new services such as mobile, IoT or analytics.


Digital platforms that put the customer at the heart of your business and combine sales, service and marketing challenges in an integrated way help manufacturers meet the challenges of today and tomorrow because they can trust in stable customer relationships.

For companies that have not yet begun this process, it is time to address these challenges by conducting a comprehensive assessment of their existing business processes, setting goals and identifying the gaps that will hinder the achievement of those goals.

DIGITALL has developed a strong expertise in the manufacturing industry. We partner with market-leading solutions such as Salesforce. By combining business understanding and technical expertise, we are your partner in your transformation projects and can help you on your way to become the digital champion of your industry.

Be a digital trailblazer with Salesforce

by Frédéric Demierre

Frédéric Demierre was Chief Growth Officer at DIGITALL, leading all aspects of marketing, industry solutions and strategic alliances with the mission to accelerate DIGITALL's business growth in the different markets.

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