Significant number of European adults shopping direct with manufacturers – but can they keep up with customers’ expectations?

More than two-fifths (42%) of European adults have bought products directly from a manufacturer in the last 12 months, according to the JDA Manufacturing Pulse Report which surveyed 6,146 adults across the UK, Germany, France and Sweden.

However, 43% of respondents said that a lack of delivery or collection options that suited their needs would stop them from shopping directly with a manufacturer, while a further 43% stated they were frustrated when manufacturers did not have their desired items in stock. Despite these concerns, of those European adults who had bought directly from a manufacturer in the last 12 months, 40% said the experience was better than that encountered when shopping with a non-manufacturer.

When asked about their shopping habits, nearly a third (30%) stated they had bought more products directly from a manufacturer now, compared to five years ago. The research also highlighted that European adults are shopping directly via a number of channels; of those adults who had bought products directly from a manufacturer in the last 12 months, 68% had shopped in-store and 53% had done so online. While many manufacturers have an online presence, this illustrates that many still don't offer consumers the ability to buy directly from their websites.

"The huge boom in omni-channel commerce is now also really starting to impact the manufacturing sector. Consumer goods manufacturers are at a crossroads when it comes to selling directly to consumers. To date, many have dipped their toes into direct selling and in the main have found it an unprofitable exercise.

The question now facing the majority of manufacturers, is how do I make my online channel profitable?" said Hans Georg Kaltenbrunner, VP Manufacturing Industry Strategy EMEA, at JDA. "We have already seen the retail industry grapple with the same challenges. Today's manufacturing supply chains must be reshaped to handle more fulfilment locations and increased singles picking for customer orders, while at the same time offering choice and convenience. With the potential costs of fulfilling orders high, manufacturers must protect themselves now against any impact on their bottom line."

Getting closer to the customer

The research found that there is still considerable room for improvement when it comes to how manufacturers are using customer data. Indeed, only 38% of European adults who had shopped online with a manufacturer in the last 12 months thought that manufacturers had made good use of their customer data. When it came to social media and online reviews, 32% of respondents said that reviews shared online and via social media had influenced their purchasing decisions over the last 12 months.

After price, choice and availability seen as reasons to go direct

Perhaps unsurprisingly, price (62%) was cited as the biggest reason for why respondents would ever shop directly with a manufacturer; followed by product availability (39%), product warranty (32%), product choice (31%) and product knowledge/ experience (24%). Certain sectors lead the way when it came to the type of products that respondents had purchased directly from manufacturers in the last 12 months. Of these people, just under half (46%) had purchased furniture for the home, followed by clothing or footwear (35%) and electrical equipment (33%). Further broken down by gender, the figures reveal that across all countries surveyed, more men online (38%) purchased electrical equipment directly from a manufacturer in the last 12 months than women (28%), and more women (51%) purchased home furniture than men (40%); more women (36%) also purchased clothing or footwear than men online (34%).

Getting personal

Personalisation has the potential to become a significant differentiator for manufacturers in the future, yet its impact on supply chains could be considerable. Currently, 9% of European adults said they had items personalised by manufacturers in the last 12 months. However, over a quarter (28%) of respondents said that personalisation would make them more likely to buy products from a manufacturer.

"In order to meet the demands of today's digital consumer, manufacturers need a digital supply chain. Digital capabilities in planning, manufacturing and fulfillment will allow physical supply chains to be configured in a way that can support both manufacturers' traditional and direct channels. If manufacturers ignore or take only a piecemeal approach to their direct channel, it will prove unprofitable and may damage brand reputation. Those that invest in it, supported with the necessary supply chain planning and execution capabilities, have the opportunity to improve profitability and create positive customer experiences," added Hans-Georg Kaltenbrunner.

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 6,146 adults (UK, 2,083; Germany, 2,025; France, 1,029; Sweden, 1,009). Fieldwork was undertaken between 8th-15th October 2015. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all adults (aged 18+) in the UK, Germany, France and Sweden.

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