The reality of the transition to Industry 4.0 keeps getting clearer with each passing day. Although it can be said that the actual major changes peculiar to manufacturing started during the third industrial revolution, the trends incorporated in the new revolution have turned many heads and brought key changes to the industry perception and relations.
What we have seen so far is just the beginning of several steps to bring manufacturers as close as possible to the everyday lives of their existing and potential customers. The production line isn’t merely a set of assembly lines controlled by computer programs; it’s rapidly becoming a real-time responder that attends to changes in customer behavior. This transformation opens the gates to a new, customized world.
The business-customer relationship is the driving factor of the fourth industrial revolution. Due to the emergence of ecommerce, producers need to know more about their customers than ever before. Millennial consumers want to have a sort of connection with the producers. They want to connect with manufacturers of the products that use the same way they connect to their favorite music stars; because — believe it or not — music stars are producers in their own right. They create their product (music) to suit the needs of their targeted consumers (fans). The social media has played a central role in creating this environment. Consumer behavior is better mapped from their online activities than anywhere else. Complaints are logged through manufacturer’s social media accounts. The producer and consumer now have an environment in which they can interact directly. It’s a game changer!
Another major effect the fourth revolution has had on industries is that it gave a new meaning to competition. In the past, if you were a producer, your competitors were those who seek to meet the same needs as you. For instance, if you manufactured shoes, your customers would only compare you with other producers in the footwear business. In present times however, when your customers interact with you, they compare your customer relations, politics, communications, social media engagement, company message and dedication to customer satisfaction, withy producers across different industries. A footwear manufacturer’s customer relations will be compared to a furniture manufacturer’s customer relations. To the millennial consumer, customer relations should be subjected to general customer service standards.
Producers need to leverage on the many opportunities to improve consumer experiences. Two major technologies that can be maximized are the ecommerce online platforms and data analytics. They enable manufacturers to discover trends in customer behavior and get informed of potential customer preferences and make products and services that consumers cannot ignore.
Customer experience can also be improved by taking advantage of artificial intelligence. These are technologies that do not just follow instructions, but are intelligent enough to adjust to changes encountered in the process. Producers can use these technologies to make automatic changes to their emails, social media engagement and build applications that fit customer preferences without human intervention. Producers and business owners can make real-time changes to their operations to the taste of their customers.
Augmented reality and virtual reality are another set of innovations that help all the players involved in the production and consumption chain have better experience. Producers, wholesalers and retailers can advertise their products by giving the prospective buyers the opportunity to test them out through AR and VR technologies. Consumers can have full first-hand information and make informed decisions when making their purchase selections.
Industry 4.0 technologies take customer experience to a whole other level. Whether you are selling to channel partners or end consumers, digitizing your processes from the start to the end of your supply chain can bring your business an immense competitive advantage. Customers are getting more and more demanding.
In this age the way to stay competitive for any producer is to take full advantage of the available technologies to engage with consumers, and to move in the same direction your customers are moving. Even though producers are at the start of the chain, the final consumers are closer than ever. Most consumers generally move with technology one way or another, but the producers need to take deliberate, active steps to keep up with changes.
Written by Taylor Welsh, Content Writer at axcontrol.com