Manufacturers today must focus their digital strategy on the end-customer. Learn how a low-code platform can enable development teams to deliver innovative applications faster and better keep up with changes.
Historically, manufacturers had to make do with indirect relationships between themselves and the end-customers of their products.
Given the number of supply chain partners sandwiched between the factory and the customer, even keeping track of end-customers—let alone providing them complementary products and services—was largely out of reach.
No more. Today’s digitally transformed manufacturers must put the end-customer first, and that means establishing and maintaining a relationship with each of them that provides incremental value, differentiation, and product loyalty.
However, achieving this goal is easier said than done. There are many different categories of manufactured products for both consumers and businesses, and building relationships with customers means something different for each of them.
But regardless of the product category, low-code platforms can be an instrumental part of any end-customer focused digital strategy. Here are some examples.
Example: Consumer packaged goods
The economics of consumer packaged goods generally prevents the inclusion of digital technology in the products or their packaging beyond passive technologies like RFID—at least for now. For products in this category, digital efforts must therefore fall outside the products themselves.
Building websites to support such products’ brands has been in manufacturers’ marketing toolkits for three decades now—and thus consumers no longer find any novelty in such efforts. As a result, manufacturers must step up their game.
For some products, building a mobile app provides a fast path for customer loyalty, but only in rather limited circumstances. A consumer would have to be a dedicated fan of their breakfast cereal, say, to download the manufacturer’s app for it.
Today, the better bet is to build customer-facing functionality that integrates with the apps and sites consumers are already using, like supermarket loyalty apps, recommendation sites, and social media.
Regardless of the strategy: website, mobile app, or integrated digital functionality, low-code platforms like Progress Kinvey can underpin such strategies, as well as facilitate moving from one strategy to the next, more sophisticated one.
Example: Gasoline-powered equipment
Manufacturers have long sought to encourage consumers to return warranty cards for gasoline-powered equipment, with modest success at best. Clearly, the digital strategies in category #1 above can increase participation as well as customer value for such warranty activations.
Additionally, manufacturers are increasingly including Internet of Things (IoT) technologies in their higher-end manufactured products. The market is only now exploring the possibilities of such technologies.
IoT sensors can monitor engine health. They can provide ‘LoJack’ type theft deterrent and tracking capabilities. They can provide information to consumers that encourages proper maintenance and follow-on sales.
The technology for such innovations is available now. Whether particular products support the IoT is more a matter of the innovativeness of the manufacturer, rather than any type of technical limitation.
Low-code platforms can be instrumental in supporting such innovation. IoT technology is improving rapidly, as are its potential uses. The IoT-enabled applications a manufacturer puts in front of its end-customers, therefore, will likely expand and change over time. Low-code is well-suited to keep up with such dynamic environments.
Furthermore, as low-code platforms add artificial intelligence, and in particular machine learning to their platforms, manufacturers will be able to leverage this new technology to derive better insights into end-customer behaviors and engagement, thus further improving the relationships between manufacturers and their customers.
Example: Hospital medical equipment
The IoT is now a reality for a wide range of B2B manufactured products, even more so than in the consumer space. Such technologies collect and provide vast quantities of data for maintenance, compliance, and other uses.
In many cases, manufacturers keep in touch with such devices on an ongoing basis, as the service agreements they provide their customers typically require round-the-clock monitoring.
IoT-enabled capabilities predictably impact the user interface on such devices as well, as such capabilities bring new options to the end-user. For example, the console for an MRI scanner can now integrate with hospital data stores, bringing vast diagnostic resources to the point of use, well beyond the information contained within the scanner itself.
Such connectivity presents a security challenge to be sure, but it also provides additional security and compliance capabilities. Security personnel have greater visibility into potentially malicious activity on such equipment. Compliance offers have corresponding visibility into HIPAA or other compliance metrics on such equipment as well.
The number and purposes of the user interfaces for such equipment, therefore, have exploded. A single piece of equipment may have a different interface for primary users, IT operations personnel, security and compliance personnel, as well as individuals responsible for maintenance across the supply chain.
For the team responsible for building and maintaining such user-facing applications, low-code platforms like Kinvey can support the complex and multifaceted requirements of such varied interested parties, as well as provide artificial intelligence-driven insights into collected data.
Furthermore, as user and compliance requirements evolve—as they always do—low-code can be instrumental in helping the application team keep up.
Today’s manufacturers cannot afford to remain complacent. They must differentiate themselves by delivering products and services that are laser-focused on the end-customer experience.
The starting point: apps and sites that leverage the inherent digital capabilities of their products that expand addressable markets, differentiate product lines, and extract new value from relationships with customers—value both for the manufacturer as well as for the customer.
Low-code platforms like Progress Kinvey are an important enabler of such digital strategies. Building apps is simpler and faster with low-code than with comparable traditional approaches. As a result, application teams can deliver better software faster than before.
Even more significant, however, is how low-code can help manufacturers update and change the functionality that underpins their digital efforts. Core technologies like the IoT continue to evolve quickly, and manufacturers must keep up.
But most importantly, customer expectations are also in a constant state of flux. A novel feature one day is commonplace the next and essential the day after that. No manufacturer can afford to fall behind in their efforts to remain successful in the digital era.
Learn how Kinvey can help you deliver on the customer engagement and operational efficiency you need to succeed in manufacturing.
Copyright © Intellyx LLC. Progress Software is an Intellyx customer.
Jason Bloomberg is a leading IT industry analyst, Forbes contributor, keynote speaker, and globally recognized expert on multiple disruptive trends in enterprise technology and digital transformation. He is founder and president of Agile Digital Transformation analyst firm Intellyx. He is ranked #5 on Onalytica’s list of top Digital Transformation influencers for 2018 and #15 on Jax’s list of top DevOps influencers for 2017, the only person to appear on both lists. Mr. Bloomberg is the author or coauthor of four books, including The Agile Architecture Revolution (Wiley, 2013). His next book, Agile Digital Transformation, is due within the next year.
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