If Amazon wanted to transform it, they would have done it already.
The digital transformation of the customer journey has been a hot topic for a while now in the chemical industry. There are many ideas on how to approach it but so far nothing major had happened.
To answer, it is important to turn to the basics. Essentially, in the chemical industry, customers (formulators) buy various materials and combine them with other materials in order to develop a formulation.
This part is inherent to the chemical industry and it’s what makes its customer journey different from the other industries.
Let’s break it down:
- Customers are formulators. They are highly educated and trained technical people looking for very specific materials or complete solutions (guide formulations) for their very specific applications and projects. They are looking for detailed specifications – material properties and parameters.
- Materials/Chemicals are the building blocks of their products (formulations) and there are thousands of materials that can be combined together to make a formulation. In the paints and coatings industry, in general, a formulator needs a resin, a solvent, a pigment, a filler, and an additive to make a formulation.
- Formulations are the output, the product of the chemical industry that must also have specific properties and parameters. In the development process, formulators must have a clear understanding of how a material will affect the properties of a formulation, what will be the hazards, and at last but not least, what will be the costs of a formulation.
Compared to the e-commerce business (online shopping), the chemical industry is so much more complex.
In retail, customers buy independent products – products that can independently exist and don’t have to be combined with other products (those outside one’s product portfolio too).
In contrast, in the chemical industry, stakeholders must consider many aspects, including technology, combinations, and compatibility, regulatory compliance, logistics and transport, availability, etc.
Therefore, the customer journey in the chemical industry does not include solely buying chemicals (materials). This comes at the end of the sales/purchase process. The most important part of the journey is deciding which ones to buy.
Entering materials in a web-shop is not enough for the customer-centric digital approach. With this, you are telling your customers “When you decide what you want to buy, go to our web-shop and place an order.”
You’re definitely helping your internal business model, but not the customer’s one.
And to add some more complexity to the topic discussed here, every producer and every distributor is introducing their own version of an e-commerce platform and therefore ignoring the essentials; customers combine various materials (commodities and specialties) to develop formulations.
Please, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that it’s not important. It’s one phase in the evolution. It’s the digitalization of the ordering process. But this is only a small part of the whole process. The most important parts – material selection, technical service, and regulatory compliance – are still left untouched. In other words, those are still done manually, on both sides of the journey: supplier’s side and formulator’s side.
PDF documents are shared, multiple phone calls made, e-mails back and forth and a lot of time lost.
As an example of that, we are witnessing many cases of the same software deployed in numerous companies, even in the same supply chain, that are completely isolated from each other. In other words: the data from a supplier cannot be shared with a customer, so they must manually transcribe the data into their copy of the same software.
Why we developed Allchemist?
Considering the above, the customer journey should include the following elements:
- A cutting-edge product selector that allows users to find and compare materials/chemicals by properties and parameters – e.g. find an alkyd resin for indoor, industrial use for metal, with density between 1.1 and 1.3 g/cm3, solid contents greater than 60%.
- A digital lab where a formulator can draft formulations online directly by using various digitized materials from the database to determine hazards, price, properties, and parameters of the formulation, before buying materials. This adds to the customized user experience.
- Single point of contact for technical support and sample ordering that can send requests to various CRM systems (via APIs).
- And, at last, but not least, once the formulation is confirmed and validated, direct single point (M)SDS and label creation & share.
If you want to know how to make material/chemical search, technical support and SDS creation efficient and faster, schedule an introduction conference call now. We’ll show you how to get the most out of Allchemist.