As builders merchants make the dash to digital, Simon Wharton, business strategy director at PushON, shares three ways they can elevate their current eCommerce offering
The construction industry has not typically led the charge when it comes to digital transformation.
Nevertheless, the pandemic pushed many to make the dash to digital – with physical showrooms closed, the pressure was on to get an online sales channel up and running as quickly as possible, just to remain operational.
With the dust settling, merchants are now fully realising the potential of eCommerce platforms.
Key to gaining a competitive edge in the digital marketplace is the delivery of an enhanced experience for trade customers and DIY enthusiasts alike.
Here are three tips for success…
It’s vital that any website or app is built responsively – meaning that it offers a positive user experience and is easy to navigate on a mobile or tablet. Even more important, however, is its ability to work for customers who may be trying to make an enquiry or put in an order remotely.
For example, you may have a site manager in rural or adverse conditions, trying to check availability of stock from a mobile device, only to find they have limited connectivity. Everything stalls until they’re able to get back to base or drive somewhere that has improved signal.
This is where a Progressive Web App (PWA) can help. It looks and feels like a normal ‘native’ app but is built more like a website, making it more robust and reliable. For example, there’s no tedious download and installation, and no reliance on having Wi-Fi signal either.
‘Intelligently managing data can make a huge difference’
Crucially, PWAs are not a direct alternative to native apps. As the name would suggest, they are ‘progressive.’ Much like you would make occasional improvements to your website, PWAs provide a more flexible, seamless way to gradually develop your online store, or make changes in response to specific trends with regards to the user experience, for example.
Tiered pricing structures
Traditionally, the construction industry has leaned towards personal account handling and building an individual rapport. While this still has immense value, there are occasions when trade customers need to be able to place orders quickly and in a way that offers traceability.
This is where the ability to deploy tiered pricing structures can be incredibly powerful. Each client is provided with an individual login where they’re met with relevant catalogues based on previous orders or specialist areas. To minimise the chance of a rogue purchase, construction leads can also customise which products the wider team has access to, as well as putting different levels of authorisation in place for bigger, more complex purchases. This not only boosts efficiency but purchasing within a pre-agreed remit also helps teams feel more secure.
Finally, this approach helps to drive loyalty through the ability to offer special discounts and promotions. This could include a points-based loyalty scheme or a percentage discount for a bulk order.
Intelligent Stock Management
Being able to intelligently manage data can also make a huge difference when it comes to retention and customer loyalty. This is where builders’ merchants may need to take a closer look at their ability to pull data from the ERP into an eCommerce platform.
At its most basic, being able to provide realistic delivery dates for stock allows the client to make an informed choice. Further to that, if the stock is not going to be available there may be a suitable alternative they can be directed towards.
- Itron launches online marketplace for smart city solutions
- RenoRun secures a whopping $142m to grow building materials marketplace
- Hanson Contracting adopts new paperless mobile technology
The same kind of intelligent technology can also provide upsell opportunities. If there are products that are commonly bought together, either through necessity or convenience, then this can be handled automatically leading to a greater order value.
With issues including materials shortages, price hikes and delays still affecting today’s merchants, being able to intelligently engage with the buyer regarding their specifications and timeframes can make all the difference in winning (and keeping) their business. And an owned approach to eCommerce is likely to be a differentiating factor.
Image credit: William Potter/Shutterstock
Are you a building professional? Sign up for a FREE MEMBERSHIP to upload news stories, post job vacancies, and connect with colleagues on our secure social feed.