The social and economic environment that we are living in is changing at an unprecedented rate.
While building and construction is often considered as a traditional or conservative industry, which progresses slowly, we cannot expect it to remain immune from these changes.
The ongoing recession has seen major changes to the way in which many products are sold and bought, with the consequent demise of some established chains and a significant rise in online purchasing. Can examples of innovation from the wider retail sector be adopted for building materials? Why not!
The natural customer base of the Builders Merchant is also changing and expanding, with smaller builders and enthusiastic DIY-ers now seeing the Merchant as the destination of choice for purchasing materials. In return, the customer sales experience will need to adapt to this and become more attractive and informative for the customer, while hopefully avoiding the ubiquitous ‘Coffee Shop’.
The SmartPhone is rapidly becoming the builder’s new best friend (as can be witnessed in my local on a wet afternoon, where builders congregate to moan about the weather). Extensive information about products and prices, and of course not forgetting the weather forecast, are readily available at the touch of the screen. Some helpful suppliers even have apps that guide you step by step through the process of completing small building jobs. What more could you want?
So, are the days of the builder arriving at the Merchant’s in his van or pick up to collect a dozen bags of cement, well and truly over? I doubt it, because good merchants offer a great deal more than product. But ‘click and collect’ ordered from the SmartPhone directly from site (as the awful realisation dawns that there isn’t enough material left to finish the job), may soon become the norm rather than the exception.
All we can be sure about is that nothing stands still for long and that we will all need to adapt (suppliers and merchants alike) if we are to continue to prosper in this brave new world.