Bernie Ferrari, Sr. Director, Product Management & Marketing

Amazon Has Disrupted Your Business, and You Might Not Even Know It.

As Consumer Purchasing Experiences Improve, So Do Buyer Expectations

I want you to think about holiday shopping. How do you do yours? For most of my life, I would drive to the store, aimlessly browse items until something jumped out at me, possibly ask for help from an employee, buy an item, wrap item and give the gift.

Times have changed. Today, my shopping process looks more like this: I might come across a gift idea online (via social media, email, or good old-fashioned web surfing), read reviews, find an item online and order it with free two-day delivery. You'll notice a lot has changed. Namely, there is a lot less person-to-person communication, and I now have the option to have things gift wrapped before they're shipped. (Worth every penny.)

This experience is similar for many people in their day-to-day purchasing. People have come to expect that one click purchase, two-day delivery from Amazon, excellent and responsive customer services from Zappos, and so on. These are the product interactions and buying experiences that will resonate in your buyers' minds in the year 2016.

Now think about your business. Think about how you market your products. Does your business live up to those expectations? There is a clear shift towards the digital world, and as a dealer, you are responsible for marketing your products in a way that today's customers expect and accept.

Here are four simple tools you can leverage to start closing more sales and meeting the expectations of today's—and tomorrow's—purchasers:

  1. Manufacturer Applications: Many manufacturers have created mobile apps that help customers create design configurations, learn more about the product(s), pull up a catalog, etc. By using applications like these with your customers, you're able to offer them a better visual representation of what it is they want, making for an easier sell and less work on your end. It's all at your customer's fingertips—you just need to empower them with the right tools.
  2. Email Marketing Platform: Don't get scared off when I start to talk email marketing, because there are plenty of affordable, easy-to-use email marketing platforms out there. Constant Contact, for example, allows you to utilize already-created templates and simply change (or not change) minor design elements as you please so that you can focus on communicating specials and new products to your audience. Today's inboxes have become “more like to-do lists where emails wait for actions to be taken."1 Likewise, consistent email marketing is a great method of communication for your customers when they're on the go, allowing you to follow up with them later—and them to follow up with you.
  3. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System: For the more advanced dealer, a CRM system can have a huge impact on your business and how you spend your marketing time and dollars. CRM gets you closer to the sale by tracking your leads and qualifying them once they have performed enough of the actions you have deemed makes someone a “hot” lead. With CRM, you can choose to speak only to the customers who have “raised their hands,” making it that much easier to close a sale and focus your efforts where they'll have the biggest impact.
  4. Website: One of the most common mistakes I see dealers make is thinking they don't need a website. While it might not be necessary for some of your longer-lasting customer relationships, the simple fact of the matter is that many of today's prospects don't view a business as legitimate if it doesn't have a website. And going into the year 2016, there's really no excuse not to have one; sites like WordPress® and Drupal®, make it easy for you to build your own company site. Plus, having a website opens the door to more opportunities, like Pay-Per-Click (PPC), Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and other digital marketing techniques that drive new business.

It's intimidating to think of all the ways the building industry has changed, and how much more is still to come. But as anyone in building knows, this industry and the people who comprise it are nothing if not up for a challenge.

So this is your 2016 challenge: Amazon and Zappos and other big names have trickled into your buyers' minds—not necessarily as a competitor, of course, but as a standard bearer. The bar has been set. Dealers in the building industry must now step into the digital arena and rise to meet that bar.

1 Litmus Report — The Viral Email

Articles in Marketing, Sales, Trends | December 01, 2015