When you think of a builders’ merchants, you probably don’t think of an advanced eCommerce website and digital marketing strategy. But why not? Everyone else in retail is using them.

That’s because despite ‘digital construction’ being at the forefront of the UK’s Industrial Strategy, with a plethora of digital solutions now available to help streamline workflow and smooth project management, there’s a remarkable lack of advancement in the digital offering and planning made by builders’ merchants.

This isn’t simply in terms of adding eCommerce functionality to a decent website, but more structurally in terms of ensuring your merchants supply chain is fully integrated and provides a seamless supply of building materials.

Why time is running out for merchants to switch

Technology is now a seamless, ubiquitous and essential part of our everyday lives, transcending all sectors. The building and construction sector is no exception, but it’s still seen as relatively low-tech. Times are finally changing though and the sector’s now playing catch-up, moving rapidly into a new digital chapter. Builders merchants need to be ready.

The UK’s leading strategic brand and marketing agency for the built environment, CMDi, has been instrumental in helping built environment brands make the switch to digital successfully. But the clock’s ticking and Managing Director of CMDi, Dianne Lucas, urges builders’ merchants to act now before it’s too late.

“Merchants need to act now to prepare themselves for the digital transformation taking place,” says Managing Director of CMDi, Dianne Lucas, “and adapt to be relevant to an increasing number of digital savvy buyers. The brutal truth is, companies that aren’t e-relevant will soon become irrelevant.”

Digital is the new traditional

Many merchants are still stuck in the old business model, says Dianne: they think builders like to pop in, have a cup of tea, and then pick up materials.

And if they feel in a comfortable position, who can blame them? Where’s the urgency to change if current performance indicators are still healthy? Transformations are costly, monopolise management attention, and can create distraction or instability. It’s no wonder many follow the adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

But the world is changing fast around these attitudes. Although older builders may like a familiar old-world relationship, the new digital-savvy generation see online purchasing as the new norm. For a growing number of younger builders, digital is now traditional.

The speed and convenience of a digitally connected merchant business is simply too appealing to today’s builders to be stopped: deliveries on-site instead of having to pick up materials at the merchants’ yard in their van, integration with their job quoting system, VAT claims made easier… the list goes on. And just keeps getting better.

The early business catches the work

Merchants that make the change early quickly see first-mover advantages, says Dianne, as they act ahead of their competitors and become potential disruptors and leaders. Considering those transformations take time, moving pre-emptively is the best way for merchants to prevent obsolescence and eventual collapse.

‘Pre-emptive change is proven to generate significantly higher long-term value than reactive change,” says Dianne, “and it does so faster and more reliably”.

It’s not just about your website

Many merchants believe that digital transformation is just about having an online trading system. This is of course vital, but it’s far from being the only element. Merchants also need to consider a wider, fuller approach to their transformation cautions Dianne including brand, segmentation, customer experience, and digital marketing strategy – all linked to the launch of their world-class online trading system.

4 steps to successful digital acceleration:

1. Explore. In order to transform your e-business pre-emptively, you need to anticipate change by continually exploring new options.

2. Create a sense of urgency. When your business is doing well, danger lies in complacency. Business leaders mustn’t wait for a real crisis to occur. Creating a sense of urgency is the best way to avoid the risk of leaving change too late.

3. Create a transformation strategy. It’s essential to move swiftly against risks and towards opportunities. To do this, you have to build lasting transformation capabilities and strengthen your brand. And also build a better digital platform.

4. Choose the right partner to drive change. Businesses tend to drive change with a very linear, project-management mindset. You need a partner who will help run your transformation as a comprehensive programme under one consolidated agenda. Change will then happen faster, more efficiently and far more cost-effectively.

The complete digital solution for builders’ merchants

In partnership with builders’ merchant website specialists eCommonSense, who provide the digital platform, CMDi has developed an all-in-one solution E-Merchant Accelerator: designed to help guide merchants into this next chapter with certainty and speed.

“Wherever you are with your digital transformation programme,” says Dianne, “E-Merchant Accelerator will get you there faster.”

E-Merchant Accelerator is supported by the Builders Merchants Federation (BMF). CEO John Newcomb describes the programme as “a vital tool to help our members get future fit fast”.

For more information you can view our E-Merchant Accelerator service page, or contact Dianne Lucas, MD, CMDi on 01483 924766 / dlucas@cmdi.co.uk or Andy Scothern, MD, eCommonSense on 01156 975975 / info@ecommonsense.com

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