A number of building materials companies consider selling directly to their customers. They want to capture the margin they share with dealers, distributors and Amazon.
Their biggest worry is channel conflict. Will their customers punish them for selling directly?
In my experience, a well-done eCommerce site increases the visibility of a brand or product that also benefits the dealers and distributors. Customers will still buy the product from the source they prefer.
The Real Problem Is That Most Building Materials Companies Can’t Execute an eCommerce Site
Building materials companies are used to shipping truckloads, pallets and cases. They aren’t set up operationally to fulfill individual orders while delivering Amazon-level service.
They don’t know how to deal with the free shipping they’ll need to stay competitive.
They’re not set up to provide customers with answers for small dollar sales.
They aren’t ready to manage hassle-free returns.
They also can’t be a one-stop shop. If you offer a single product like roofing underlayment, the contractor still has to go to another source for the rest of the materials they need.
A Smarter Way to Grow Online
That doesn’t mean you should give up on your online sales. You just need a better approach.
Catch up with your online customers by becoming more knowledgeable about eCommerce. They have different needs than your brick and mortar customers.
You may need to add some marketing people with eCommerce experience or invest in educating your people.
You can be an order-taker and do what your customers tell you to do. If you want to see real growth, however, you should become a valuable partner who helps your eCommerce customers become successful.
Is there an online leader like Decks Direct for your products? Ask them if you could send a marketing person to spend a few days with them to learn how they work so you can provide them with better support.
Create a list of all the customers who sell your products online. If they’re selling in different channels, you need a separate plan for in-store and online.
If your products are being sold on Amazon, you should be the one who is selling them instead of a dealer.
If you sell on HomeDepot.com or Lowes.com, your sales should be growing. If they aren’t, you need to find out why and fix it.
You need to know your distributors’ online plans and proactively suggest ways you can help them be more successful.
If there are online sellers for your type of product, you need to get them to sell yours. If someone like WayFair doesn’t sell your type of product but you think they should, go make your case to them.
Don’t Be Left Behind
Online building material sales are growing and will change how products are sold. Homeowners are already there and have no problem ordering just about any material online. As they learn the value of their time, the pros are going online more to deal with their distributors and dealers.
Don’t be left behind. It doesn’t take a big capital investment for your customers to know you as an online selling expert.
If you’re competing with four other companies, being the one who is viewed as being the most knowledgeable about online sales will be a big competitive advantage in today’s market.
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