Andy Scothern, Managing Director eCommonSense is BMBI’s Expert for Website & Product Data Management Solutions.
As the country emerges from lockdown, builders’ merchants face some difficult digital dynamics.
Building materials supply shortages are causing many to puzzle over how best to respond. A common strategy seems to be to reduce demand by limiting sales by prioritising certain customer groups (retail and DIY for example) over others. In many cases, website sales have been limited by removing certain products. Merchant staff then spend time trying to acquire more products and maximise supply.
Many have put the brakes on their online sales channel or postponed their move into eCommerce. Inevitably that leads to missed sales and lower profits. At best, existing customers will be less unhappy. At worst it’s a short-term strategy with far-reaching consequences. Online sales channels offer the potential to increase sales and reduce the time to serve customers. This effectively frees up employee time to work on supply problems.
Similar to Amazon, ManoMano, the online building materials platform with a focus on DIY, decoration, and gardening materials, has raised €300 million to grow in the UK. How big a threat to merchants that is depends on how deeply they’ve embedded eCommerce and digitalisation in their businesses.
Merchants who are unable to sell online, or don’t have a strong online offering will be unable to sell on ManoMano. As suppliers recognise how important online is becoming, it’s reasonable to expect many to link with ManoMano and cut less effective non-digital merchants from their business plans. The market is booming, but merchants should not delay their online launches as this leaves them vulnerable to this emerging threat and opportunity.
Cyber-attacks are increasing. A recent hacking attack on one of our clients was identified as coming from Russia. Fortunately, our team was able to neutralise the threat, but merchants need appropriate security and a team that can identify and repel attacks.
This is worrying for merchants who don’t invest appropriately in digitalisation, but a huge opportunity for those who do. When is the right time to digitalise your business? Answer: 20 years ago, but if you didn’t start then, start immediately!