The home improvement boom has taken the industry by storm, and there are no signs of it slowing down. According to iPropertyManagement, more than half of homeowners have hired a licensed tradesman to assist in home improvement projects in the past year. With this heightened demand for contractors comes the need for a trusted supplier of the products required to get the job done.
Seeing this demand, many lumber and building material businesses have made investments to ensure their professional customers are equipped with everything they need—especially small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs). According to ECI’s 2021 State of SMB Digital Transformation Report, half of SMBs in the lumber and building materials space expanded or implemented a Buy Online, Pickup in Store (BOPIS) process, and 38% created or expanded delivery services to meet the needs of their professional customers. Additionally, 43% created or expanded their ecommerce offering. These investments show that SMBs are serious about serving contractors in a way that works for their unpredictable schedules.
What some might not know is that these independent LBM and home centers contain unique advantages when serving contractors that make them an even better partner than their larger counterparts. Here are some reasons why:
Typical independent stores are better equipped for trade partnerships as they allow for more customized ordering and manage special orders extremely well. More so than a big box retailer who typically relies on in-stock brands, products and styles, independents have broad vendor relationships with greater material access making it easy for trades to obtain items that aren’t immediately available off shelf.
Flexible Installment Plans
For big ticket items, independents have the flexibility to give professionals the option to “pay as they go.” This takes the pressure off the contractor, allowing them to pay once they receive the check from their completed project. By leveraging technology, like an enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution, independents easily manage installment payments using amortized or flat-rate interest, which enables them to increase customer share of wallet.
Personalized Pro Portals
For those independents who have invested in an ERP solution, they have the ability to offer an on-demand customer portal that gives key customers direct access to account information, delivery scheduling and online ordering. Within a customer portal, businesses can showcase their inventory and enable their customers to place orders, submit quotes and receive confirmation. This enables independents to strengthen their relationship with contract accounts, while improving efficiency by reducing incoming calls related to common inquiries.
For contractors, where time is money, a meaningful relationship with their local LBM dealer can make all the difference in the world—not to mention the many other benefits of supporting a local small business. For retailers, it is important to have the right solutions in place to help garner that strong relationship with professionals while continuing to service all customers that walk through their doors.
– As president of the LBM & Hardlines Group at ECI Software Solutions, John Maiuri is responsible for the vision, guidance and strategic growth of his team within the Building and Construction Division (www.ecisolutions.com).