I don’t know what YOU were doing on June 23rd and 24th – but we were deep into all sorts of business, economic and political discussions at the SAP Forum for Building Materials in Walldorf, Germany. Link to Website.
The “who is who” of the Building Materials industry were there – 35 attendees from 22 companies around the globe came together for two days of in depth discussions around how companies can innovate and thrive in the current challenging business environment.
CEMEX, Wienerberger, Woodgrain and Kingspan spoke on a wide range of topics from how to optimize a transportation process and limit downtime in manufacturing to how to focus on customer satisfaction and your overall IT strategy.
While a wide range of topics was discussed – here are the top 3 trends that were surprising to me from the two days of interactions:
1. “Pull Marketing” is the new black
We have seen this in consumer oriented industries like CP and High Tech. But the Building Materials value chain is on board! Buyers up and down the value chain are spending more and more time researching by channels that are not directly tied to the companies they directly purchase from. The internet, social media and experts of all sorts are critical sources of information. As much as 50% of buyers have made their decision before they even contact a company. What does this mean for Building Materials companies? It means the companies must understand these channels, participate! and support their value chain in building (pun intended) valuable product, service information into these channels. The message was clear – don’t get left behind! And talk to your people in Marketing – they can help!
2. Customers are driving the IT strategy
The next time you plan a strategy meeting around mobility, order delivery or other key topics – perhaps you should invite your key customers! We had multiple examples of how B2B customers are becoming bolder in their requests – in one example a big box retailer gave its building material suppliers 12 weeks to come up with a new field service application that would cut times and costs from the selling process – while greatly improving the customer experience. The company chose to use the “request” as an opportunity to differentiate in their commodity market – and delivered “the best application” according to their customer! So what is the take away? Maybe your customer has some great creative ideas to help you differentiate yourself.
3. Building Materials companies are using Cloud to make room for innovation
Cost cutting has been a staple in Building Materials for years. But what was surprising is that we heard that companies are specifically talking about driving down costs – and moving quickly to cloud – in commodity areas like hardware and processing – in order to make room for the creative innovations that can drive business. One company talked about how its use of cloud computing has freed up funding to let them test 5 new mobile applications. A glass company mentioned a new Pricing Optimization project where they can finally look at their order data in a timely enough way to drive differentiated pricing based on margins. What is the message? Cloud can help you free up IT time and money to be more strategic to the business!
I would love to hear your thoughts – or just follow more conversation…