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First published by Liane Geber September 6 on the Digitalist

 

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Social media is no longer an afterthought strategy for most companies, even if they are in the building materials industry. These businesses understand that social media can help them interact with customers and be recognized by them. Think about it: If someone enters your company name or a product you offer in a Google browser, will you appear on the first page? If your customer types their problem in a search engine, does your company name show up, too? Is it time for your business to maximize the benefits of digital customer engagement?

Improving the customer experience is a key principle of digital transformation. Not only can you help your B2B orB2C customers find the information they need with greater ease, but you can also use innovative ways, such as social media, to market your business name. Here’s how you can make it happen.

Innovation in building products

Digitalization on the consumer side is forcing building products companies to think how social media can be used to address changing customer needs and behavior. We have connected consumers, always online, sharing their views on social media, making purchase decisions based on online searches. This is why we need to include social media into our go-to-market strategy. Digitalization has changed consumer behavior—and the building products industry needs to use technology to support new business models and business process as it figures out how to adapt to new customer and market realities.

Social media is partially responsible for changing and expanding customer expectations. Customers now demand innovation, and sometimes are even willing to pay for it. For example, many customers will pay more for green products, as they recognize the added benefit in terms of environmental stewardship.

Ever-changing regulations that demand new approaches require innovation. Contractors need solutions to improve productivity. By focusing on innovation, a company can improve its market share significantly.

But how do you get all this information out to your customers? Social media is a great tool. Facebook has been a hot channel for both B2C and B2B interactions in the past, and LinkedIn has also recognized this challenge, developing tools to allow for better B2B interactions to build a better market share in that sector.

Improving the customer experience

While customers demand innovation, that’s not the end of the story. Information on supply chain and distribution networks is expected to be available at any time and on any device. Tailored information for the customer strengthens the relationship to the building products business. It also boosts revenue. Sensors within a product allows for after-sale revenue when, for example, a product has a faulty part.

But this can be taken a step further. Imagine a forecasting solution that predicts when a part will fail. This allows the building product business to improve reliability before the product even leaves the factory. This added reliability adds up to a larger market share. Why? Customers spread the word over social media that their product has great reliability.

Better availability through demand sensing

One area where social media is especially helpful is demand sensing. By monitoring social media channels, a business can predict when demand is rising or falling. This information can be fed into predictive analytics, helping the company determine which products are needed in which location and by which customers. This in turn allows the company to better forecast production numbers, creating a leaner operation and more flexibility as the supply network is optimized for agility in delivery.

Imagine a company where solutions are in place to deal with rapid market shifts: A particular innovative product has been featured in a popular blog post. The blog post is shared across multiple social media channels. As momentum builds, an analytics solution accurately projects the expected sales and market sector. This information is used to influence production, marketing, and sales approaches. What could have been a bland launch is now looking like an awesome opportunity. The company’s market share grows.

Improving customer experience through modeling

Social media can be a wonderful or a terrible thing. It provides the opportunity to promote a business, but it can also cause harm through bad reviews or posts to a company or product page. How do you avoid unforeseen problems?

Even with extensive testing of beta products, issues can arise. The key is to prevent problems from occurring in the first place. In addition to beta testing, using sensors to capture data can help do this. This data can come from manufacturing machines, from the vehicles used to transport the product, or from the products themselves. By having this data on hand, the business can create predictions and simulations, in many cases allowing it to catch problems before products leave the factory.

Imagine a factory that produces building products in which the operations manager typically doesn’t discover that a machine is out of specifications until the company has already received many customer complaints.

Instead, sensors on the plant floor catch the problem before it becomes more serious. Automation eliminates many menial tasks so that only exceptions, such as substandard quality, require intervention. Employees are used more effectively. The production line faster and more cost effectively. Improved production leads to better quality products, and the company’s social media page is full of wonderful reviews and fewer complaints.

Used right, social media can be a marketing dream. Having information available to the customer across a range of channels provides better user experience. This leads to higher profits, lower overhead, and a leaner, more agile business.

Click here to learn more about digital transformation in building products and to download the white paper,Digital Transformation in Building Products.

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  1. Stefan Weisenberger

    Thanks for this great compilation. These are all very valid points.

    From the discussions I had with building products companies, I would add 3 more topics:

    Incorporate early customer feedback on new designs

    Whether you manufacture, tiles, countertops, or faucets – social media platforms like e.g. Pinterest are an efficient way to get fast feedback on new designs from customers, other stake-holders like interior designers, architects.

    Build your brand through digital showrooms

    Besides cost advantages, a digital showroom offers a much broader reach – to engage with end-consumers and build a brand around innovation and design.
    Small start-ups and designers may go fully for digital showrooms. 

    Most larger companies would rather combine both approaches – with the need for a seamless customer experience across the social channel, a webshop, and a brick and mortar shop. 

    Several companies have used social media to collect “project examples” from their customers – extending their own content, learning about how their product is used, and building a deeper relationship with their customers.

    Social media marketing, service, leads

    Finally, building up a large group of followers that love a brand (and actively decided to follow and keep informed on product & design updates) can be a huge value in itself:
    – more cost-efficient and better-targetted marketing

    – early warning on product issues (as you are in an ongoing conversation anyway)
     

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