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First published in the Digitalist September 12

Dave and Caitlin just bought their first home, a fixer upper. They’re planning a major remodel and will tackle many of the projects themselves, despite never having been involved in home construction or repair before. Where do they turn for inspiration and the confidence to execute their projects? They, like 100 million other DIYers, head straight to Pinterest to gather design and decor inspiration.

From Pinterest boards to DIY blogs to HGTV renovation shows, consumers have never before been so intimately involved in every stage of home construction and renovation. Customers expect a seamless experience that takes them from their favorite DIY blog to their Pinterest board and ultimately to an online retailer or bricks-and-mortar store for a purchase. They demand a simple, personalized experience across any channel, anytime, anywhere, and on any device.

As new modes of sales and distribution continue to transform the traditional building products value chain, the building products industry must be prepared to interface directly with the end consumer. This includes responding to end consumers who are willing to purchase building materials through the Internet and mobile apps, just as they do for any other household product, reports The Boston Consulting Group. But it’s not enough to just offer mobile purchasing options. The building products industry needs to be building relationships with consumers as early in the purchasing cycle as possible. This starts with a robust understanding of how the outcome economy, customer expectations, and Big Data are reshaping the customer journey.

3 trends reshaping the customer experience

  1. Outcome economy: The outcome economy requires a deep change in the business model and new organizational and business process capabilities. It also requires a much different approach to product design and TCO across the lifecycle. Customers want products that enable them to achieve some perceived value. Managing a holistic offering around this outcome will open new revenue sources.
  1. Big Data powers real-time marketing: Big Data allows companies to sense and respond to customers’ needs in real time to set the next engagement points. With the integration of point-of-sale and connected sensors in the logistics network, the data volume is expanding by orders of magnitude, giving rise to new business opportunities.
  1. Customer expectations: from e-commerce to bricks-and-mortar: Customers choose their own journey in multiple channels at their convenience – the pattern that emerges is not linear, as in the past. Only 12% of companies surveyed can provide a seamless hand-off between channels. The increasing variety of players in the building products market makes shaping the customer journey the top priority for building products sales.

Case study: Lowe’s & Pinterest

At 100 million strong, Pinterest’s monthly engaged user base is certainly less than Facebook’s (1.5 billion) and Twitter’s (300 million), but the social network argues that its value to companies, like those in the construction industry, is much greater. Pinterest bills itself as “the world’s catalog of ideas,” a place where more than 70% of users actively pin and purchase.

“Pinterest is a really great tool for us to get great insight and some affirmation around the content we’re putting out,” says Brad Walters, director of Social Media and Emerging Platforms at Lowe’s. “It also helps validate some things for us, too, like a particular color or decor style that might be trending.”

With more consumers willing to purchase directly from suppliers, Lowe’s is working to secure its position as the go-to middleman by becoming a DIY headquarters. For example, Lowe’s added a “creative ideas” section to its website and a “Build It!” board on Pinterest, where users can browse ideas and pin projects for later. At 200,000 re-pins, its most saved pin is a colorful doormat project. The “Build It!” board has an impressive 3.3 million followers.

“The doormat project might’ve cost $35, but the emotional investment to the customer exceeded that,” says Walters. “You’re empowering yourself because you accomplished that project.”

That’s smart marketing: Lowe’s is securing its position as the go-to destination for DIYers, not just to purchase building materials, but to draw inspiration, too.

Companies in the building products industry can do the same. Think of Pinterest as a giant whiteboard to showcase your expertise and highlight those “WOW” projects that consumers will pin and re-pin for inspiration. Capturing consumer interest early in the sales cycle helps frame the buying process in your favor and establish your business as a go-to for inspiration, knowledge, supplies, and – should a project end up being way more than the consumer bargained for – contractor assistance.

Next steps: How to digitize end-to-end customer experience

Orchestrating business processes across marketing, commerce, sales, and service requires a platform that simplifies transaction processing, supports innovation and collaboration, and accelerates business response to opportunities and risks.

Changing customer demands and expectations are disrupting the building products industry. Businesses must actively respond and adapt to digital customer engagement demands in order to maintain a competitive edge.

Learn more about Digital Transformation in Building Products and download the white paper Digital Transformation in Building Products

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