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ECI Software Solutions Comment: Q4 2023

Given the current employment shortage crisis in the building materials supply sector, there is a growing need to give tradespeople the power to self-serve. With a shortage of skills and product knowledge gaps, are staff struggling when servicing customers if they are inexperienced or overstretched? Successful, forward-thinking merchants are turning to technology, reducing the dependence on staff and offering their customers the choice of whether they want to interact with a person in-branch or harness the convenience of online ordering.

With ongoing challenges – attracting new talent, the ever-rising cost of materials, embracing Net Zero – the industry needs innovative solutions. eCommerce and digitalisation stand out as beacon lights, offering pathways to not only navigate these hurdles but also to leapfrog into a future of efficiency, sustainability, and growth. But what does this mean in practice? How are merchants leveraging these technologies to their advantage?

Increased employee turnover is diluting experience and knowledge amongst branch staff and further burdening the most experienced team members. Merchants who are successfully employing digital storefronts to their business are empowering customers with the capacity to self-serve, and those employees in need of their own digital support.

No longer just ‘nice-to-have’, eCommerce platforms are becoming ‘must-haves’ for merchants aiming to stay competitive. These platforms revolutionise customer service, offering seamless, 24/7 shopping experiences that today’s tradespeople expect where they choose to use it, and empowering in-branch staff to focus on the value-added engagements that set merchants and particularly independents apart from DIY chains. Beyond convenience, they provide merchants with a treasure trove of data insights they cannot possibly capture offline, enabling merchants to anticipate market trends, tailor their offerings, and streamline inventory management.

As 2024 unfolds, building material merchants face a landscape filled with challenges but also rich with opportunities. By harnessing the power of eCommerce and digital solutions, merchants can equip themselves to tackle these hurdles head-on. This digital leap forward is not just about survival but about thriving in a rapidly evolving industry. The time to act is now, ensuring a future where merchants are not just participants but leaders in the drive towards a more efficient, sustainable, and prosperous industry.