How the construction sector benefits from digitisation

Daniel Fiechter, Head of Digital Business at STOBAG, is in charge of the company's overall digitisation strategy and the implementation of related solutions. He teaches the module "Digital Business Model for the Industry" as a lecturer at the Swiss Distance University of Applied Sciences. In March, Daniel Fiechter gave a lecture at ASSA ABLOY entitled "How the Construction Sector Benefits from Digitisation". Daniel Fiechter has summarised the key points from the talk for us in this guest article.

Digitisation offers the construction sector great opportunities but also poses many challenges. Experience shows that many companies are overwhelmed by the options available. There is a certain lack of orientation, with people not really knowing where to begin. This article will reveal how you can get started even with simple tools.

Nowadays, it is hardly possible to differentiate products by their quality any more – quality is simply an expectation. Many things today are all about the customer experience surrounding a product or sales process. Owing to digitisation, customers are focusing more and more on this experience and the simplification of access to goods and services. The so-called "same-day delivery" service offered by online shops and round-the-clock self-service access to consumer goods are just two examples that show how customer expectations are constantly being raised by big-name companies such as Amazon and Zalando. Smaller specialist retailers can hardly keep pace with this development due to a lack of resources. However, these retailers have a decisive advantage: they are specialists in their field and understand their customers' needs.

Understanding the customer journey

Understanding the path a customer takes is an integral part of customer knowledge. A customer journey lists out all the points of interaction between a customer and a company, which are known as touchpoints. From personal dialogues, to websites, to online shops. A customer journey also highlights the aims being pursued and how the customer feels during the journey. It therefore serves as a starting point or as a guiding map for digitisation activities. You can improve only the things you understand. This understanding is the basis that will allow you to identify potential for digitisation.

Customer Journey

Making a business more accessible for customers

Specialist retailers should place particular attention on making their business more accessible. While older generations often rely on word-of-mouth marketing to find out about a business, people between ages of 18 and 35 do things differently: they get their information predominantly via digital channels, such as Google Maps. They also rely on reviews left by others when making decisions. This means that the digital presence is just as important as its offline counterpart, such as opening hours written on the shopfront or a beautiful shop window. Ideally, satisfied customers should not only recommend a business to their friends but also leave a positive review online. This will help a company build up its reputation on the Internet. It is also important to be present where the target group is. Depending on demographic characteristics, it can be Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn – this also applies to companies active in the business-to-business segment. A social media page functions like a digital shop window and should be maintained and cared for accordingly. No-one would want to patronise a business that appears outdated and dingy from the outside.

Offering added value

Having a website is another way of making a business more accessible to customers. It should be more than just a simple business card. For example, a website can provide customers with a way to directly book a consultation appointment. A customer simply selects their preferred appointment from a list of available time slots. This not only reduces the number of phone enquiries but also is accessible round the clock.

A simple configuration tool can also be added to a website. This would enable consumers to put together their desired solution and maybe even receive an initial indication of the price. This way, customer enquiries can be categorised to let the specialist retailer focus on those that are more complex and interesting.

Proceeding step by step

To avoid getting lost in the options offered by the digital world, it is recommended that you proceed step by step. The following approach has been proved effective:

  1. Properly understanding the customer and their path.
    What are the touchpoints leading to a purchase decision? Where is there still room for improvement and how can customers be better supported?
  2. Digitising communication channels.
    In particular, the focus should be on making a business easily accessible to customers. It is important for a business to be discovered even on the Internet, e.g. on Google Maps or social media. In other words: where the target group is.
  3. Using digital tools to create added value and differentiate a business from the competition.
    If potential customers can put together their desired product on their own and directly book a consultation appointment online, they will have a better experience than if they have to wait on the phone for a long time.

It is essential to take on these challenges and not bury your head in the sand when it comes to digitisation. This will enable a company to harness these opportunities to differentiate itself from the competition in the long term. It's time to get started!


Author: Daniel Fiechter