In addition to the sale of products and materials, the distributors develop services aimed at facilitating the management by the professional of his projects. This approach primarily concerns emerging markets but extends to more traditional shipyards. After selling products, now comes the time for services! In addition to the storage of materials and indirect financing, the role of merchants extends to training and technical advice, in particular, to support craftsmen on regulatory requirements. At the same time, the proliferation of processing workshops (wood cutting, shaping, and bending of metals) and the adaptation of delivery tools have created new proposals between traders and their customers when carrying out work sites.
The service offer extends to the upstream and downstream phases of projects. In the energy sector, for example, the distributor offers its professional customers a turnkey offer, from the supply of products to maintenance, including studies, assembly of the administrative file, and financing. “This is a market where professionals must have a very wide range of skills to master the offer. In 2021, the trade indicates that it has trained more than 1,000 professionals as part of its solution.
For its part, a very extensive range of services in addition to its activity of selling photovoltaic products. A technical department of about ten people supports professionals in the choice and sizing of products, but also in after-sales service, with a telephone assistance service. Service is a condition for the successful development of a market set to double in 2022, but also undergoing complete restructuring. Today specialists rub shoulders with less expert heating engineers and electricians.
The development of the service offer can also affect more traditional worksites. For example, at the beginning of 2021, the Wendel company (Algorel member), which has 8 points of sale in the sanitary and heating trades. Here, it is a question of accompanying its customers on the choice of heating and air conditioning equipment. Depending on the budget and the constraints of the site, the tool sizes several scenarios and provides professionals with a thermal study, a detailed estimate, and even an estimate of energy savings. This new service recreates confidence and choice for end customers, which also makes it a sales support tool for artisans. One of the keys to Calixta’s success (winner of the 2022 Trading Trophies, in the commercial animation category) lies in saving time for professionals, especially for smaller companies. “Thanks to this tool, it is possible to carry out a thermal study in less than forty-five minutes, when a single craftsman sometimes takes a morning to produce this type of document.
The demand for services also concerns more structured companies. Thus, it offers an offer on the lighting of tertiary and industrial buildings including an on-site visit by one of its experts, a study including a consumption report, regulatory aspects, and maintenance, as well as a financing plan. valuing the EWCs. “Installers employing 5 to 40 people are in the target: beyond 40 people, we are on one-off and prescription business. Large-scale end customers are also demanding projects where the notion of energy performance is present.
Don’t forget the big work
In materials trading, offers combining studies and support initially targeted the individual market, especially for renovation. But, in this field too, the market potential of the ecological transition encourages distributors to organize themselves. This summer finalized a complete offer on raw earth construction. Now, its 900 agencies can participate in the design of projects via the internal Opti+ design office, as well as ensure logistics from one of the 60 qualified deposits, facilitate the rental of spraying machines, or even offer certified training.
The strengthening of the service offer is also noticeable in the timber trade. After the rise of secondary processing workshops, the trend is towards the production of flow plans, or even studies for construction projects (see box below). Initiatives also exist among specialist players, even among pure players. This summer, ITE Shop, an online sales site focused on exterior thermal insulation, presented its ITE360 software, which includes quote and site monitoring functionalities, as well as a reference library.
For distributors, the development of services is primarily a lever to retain craftsmen and increase the average basket. It has claimed a 30% growth in its heating sales. The key is a logistical gain for companies, which are no longer obliged to return to the point of sale as soon as they miss a product on the site. In technical finishing, where the complexity of solutions is complemented by the diversification of customers, differentiation by service is essential. The specialist networks are not mistaken and have initiated a movement to take over the most advanced players. This applies to the acquisition of the charging operator. The objective of this latest operation is “to anticipate the grouping of skills expected in the coming years, to become a distributor of energy solutions in general.
The strengthening of the service offers moves to trade up the building value chain by including it earlier in projects, sometimes as early as the design phase. This repositioning may concern new types of customers, such as design offices or investors interested in commercial lighting offers. “The key to success is to respond quickly in technical studies and prices for medium-sized businesses. On more important matters, it means being upstream of these projects.
Position of the interlocutor
With the service, another major challenge for the trade is to preserve its place as interlocutors of the professional, while manufacturers are multiplying initiatives to create a direct link thanks to the possibilities opened up by digital technology. The objective is to be seen as a player in the growth of the business of clients, and not just of gear suppliers. On the most technical markets, our ambition is to become a one-stop-shop, ie a one-stop-shop for professionals for both products and services.
The competition is fierce with suppliers, themselves tempted to reach their professional customers more directly. There are countless service offers launched in recent years by manufacturers to help craftsmen on their sites, most often with very operational business tools (choice of materials, sizing, quotes, etc.). More recently, it is on regulatory requirements that manufacturers push their offer of support. A few examples: a digital tool to facilitate the production of technical files to be submitted to the contracting authority.
To each his job!
For traders, the challenge is therefore to defend and develop their position in the construction value chain, without creating competition with their customers. The position is clear: everybody has their work! We are a distributor of products, solutions, and associated services via our physical and digital networks. Yes, there is an evolution in the distribution business, but our role is still to adapt to give our customers more time to take care of their sites. In other words, it’s about helping professionals to do things, but not doing things for them – even when the service offer could be an opportunity to develop commercial links with end users.