In his recent presentation at E-Connect, Jonas Åkermark discussed how vital digital transformation is, especially for the construction industry. Without a conscious effort on the part of your company, the ever-expanding world of digitization is likely to leave you behind.
Åkermark is the E-commerce and digital business director for Husqvarna Construction. He has been working in this field for over 24 years and engaged with over 100 e-commerce initiatives.
During that time, he’s pinpointed the key factors that construction companies need to be working towards in order to stay relevant and growing far into the future.
How Digitization Changes Construction
Digital transformation has become a bit of a buzzword as of late, and for good reason. Most industries have started down the path towards digital transformation and maturity, and construction is no exception.
However, when ranked with other sectors, construction’s digital maturity is still on the lower end of the spectrum. Resistance to change and the assumption that your job will not be effected is how entire industries get left in the dust.
We can already see the effects of digitization in our industry. In fact, we’re currently going through multiple parallel transformations.
Before the first industrial revolutions, all the labour was done manually by individual people. We’ve moved further and further away from that with the introduction of human operated machines.
In recent years, there has started to be a push towards autonomous machines that would only need minimal monitoring by humans to get the job done safely, quickly, and accurately.
Form of Business
Much like the labour that construction implements, the way of doing business originally started face to face. We’ve shifted more and more online, which some might call “human to machine” business. Again, as technology advances, we can start to see “machine to machine” business popping up where things are completely automated.
An example of this is Internet of Things (IoT) which can alert you to any issues within your tech the moment it happens, and sends data about productivity and efficiency directly from the tools.
For years, construction companies (and many others) have focused on the product above all else. There has been a big push in recent years to become customer-centric companies.
Fully making this shift is likely to shift your focus from just products to products and services, or even fully to services alone. Åkermark said, “Customers today are not just looking to own machines, they need to get the job done.”
Starting the Digital Revolution
One of the largest challenges to overcome is when the expectations of your customers aren’t being met. We live in a digital world where people are able to discover, research, and purchase items all with the click of a button.
Of course, B2B commerce and construction isn’t as straight forward as other industries, but that doesn’t stop our customers from expecting a certain level of automation.
In Sana’s recent trend report for the construction industry, they found a huge discrepancy between what customers were expecting and what construction companies were working to provide.
84% of consumers are confident that B2B companies will sell every single one of their products online in the future. In contrast, only 24% of companies are currency providing this functionality, and 48% are planning to provide it at some point in the future.
Studies have found that 92% of B2B sales begin with a search engine. That staggering amount means that if your company is not coming up in a search, you’re likely not going to grow. But how can you get there?
Åkermark posits that content isn’t just king, but president. It holds all the power. “If you have the right content, you’re relevant. You will be found.”
How Hard Could Setting Up E-Commerce Be?
When Åkermark started building an E-Commerce platform for Husqvarna, he was often met with the idea that it couldn’t be that difficult. With programs like Shopify, it’s easier than ever for individual sellers to set up an online shopfront. However, B2B businesses have a whole host of challenges that they need to overcome to create a functioning online store.
The B2B purchase journey is complex, and requires multiple systems to work together. In order to facilitate both large scale, complicated purchases and simple, quick parts replacements, there needs to be a lot of work put in on the company’s part.
Step One: Fix the Basics
Before you start expanding your e-commerce, you need to ensure everything is running as it should be. This means having your assortment, visibility, and content up to par.
Step Two: Expand Channel Presence
If you’re going to expand your e-commerce presence, you need to make sure that you’re reaching all of your potential customers. You might consider expanding to multiple channels, such as Amazon, Google Shopping, or eBay.
Step Three: Expand Customer Engagement
Once you’ve got your channels in order, you need to start engaging with customers. Creating relationships with customers can look like a lot of things. You can build brand loyalty by providing them with personalized marketing, or offering them discounts and other incentives to make sure they keep coming back.
How To Build Your Company’s Digital Maturity
It can be difficult to get started on the journey towards digital transformation, especially when you’re working with a large team in an industry as conservative as construction. Åkermark outlined some best practices for getting the ball rolling.
Over-Communicate the Why
It’s important to make sure everyone in your team understands the reason for digital transformation. Explain the reason for the change in a way that speaks to people’s individual objectives. This will keep the team motivated and on track.
Focus on Human Transformation
Building a digital ecosystem requires more than just technology. You need to cultivate an environment of learning and growth for your team. Create systems for team members to become more digitally literate, and make sure everyone is comfortable with the changes.
Get The Fundamentals Nailed
You can’t skip over the basics. Make sure your team is comfortable with the new digital tools, and that you have the right resources and infrastructure in place. This will give them the confidence to use the tools effectively and efficiently.
Become Obsessed With Data
Data-driven decision-making is a core part of digital transformation. Analytics can help you make more informed decisions about the future of your business.
Set up systems for collecting, organizing, and analysing data, so you can gain insights into your operations. You need to make sure that the data is accurate and accessible to everyone within your organization.
Experiment And Scale
Start with small, low-risk projects and then scale them up. This process of experimentation and iteration will help you build digital maturity. With every success, you’ll be one step closer to a fully digitized construction process.
Build the Environment
Encourage your team to think outside the box and experiment with the new tools. Be open to mistakes, and use them as a learning opportunity. This will help build a culture of innovation and collaboration.
The Bottom Line
Digitization is all around us, and it’s only getting more prevalent. The most important thing for us to remember as an industry is that digital transformation is an ongoing process. As the world and technology change, so too must your approach. Be open to new ideas and willing to adapt quickly.
One of the best ways to stay up-to-date on the trends and transformations happening in your sphere is through Copperberg. We have lots of resources and events for you to connect with and learn from leading experts like Jonas Åkermark. The more you hear about what is happening, the easier it will be for you to innovate and stay ahead of the digital curve.