The one constant in business (and life) is change… and the speediest changes are often reflected through technology. As technology evolves, it alters the landscape of various industries – changing how customers interact with and what they expect from companies.
Building Product Brands — especially ones that have been around for a long time — are often traditional businesses with long lines of ownership simply “doing things the way they’ve always been done”. With a 24/7 digital landscape, online reviews and social media allow audiences to become more educated about products than ever before. Accordingly, they expect products faster, while gaining access to alternatives and substitutes.
In addition to higher expectations and competition, the U.S. is going through a housing shortage that threatens to dampen demand. Building Product Brands not only have to present themselves well — and tell their stories flawlessly — they also must get in front of audiences first and eliminate roadblocks to conversion. In other words, Building Product Brands are prioritizing the nurturing of their sales funnels… from initial awareness to purchase.
PropTech (property technology) is one way building product companies are accomplishing that priority. While PropTech is a blanket term to classify new business models impacting property markets, innovative brands are starting to leverage PropTech to influence manufacturing, supply chains, distribution and yes, sales. These technological improvements are helping building product makers cut costs, improve speed, reduce waste and avoid manufacturing errors. Companies that sell homes and service homeowners are using PropTech to improve consumer confidence, respond proactively to common concerns and help people make better purchasing decisions.
Discover some of the most innovative ways PropTech is influencing the building products channel:
Building Information Modeling (BIM)
Completing complex building projects in a short timeframe requires the expert coordination of architects, carpenters, plumbers, electricians and other contractors with little margin for error. A pipe that is a few inches too long — or a wall assembly that is too short — can delay projects for weeks. And set in motion, costly and time-consuming change-orders. To overcome these challenges, many building companies are increasing adoption to building information modeling (BIM) … a process in which contractors of various disciplines submit computer-assisted design (CAD) files into a program that generates an extremely accurate, three-dimensional rendering of the building’s physical and functional characteristics.
Think of it as Minecraft… but rather than for gamers, designed for builders. Before contractors even break ground, they can know – down to the fraction of measurement – how their building products will interact with other products specified for each project. Knowing this information supports the accurate prefabrication of materials, more efficient staging and faster build times… allowing teams to take on more projects, with fewer risks. By integrating technology into their business practices, contractors are able to visualize large projects and deliver them smoothly. As BIM continues to gain momentum for larger construction projects, more Building Product Brands are converting their products into 3-D image files, so designers can specify their products with ease.
One way for Building Product Brands to cut costs while increasing alignment with the end-user is modular construction. Modular construction is different from pre-fabrication. This construction model is accomplished in a climate-controlled, factory-like environment and employs assembly line technology in order to construct building components and transport them directly to a construction site. Structural items such as truss assemblies and wall panels as well as nonstructural items like lighting and cabinetry are all assembled offsite… reducing material staging needs and installation times, while lowering overhead costs. In the past, these modules have been used mainly in detached, auxiliary housing units. More frequently, this technology is being applied to high-rise building, town home and even office complex construction.
Companies like Katerra are applying technology and system approaches adopted from other industries into design and construction. Attracting venture capital, the company promises to maintain a vertically integrated, end-to-end service that will pave the way for increasing modular building. By aligning design, technology, material sourcing, logistics, manufacturing and construction into a single integrated system, this kind of building can increase cost savings while reducing construction schedules. Emerging end-user audiences, who appreciate customization and the ability to have a hand in the creative process, are able to exercise greater control – and therefore, greater interest and investment in – building product purchases.
3-D Mapping and VR Overlay
In the age of Yelp reviews, it’s important to give home buyers more chances to envision a finished product… and judge the results for themselves. Real estate firms like Hommatti fully embrace PropTech by creating full-color, interactive maps of homes so potential buyers can tour dozens of homes from the comfort of their couch. They also leverage high-definition aerial videos of various properties that allow potential buyers to experience a property without having to be there. This kind of remote involvement allows the buyer to move quickly from initial interest to purchase and creates a buying experience that is consumer-driving rather than brand-driven. It also sells an experience, which is a key selling strategy for today’s audiences.
Rather than using traditional product catalogues to sell roofing, siding and other exterior products to homeowners, some contractors are now utilizing virtual reality (VR) overlay technology that allows them to close the sale quicker. HOVER transforms smartphone photos into beautifully rendered and fully-measured 3-D models of any home. These interactive models allow designers and contractors to quickly show homeowners how certain exterior products and colors will look on their own home. It also gives contractors detailed exterior measurements needed to quote an installation of a roof or siding replacement… eliminating the need for measuring tape. This technology helps the buyer by allowing them a more active role in the product selection process and helps the contractor by allowing them to produce faster, more accurate quotes.
While FinTech (financial tech), artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT) dominate the headlines, PropTech is an exciting new area of innovation for progressive Building Product Brands. Staying on top of these trends will continue to increase in importance for thriving in our 21st century economy.