Here we discuss the importance of merchant relationships for manufacturers and how nurturing them over an extended period of time can aid the success of both businesses.
Merchant and manufacturer partnerships are important to the success of both businesses. Merchant-side, staff are often the first point of contact that a customer will have with a product or brand, so it is important manufacturers provide comprehensive support to ensure that they are knowledgeable and confident in what they are selling.
There’s plenty of opportunity for merchants to grow; recent sales figures indicate that the industry is still visiting merchant branches regularly to make purchases and obtain advice on products and processes. According to the Builders’ Merchants Building Index, total builders’ merchants fourth quarter sales in 2018 were 3.1% higher than quarter four sales in 2017.
In addition to this, although technology is advancing and online ordering is becoming more commonplace in the industry, face-to-face retail is still highly valued – in fact, Sitel Group reported that about 70% of customers surveyed about customer service preferences said they would still rather speak to a human representative than engage with an automated system, such as a chatbot.
Indeed, the feedback Catnic receives from its merchant partners is that regular customers have longstanding relationships with the branch staff – from a customer perspective, they’d prefer to talk to someone they’d developed trust with for advice on products and projects. This is a positive trend for a business, as according to Marketing Metrics, 80% of future profits from a business will come from just 20% of existing customers. Therefore, manufacturers value their merchant partners, as they are vital to future profitability.
Catnic has recognised this importance across its 50 years of operation, and it shows in the successful relationships fostered with key merchant partners. Some of these partners have been stocking and supplying Catnic Lintels since the inception of the company in 1969 and over the years, Catnic has recognised that there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to dealing with its merchant customers.
Whilst larger national merchants will have more specific and uniform advertising displays and point of sale materials, independent branches may have more flexibility in terms of displays, or may have different layouts that would not fit standard posters – these things need to be taken into consideration by a manufacturer in order to ensure products can be appropriately marketed in a branch.
Given that Point of Purchase (POP) delivers between 2.6 to 45.5% sales lift, and that product sales can boost up 15.7% from previous months in stores that implement signs (POPAI, 2017), manufacturers can truly reap the benefits of ensuring that each marketing and advertising strategy that is laid out with merchant partners is individually tailored to independent and chain branches.
Of course, whilst customer service and in-store advertising is important, above all it is important to provide a product that is high-quality and meets the specification, so that customer satisfaction is met. In the construction industry, the adage “buy cheap, buy twice” rings true and can lead to costly repairs or long-term issues with a build if a low quality product is installed.
Merchants have an important role to play in educating the end-customer of the long-term benefits of a high quality, certified product, and leading manufacturers of course have a responsibility to provide such products as well as excellent product services.
To ensure the messaging and correct product specification is provided to customers by merchant partners, leading manufacturers should also put keeping their partners in the know as a high priority. This will include product training provided to branch staff, which will comprehensively cover brand offerings (including scheduling services and technical assistance) and the benefits they will provide to contractors and end users of the build.
The opportunity for merchant growth is clear, with projected outputs in the construction industry to increase and data showing that face-to-face interactions are incredibly important to the purchasing process. To ensure long-term business growth for both merchants and manufacturers, supportive and loyal partnerships should be valued and nurtured the way Catnic has been supporting its merchant partners for 50 years.