Manufacturers who believe that building a better mousetrap is the key to their success will get only half a nod from building material dealers, ProSales’ latest survey on dealers’ stocking habits suggests.
Product-related features, such as quality, price, and whether customers demand it, account for just five of the 10 factors that dealers say will lead them to stock a product. The other five were service-related, such as whether the vendor stands behind the warranty, how readily available the product is, and what level of service the supplier provides.
Thus the half nod, though the survey also suggests a product-fixated vendor will be lucky to do even that well. That’s because it’s the service-related factors, not the quality ones, that got the second-, third-, and fourth-highest scores overall when the survey’s 584 LBM respondents were asked to rate key purchase drivers on a 1-to-5 scale. And while product quality posted the highest overall score, two service factors—standing behind the warranty and product availability—had a higher percentage of people who gave it the maximum score.
The nationwide survey, conducted online in July, buttresses past polling data and interviews of buyers who have stressed that product quality is a given; what they want most are vendors they can rely on to provide basic services consistently and reliably. Price, a well-known brand name, and incentives such as co-op funds and rebates all ranked eighth or lower on dealers’ list of priorities.
The 2012 results echo what dealers said in a similar ProSales survey that took place in November 2009. That poll—also conducted by The Farnsworth Group—gave slightly different names for the factors and asked dealers to rate them on a 1-to-10 basis, but many of the same results shone through. That year, the manufacturer’s commitment to its warranty ranked first, followed by the product’s overall performance, whether the goods were readily available, the value that the customer placed on the product, and the product’s overall quality.
Just under three-quarters of the respondents to this year’s poll said they displayed windows and/or doors in their company’s showroom, up from the 67% reported by the 2009 survey group. A total of 48% of 2012 respondents displayed kitchen and bath cabinets vs. 35% in 2009, the percentage of showrooms with finished flooring was virtually unchanged at 28%, and the percentage of respondents saying they didn’t have a showroom dropped to 15% in 2012 from 19% in 2009.