Marketing in a crisis: the curse of…err… forgetfulness!
It’s claimed that the current ‘working from home’ economy has brought about rapid change in working practices.
Many businesses have been pushed to improve – and in some cases create – their online presence.
Here’s my take on how I think the increased reliance on digital will affect the working practices of electricians and electrical contractors… a customer group I know very well.
The electrical sector has demonstrated a growing use of online channels for undertaking product research/specification. However, the contractor still needs to collect/purchase from a wholesaler and be physically present on-site for final installation, i.e. screw a product to a wall!
What does this mean for manufacturers and associated product marketers, and how does this affect the allocation of the media budget?
We humans are creatures of habit.
We all know how hard it is to break a habit and our usual routines.
The current situation has shown us how tough deviating from the norm can be.
Yet, these alternative working practices have delivered an upside for many.
When rules around self-isolation are relaxed, there’s a chance to get back to normal… or will it be a new-normal?
How much of the forced change in working practices will we want to keep?
I don’t mean to offend with the above sub-head and please know I’m a big dog lover!
Having collected and analysed five years’ worth of readership survey data from the great team at PE Magazine, I’d like to share the following with you…
Within the electricals industry, approx. 50% of electricians are aged 41-60, while 24% are aged over 60+.
For most of this group’s working lives, the industry has been about physical and manual tasks: a product is specified, purchased from the wholesaler, and then installed. The mature demographic of electricians means these working practices are deep-rooted.
Not necessarily tech savvy but this group has shown a steady growth in using online channels.
Since 2015, the percentage of electricians using the internet to find information about the latest products has risen from 45% to 70%.
At the same time, gaining this information from the trade counter has only seen a proportionally small decline from 54% down to 45%.
Remaining somewhat static is the use of trade magazines, which sits above 90% – magazines such as PE are available free at the trade counter whilst others have a strong requested circulation.
Researching technical information has remained the most common reason that electrical contractors use the internet for business during the past five years.
Although the format isn’t known, I suspect much of this is searching for instructional videos on YouTube.
This is closely followed by sourcing product information, which is steady at around 85%.
Similarly, purchasing products online is stable at around 70%, but we may well see this increase because of the current situation. With a wealth of information available online, the data indicates that some electricians want to make informed decisions away from the sales counter.
This allows for more time to research products unhindered prior to purchase, without unwanted/unnecessary influences from the wholesaler.
However, as any electrician will tell you, you don’t always know exactly what you need until you get on site and start the job.
Often, additional product decisions need to be made quickly, particularly if there’s an opportunity to finish the project and avoid unnecessary or costly call backs.
There’s no time to order a product online; they need to visit the local wholesaler and buy the product over the counter there and then.
Supporting this theory, the data shows approximately 18% of electricians visit a wholesaler every day.
This increases to 47% paying a visit at least once a week.
While product knowledge and technical details are being increasingly gained online, electricians are still spending time at the wholesaler to fulfil unforeseen last minute product requirements. And that’s the demand and habit that won’t be changing any time soon.
The impact of ‘new-normal’ working practices is likely to increase ‘click and collect’. However, trips to the wholesaler will still be necessary, even with limited in-branch contact with wholesaler staff.
When we return to a form of normality, some old habits will come back, but some of the new habits may stick!
Online: Electricians are clearly undertaking more online research but with the mature industry demographic that will be a slow change.
Marketers need to ensure full product and technical details are readily available online and in a format that’s easy to access/read on a number of smart devices. Remember, wiring diagrams and instructional videos are often viewed whilst on-site.
And with the production and distribution of printed trade magazine being a major casualty of lockdown, the use of digital issues, often presented in a flip-book format, will grow in popularity.
The advertiser’s web address becomes an active link that can be tracked and measured when viewed online.
@Wholesaler: With over 259,000 electricians and electrical fitters in the UK,** there are potentially around 46,600 in-branch sales opportunities every day. This delivers a minimum of 121,700 sales opportunities at the wholesaler per week.
The social-distancing measures now in place at the trade counter will inevitably create an old British favourite… a queue! In other words, a captive audience that is already predisposed to thinking about product whilst waiting to be served.
So, having finished their mobile calls and with a possible 5-10 minutes wait before being served, do you want electricians to be looking at your sales messages or your competitors?
Marketing to electricians has always been a balance between both online and the physical world. But the growth in one doesn’t necessarily mean a decline in the other.
In my opinion the new-norm looks like this: more time spent online researching products and placing initial sales orders, and potentially more time spent at the wholesaler until social-distancing practices can be relaxed.
Digital, promotions and in-branch P.O.S, engaging editorial and brand/product advertisements within ever-popular trade magazines. This is key to reaching and influencing the broad audience of electricians and electrical contractors.
When digital and traditional marketing techniques work together, great things can happen. But get the balance wrong and you could spend unnecessary budget for limited or even zero return.
If you need support and guidance on how to get this balance right, let’s talk!