Contractors and trade professionals are relying on smartphones and other mobile technology such as laptops and tablets to assist in purchase decision-making, according to a national research study conducted by Eric Mower & Associates Group B2B. EMA is a marketing and communications agency representing a number of building industry manufacturers.
The study found that 50% of contractors use a smartphone, 49% use a laptop with mobile Web access, and 21% use an iPad or other tablet for their jobs, suggesting that more business purchase research and decisions are being conducted online from the jobsite rather than from behind a desk. Tool and building materials brands are most important (65%) to contractors when they are on the job and need to replace or replenish a tool.
Of those with smartphones, more than half of respondents (53%) use them in the purchase decision-making process to do things like research brands and products, compare prices, and scan product codes. The majority of contractors (56%) said that they use smartphones to take photos of work projects to refer to when shopping for building materials and tools.
"With so many professional contractors accessing the web from the jobsite, brands need to be sure their websites are mobile-, video-, and app-ready," said John O'Hara, partner and leader of EMA's Contractor Insight specialty, in the study results. "Brands need to think beyond search — even if prospective customers find a manufacturer's website, will they be able to see it on their phones or watch videos to see how the products work?"
The survey found that 91% of contractors use websites to assist in purchase decision-making. The majority (88%) said that manufacturer websites are the best sources for brand and product information; 70% said that product demonstration videos are important.
"One of the top reasons contractors said they would try a new brand is innovation," said O'Hara. "But innovation shouldn't stop at product; brands need to be innovative online so contractors can find their products from a mobile device. The construction industry has already adopted smartphones and tablets at higher-than-average rates and brands need to address their new shopping habits."
The study's results confirm that contractors are nearly on par with other B2B decision-makers in their use of smartphones. A December 2010 report by Channel Marketing Group and Allen Ray Associates reveals that about 50% of contractors they surveyed are using mobile devices to purchase products, conduct day-to-day business, and to take photos. According to a 2011 Emarketer report, 59% of U.S. B2B purchasing decision-makers use a smartphone.
The EMA study was administered online to 500 general contractors, electricians, plumbers, and HVAC specialists. More than 90% of respondents have at least six years' professional experience. —Lauren Hunter, associate editor, REMODELING.